Student Stories: Dagfinn Høybråten

Dagfinn Høybråten spent a year studying social sciences at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Dagfinn Høybråten spent a year studying social sciences at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Many will probably recognize Dagfinn Høybråten as the former leader of the Christian Democratic Party (Krf), and as Norway’s Minister of Health and later Labor and Social Affairs from 1997 to 2000 and 2001 to 2005. Today, he is the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers. He is also Chairman of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunization in poor countries.

He holds a cand.polit.-degree from the University of Oslo. Right after high school, Dagfinn spent a year studying social sciences at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, the oldest higher education institution founded by Norwegian-Americans.

Why did you decide to study in the United States?
After highs school, I was offered a scholarship for a year-long social sciences program at Luther College. That was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

What are your best memories from your time in the U.S?

Learning about a new country and a new culture, and meeting new people who became lifelong friends, was invaluable. One great memory is a field trip to Nashville, which sparked my love of country music. I also learned a lot working as a reporter for the college radio station.

What were the biggest challenges during your time there?
In the beginning, the biggest challenge was the language, but I quickly got used to that. What wasn’t so easy to get used to, was being away from family and friends.

 

Høybråten received an honorary doctorate of law in 2005.
Høybråten received an honorary doctorate of law in 2005.

Aside from the academic aspect, in what way would you say that studying in the U.S. has been a benefit to you professionally?
Experiencing a new culture, seeing my country from afar, and improving my English skills have been invaluable for me. I’ve rarely developed so much in a year as I did that year in the U.S. In my later international work, I’ve often thought about how valuable that experience has been for me.

In what way did your time in the U.S. affect you personally?
Many of the people I met that year, both among students and faculty, have been among my best friends since. Being exposed to people of different political views, cultural backgrounds and religions was also very enriching.

Would you recommend other Norwegians to study in U.S.?
Yes, absolutely! The U.S. has an extreme diversity to offer; academically, socially and culturally. It’s a very welcoming country and it’s easy being Norwegian there. In fact, if you get a chance to experience the Norwegian-American culture, that’s an education in and of itself!