Carl Fredrik Rehn is twenty three years old and about to finish his Master of Science degree at NTNU. During the 2013/14 academic year, he was on exchange at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Why did you decide to study in the United States?
I wanted to go to an English speaking country for my exchange year from NTNU. I was fortunate to get a Fulbright grant, which narrowed my search down to the U.S. Many of the universities in the U.S. are of high academic quality and have an excellent reputation word wide. With advice from my cousin, who had just spent a year at Harvard, I applied there and felt privileged to get accepted.
What are your best memories from your time in the U.S?
I have great memories from all the interesting people that I had the opportunity to meet while studying in the U.S. I was lucky to get a room in a dorm on campus, which made it easy to make new friends from all over the world. However, one of my best memories is from meeting another Norwegian at Harvard: Jens Stoltenberg, who was the prime minister of Norway at that time, paid a visit to Harvard’s Kennedy School to talk about Norway avoiding the “oil curse”. Before his speech, he took time to meet the Norwegian students and hear about their experiences at Harvard. Additionally, I spent quality time traveling and visiting friends around the country, who were also studying abroad in the U.S. at that time.
What were the biggest challenges during your time there?
As a typical Norwegian, I experienced culture shock when moving to the U.S. In the beginning, I found it a bit strange that many Americans ask “How are you?” without expecting a real answer. Some are even surprised if you answer how you really are. I quickly adapted though, and often find myself saying the phrase when speaking English today. However, what I actually found most challenging was choosing my courses. There were hundreds of interesting learning opportunities to choose from. Harvard even allowed me to take courses at MIT, another great university in the Boston area, which made this process even more complicated. Another shock for me was the workload! Compared to the typical Norwegian exams that count 100 % of your grade, it is more common that all of your work during the semester counts on your final grade in the U.S. This made me more stressed during the semester, but hopefully it will make what I learned stick longer.
Aside from getting an education, in what way would do you think that studying in the U.S. will be a benefit to you professionally?
Globalization makes international experience an advantage for any professional career. By spending a year in the U.S., I greatly improved my English skills and increased my network. My exchange year was challenging, but also inspirational. In fact, I think this was the driving factor for me to slightly change my career plans and starting a PhD when I came back to Norway. Now, I hope to return to the U.S. as a visiting researcher during my PhD studies.
In what way did your time in the U.S. affect you personally?
I feel that I learned a lot about myself even in the application process. For example, writing a personal statement forced me to think about who I am and what I want to accomplish. I also learned to be more open and social. Holding a conversation with a stranger on a bus is not that strange to me anymore.
Would you recommend other Norwegians to study in U.S.?
The U.S. offers several top ranked universities with excellent academic quality. In my opinion, getting international experience from the U.S. is of great potential value and I highly recommend it.