We’re back—sort of…
COVID-19’s impact on the American College of Norway
American College of Norway
Every semester, we look forward to welcoming American students from across the United States to study alongside Norwegian students in Moss, Norway, at the American College of Norway (ACN). Having both these groups study collectively together on a small, inviting campus is always a rewarding experience to witness. And as a staff member, it is even more enriching to work with them. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
At ACN, Norwegian students start their U.S. bachelor’s degree as they take U.S. courses taught by American faculty. Additionally, they receive one-on-one advising to help them figure out where they will study in the United States the following year. Furthermore, they learn so much from our American students who study abroad at the college. Both lend themselves as not only a friend to hang out with but also a sounding board for the ever so important questions like “Where should I visit this weekend?” or “What is college really like in the United States?” This unique experience has created so many lasting friendships and connections across Norway, the United States, and beyond. Unfortunately, this cultural exchange has been placed on hold in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus hit Europe last March, ACN acted quickly to prioritize safety for all students, faculty, and staff. Within days of the government lockdown, ACN staff rallied together to get courses online, while still providing top-notch resources and support for all students. Financially, like many other small businesses and institutions, the college lost significant revenue. From canceling our fully enrolled summer school to the unexpected costs of going online, ACN had no choice but to furlough the staff for the summer to save itself.
Kay Laughlin was spending her spring semester studying abroad at ACN when the pandemic hit Europe.
“Everything happened very quickly when the virus was spreading around Europe. The school closed its doors to prevent any potential contamination as we were coming back from winter break travel. The other American students and I were updated daily, we had meetings, and received e-mails with information from the U.S. Embassy. I was calm and confident in the college’s ability to keep me safe and offer me resources. Honestly, my parents were more nervous than I was, having their daughter across the world during a global pandemic was not the easiest thing to handle. With more and more information coming in, I personally made the decision to leave. It was really challenging to leave a home that I grew to love so much and a group of people that I had made great connections with. However, I think that’s the best part of it all, I now have a home and people to come back to. My ACN family will be the first to hear when I’m back in Norway,” she said.
Flash forward a few months, and I am happy to report that ACN is open and will have in-person instruction this academic year. But with borders closed, visas not being processed, and international travel highly discouraged, this year, our student body will look slightly different. With only 70 spots allotted at the college annually, ACN has seen a drastic increase in American students spending a semester or more abroad. In the past few years, we have had anywhere from 10 to 15 American students join us per semester. This fall, we are only able to welcome two American students, who both have dual citizenship, allowing them to enter the country. We are certain these American students will serve as a great resource to our Norwegian students, and we have no doubt our American faculty and staff will create endless opportunities and experiences for our new group of Norwegian students, but there is no denying that this year will be different.
Around this time of the year, I am busy welcoming our American students to campus and helping them get settled in by taking them on their first Norwegian grocery store trip, taking them on a walking tour of Moss, filling them in on travel opportunities around Norway and Europe, and much more. This never gets tiring, in fact, I always anticipate this as it takes me back to my study abroad days. From showing them how to use the infamous bread machine at the grocery store, to explaining endless cultural differences and most importantly, letting them know to go grocery shopping on Saturday, as the shops are closed on Sunday. But this year—sadly—these outings are slightly different.
We are proud of our hands-on approach and know ACN offers an intimate and rewarding study abroad experience. We hope to be financially viable this school year so we’re able to continue offering study abroad experiences like Kay and hundreds of other students have had.
“I think studying abroad is a very intimidating experience. I am a person who craves community and family, I feel very lucky that I was able to find those values within my study abroad experience. ACN’s staff and students handed me all the tools and resources to authentically experience Norway. At the same time, they gave me a home in Norway. Pre-pandemic, I was traveling all over Norway, experiencing things I’d only dreamed of… viewing the northern lights in Tromsø, skiing and dog-sledding in Trysil, taking a cross country trip to Bergen, and finding my favorite spots in Oslo. I wouldn’t have been able to find those moments without the help of the students and staff at ACN who invited me to their hometowns, taught me about Norwegian culture and even helped get my small amount of Norwegian mastered. With them I gained confidence to travel and the urge to soak up every bit of Norway.”
If you or someone you know hopes to study in Norway at the American College of Norway, visit www.americancollege.no/information-in-english to learn more about our unique and exciting program! Feel free to also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also “Connecting to your Norwegian roots through education” by Monique Østbye, The Norwegian American, Sept. 4, 2020.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.