Oppdage et moderne Norge, Discovering a modern Norway

Hei, jeg heter Madeline og jeg bodde i Oslo, Norge i seks måneder. Hi, my name is Madeline and I lived in Oslo, Norway for the last six months. 

Having only been back “state-side” it is difficult to look back on my time abroad with perspective. Norway has always meant a lot to me. Growing up, my family made a lot of traditional Norwegian food and even attended an annual “Norway Day” celebration in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When I return home for winter break one of the first things my mom and I do is make a large patch of fresh lefse for the holidays. Lefse is a thin potato tortilla that we like to eat with butter and cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. 

In Norway, friends told me they no longer knew anyone who made fresh lefse. Everyone just bought it in from the store, premade. I had spent my whole life learning about Norway and hearing stories from family members who had visited. 

It sounds obvious now, but I quickly learned that my family was practicing traditions that had been passed down from family members that had immigrated to the United States more than 100 years ago. But, I have also found that many Americans have an outdated view of Norway, if they’ve even heard of the Nordic country. While many Norwegians live on farms in beautiful fjords raising sheep and knitting, Norway is also a powerful oil country that leads Europe in multiple fields including environmental innovation. 

From left to right, Astrid (Dutch), Andre (Australian), Vanessa (Austrian), Izzy (Colorado), myself and Lauren (Australian) pose around 2 p.m. on top of Holmenkollen on one of my first days in Norway. Holmenkollen is a tall ski jump, used in the Olympics, that has a wonderful view of the city.

I was also amazed to learn that many students are heavily involved in one of the country’s eight political parties. Every one of my new Norwegians friends were involved and attended climate marches, held offices in the student union and helped organize large events for nonprofits. This is much different from my experience at home. In high school, very few were even knowledgeable about politics. Meanwhile, at my university, many of my friends are politically active in both political parties and local nonprofits, but I wouldn’t say that’s the norm for the student body.

Within Europe, Norway is frequently regarded as a country that other countries should aspire to be. Their progressive environmental and social policies have made them a leader. And even though many believe the country to be a leader, citizens continue to demand more from their governments. In March, I stood outside Stortinget, translated to “the big thing” aka Norway’s parliament building, with nearly 20,000 Norwegians chanting “Fjerne Erna!” or “remove Erna,” referring to Erna Solberg, the Norwegian prime minister. We were gathered outside the parliament building to demand action on climate change from the leader of the ruling conservative party. Norway, at the time, had been discussing beginning to drill for oil in Australia and the Arctic. 

Izzy (left), from Colorado, and Ingeborg from western Norway hold signs at the Oslo Climastreik (Climate Strike) in Oslo. Ingeborg’s sign reads “We want systems change, not climate change.”

I was inspired by a country full of people that recognized the great life they got to live in Norway and how different that often made them from the rest of the world. But they didn’t allow that to make them complacent, they continued to push for equality and justice.

As someone who has been in climate change work for just over three years our slow progress, and sometimes regression, has been hard to watch. The time we have left to turn this climate crisis around is quickly shrinking. It’s traveling to places around the world whether it is Vietnam, like I did last January, or Norway I am reassured when I see the people who are doing the work around the world. 

Youth hold signs at the March Klimastreik in Oslo, Norway. The signs, from left to right, say “Do something while there is still hope,” “crocodile tears don’t help us,” and “you said clean your room, we say clean the planet.”

Norwegians gave me more hope for our future and our ability to at least slow down the climate crisis that is quickly making the Earth uninhabitable for humans as we do now. There connectedness to the environment was inspiring and their kindness towards one another was moving.

As I go into my capstone experience I am filled with hope that we can shift the American consciousness towards being environmentally aware and politically active for the environment. That was important for me as I had been spending some time feeling dejected with the current regression in American environmental policy.