Let me start off by saying I’m not much of a traveler. In fact I dislike almost everything about traveling, let alone international excursions. It makes me anxious, frustrated, and a little frightened. All these things held true as I traveled to Norway. Walking through the airport after waking up from an airbus-induced coma and not being able to read any signs or understand announcements was very concerning, even if it was expected. However, there was one thing that remedied all these frustrations and no it wasn’t the deliciously addictive Norwegian milk chocolate. It was the people.
Before arriving in Norway, I expected working with Norwegian students to be like a tedious dance of trying not to step on anyone’s toes. Fortunately, I was very mistaken. Upon meeting my Norwegian colleagues I was greeted with smiling faces and American movie quotes from a hilarious student named Stig. Suddenly, all these fears of not being able to understand or communicate with people melted away. We all had something to relate to in some form or fashion.
After meeting in an academic setting a couple of times, my Norwegian counterparts Stig, Tangni, and Marie all suggested we have a meeting in a downtown café. Here we got to know each other more and learned about the different academic pursuits in our cultures. Stig had spent time researching technology and how it relates to pedagogical studies. This was extremely relevant to our project with the National Gallery, especially his thesis paper written on the integration of iPads in elementary school classrooms. Tangni studied economics and turned out to be a great people person. Finally there was Marie: an extremely quiet woman with a degree in Art History and Architecture.
Although none of them were very used to working in groups, they were very excited to see how it changed the work dynamic. This lack of group experience would have been problematic if it hadn’t bolstered their individual research skills. Each one of the Norwegian students threw themselves deep into whatever they were researching. Their thoroughness in finding credible sources, precedence, and clear ways in which to explain complicated topics was quite impressive. It was something I was missing in my own research process. Because of their in-depth research, our project for the National Gallery had a strong foundation upon which to build. Our team felt more prepared and more in-tune with what the museum was expecting. I felt so fortunate to have such an open and capable team.
So let me wrap this up by reiterating that I’m not much of a traveler. It makes me anxious, frustrated, and a little frightened. But all these things faded away as I spent time studying with the Norwegian students. Not only did they welcome me and my other colleagues with open arms, they showed me how I can improve my own design process and work ethic. So to Stig, Tangni, and Marie I say ‘Takk’ (thank you). You showed this timid traveler the importance of learning outside of one’s comfort zone.