From Norway to North Carolina via the Nobel Peace Prize Forum by Elsa Gunnarsdottir

Elsa Gunnarsdottir, a sophomore at Duke University, is a former American College of Norway student.

Thinking back on my life a year ago, I never would have imagined I would be where I am today. A year ago I was overwhelmed with researching universities and I went through hundreds of colleges in every U.S. state trying to figure out which one would fit me. Yet, through this process there was a place that had instantly felt like home; Duke University. Ever since I went on a year of high school exchange to Virginia, I had fallen in love with this university. But applying as a transfer student, my chance of being accepted was close to 5 %. A year ago Duke was a distant dream for me, and frankly one I thought would remain simply a dream. If you would have asked me this time last year where I thought I would end up, I would not have thought I would be sitting here at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, saying, “I made it.”  

Somehow my dream came true, and I know it all started last year, as I spent two incredible semesters at The American College of Norway preparing to transfer to a college in the United States. There were many reasons I believed Duke would be right for me, one of them being the inspiring faculty that I had come to know through sources like iTunes University (where you can view classes and office hours online) and through their personal blogs.

One of these professors, through her own human rights blog, inspired me to write some of my own blog posts for the American College of Norway’s Peace Promoting website. A year ago, I would never have thought that I would get the chance to learn directly from her and her incredible experiences. Today, with her as my mentor, I am designing my own research project on cultural integration and group conformity on college campuses.

Thinking back on what lead me here, there is one memory that immediately stands out in my mind: The Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Last year I had the incredible opportunity to learn from and to share thoughts with people from all over the world. I wrote weekly blog-posts about everything from child soldiers to dehumanization, and the importance of accepting change.

As well, I had the amazing opportunity of travelling to Minneapolis to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and connect with Nobel Peace Prize laureates, professionals in all kinds of disciplines, and students with an immense variety of interests. There is no doubt that this experience changed my life, and I know it helped lead me to where I am now. Because of this experience, I got first-hand experience with something truly unique and had these incredible stories to share. I know it provided me with insight that gave me an advantage as I was applying to universities. In fact, this experience has inspired me to create a blog for my current research project and in that way to continue sharing perspectives with the world.  

I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, either by sharing perspectives, by attending the event in Minneapolis or by watching the Livestream. The things I learned, the ways I was challenged, and the way it changed my perceptions of the world, has made me grow and mature an incredible amount. It has helped me in my further studies in college, and I know it will continue to inspire me in the future. I confidently say it changed my life, and I know that it can impact and inspire others in all aspects of their lives.

It’s an ultra-cliché, but I believe indeed that the Nobel Peace Prize Forum has inspired me to become a better person. The theme last year was “The Power of Ideas: People and Peace,” and it taught me that anything is possible if one has the mind and the willpower to go through with it. Getting the chance to come up close and personal with such wonderful individuals as Laureate Muhammad Yunus and Laureate Tawakkol Karman has made me believe in the fact – and yes, I dare state it is a fact – that anyone can change the world. This was proven by the stories I witnessed during last year’s Forum, and made me believe that indeed anyone can change the world – all it takes is an idea. 

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