Coming back to the United States from Norway was a strange experience. I certainly didn’t want to leave, but I was excited to come back to Decorah, Iowa and see how I could apply what I learned to my campus at Luther College.
After spending the summer at the International Summer School in Oslo, I was happy to have met so many people from around the world. My Facebook news feed was now full of different languages and the communication between me and my classmates was still going strong. When school started this fall, I noticed the divide between the domestic students and the international students on campus. While I had spent the summer engaging with people from all over the world, I realized that I had spent two years living with people I had not reached out to in a meaningful way. Looking around, I found that many of my fellow American peers were nervous about interacting with students from other countries. I realized that there was a serious break in the dialogue on campus between these two groups.
This is not to say that all international students were ostracized or that domestic students weren’t friends with international students: many people reached outside their social groups to bring in new friends. But with regards to a real connection between the two groups of students, there was room for improvement. What better way to get two groups talking than through dialogue?
Working with Cate, my fellow Peace Scholar from Luther, we started discussing ways to incorporate a dialogue session onto campus using the skills we learned in Lillehammer at the Nansen Dialogue Institute. If this summer taught me one thing, it’s that strangers can become friends in a matter of minutes if both parties are willing to communicate and open up. Dialogue helps seemingly different groups of people connect on a human level, removed from social fears or misunderstandings.
On a personal level, I’ve realized that my time in Norway has made me think very critically about the way I behave and the things I pay attention to in my community and the larger world. Being a Peace Scholar has really opened my eyes to the fact that every story, every conflict, and every political move can be interpreted many ways, for better or worse. Every action made in the world effects others, and our interconnectedness causes us to be more responsible for our actions.
I am tremendously grateful for the time I was able to spend in Norway and I aim to apply what I learned there to my studies, my future career plans, and my everyday life.