Asking for Directions

With the first week of classes under our belts I think we’re finally getting the hang of things here at UiO. I’ve learned that Oslo really isn’t as big of a city as I originally thought (which makes navigation a bit easier). I also had an important lesson in asking for directions:

1. Speak up.
2. Make sure to ask for the T-bane, not the train, or you’ll end up at Oslo Central Station wandering around lost.
3. Find the nice blonde-haired, blue-eyed Norwegian man named Lars to show you the way to the Central Station (Thanks, Lars! You have no idea how directionally challenged I am).
4. Know that ten people can give ten different sets of directions to the same place.

I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to get lost here in Oslo and free time after classes. Yes, we are still doing our homework, but we’ve gotten the chance to explore the city and experience the culture. It’s also been pretty obvious that our sense of style is not as good as everyone’s here in Norway. Sock-Os just aren’t in…yet. We’ve also devised a new Snapchat game, SnapCats? I’m not sure why, but it’s fun. On Friday our professor showed us a glimpse of the East Side and the “hip” part of town. They’ve also got a fresh fruit and veggies market (yes!). Yesterday and we all took the T-bane down to the lake and hiked around for almost three hours. After the hike we wandered back to Vigeland park for the Independence Day celebration to find some corn-dogs and a car show, good old American 29th of June stuff. Surprisingly we didn’t see the America bus in the show, it’s still parked near Blindern…

Since we’ve been wandering in Oslo it’s only fitting that we get lost now and again. That’s what learning is all about, right? We all have different ideas of how to find our way and that is what makes the journey so exciting. Heading into the second week of classes we’re all beginning to define what we would like to research in our Peace Scholars seminar. As of now my project will focus on the impact peace education has in conflict situations and in the prevention of future conflicts. I’m hoping to learn how art can play a role in peace education and various ways that we can integrate peace education into the curriculum. Additionally, Eric and I have been tossing around the idea of holding a dialogue seminar with students from Augustana and Pine Ridge Reservation. We also hope to bring Steinar to campus to show the film, Reunion.

We’re all still finding our way here, hopefully Lars can help us out.


At the Nobel Peace Center we got to make some art (yay!). This is what Democracy means to me.

The cutest kid chasing pigeons at a park!

These plaques can be found all over Oslo as a way to remember Jewish residents who were deported during WWII.


Great PLU friends, Amy and Andrew, and our scenic hike!

Some of the things you find while wandering, I think this bear fountain is the cutest. 🙂


Genre and Peace in Film

This is a slight recap of what I have posted before, but here is my first official post for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum blog. Be sure to check out what the other Peace Scholars have written!

In other news, I’ve read about 200+ pages (all were very interesting!) in the past few days and there was a fire drill this morning. I’m not a morning person, but I must say, when you wake up before 10 you can get a lot done. Also we’re headed downtown to the big screen to cheer on the USA in the World Cup tonight!

Until later,

Dialogue is movement and a stepping stone on our journey to peace. Our first two weeks here in Norway have been eye opening. During our stay at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, Steinar Bryn mentioned that we move best when we are traveling. A personal goal of mine for the summer is to never stop asking questions and to continue truly moving through each day. As the only Peace Scholar taking the Scandinavian Film class at the ISS, I am paying close attention to how the media and popular culture influence and question our societal norms and relations.

I’ve found the concept of genre in my film class to relate heavily to my experiences in the Peace Scholars Seminar. Genre is an interesting convention in popular culture, especially film. It impacts and maintains ideologies, distracts from societal issues, and more commonly reflects a society’s doubts and anxieties. On the topic of peace and conflict resolution, it is important to understand that our perceptions affect any conflict situation whether or not we are mediators. Part of our duty as peace-builders and researchers is to constantly question our most basic assumptions. Questioning those basic roles and events portrayed in popular culture is one way we can move as individuals and as a society.

Currently we are watching Susanne Bier’s film, Brødre (Brothers), which created an uproar in Denmark after its debut. Brødre questions Denmark’s joining of the Coalition in Afghanistan and the line between those who are “at war” and those who are connected to the war at home. Unlike the Danish version, the Hollywood remake focuses on the American sense of duty and support of soldiers at war even if one does not support the war. It is interesting to focus on the subtle nuances in film to grasp what directors, producers, and film institutes highlight in terms of political and social plights in various countries. These individuals can heavily influence and reaffirm our cultural and political biases. When we step out of a genre convention into a film that encourages viewers to question basic assumptions and existential questions on war and peace, we are in an entirely different position. This is not to say that the typical romantic comedy isn’t enjoyable because let’s face it, we’re all suckers for movies like Love Actually and 500 Days of Summer. Moving forward I think we need to be more analytical of the perspectives and assumptions Hollywood feeds us and to be aware of those stories and histories that are hidden within our societies.

I believe an integral part of our role as individuals is to encourage movement through questioning of popular culture. Scandinavian film typically does not comply to genre conventions thus allowing viewers to move. When we begin to question and uncover the hidden histories in films I believe we will be taking an important step toward dialogue and more holistic peace.





Dialoguing and Wandering

Hei Hei!!

We’ve been in Norway for a week and are now settled into our dorms at the University of Oslo (they’re so cute and yellow!). I’ve also taken on the important duty of Fire Marshall, we take fire safety seriously here. Coming into the program I had a very basic idea of what to expect in terms of who I would meet and what exactly I would be doing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and am excited for the next six weeks!

The first six days of our journey were spent in Lillehammer, a city to the north of Oslo. We stayed at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue where we met students from the Balkans and the rest of our Peace Scholar crew. Despite some complications with transportation due to weather and construction, we all made it and had a fantastic time getting to know one another. We’ve formed quite the group with our friends from the Balkans and go practically everywhere together. The great thing about Norway during the summer is the sun hardly sets. This trend lends itself to our staying out until midnight, one, two, three…there is so much time for activities (and lots of coffee).

A very brief overview of our time at Nansen… Our days in Lillehammer were spent in morning and afternoon sessions discussing what dialogue and negotiation are, learning about each other’s respective countries and backgrounds, meeting the Deputy Minister and Minister of Veteran Affairs in Croatia, watching the film Reunion, and so much more.

As we wander together, we have learned to make ourselves vulnerable, an important component of dialogue. We shared and enlightened one another not only during dialogue sessions, but as we wandered in Lillehammer. Our group attended Lillehammer Days, walked down 1000 steps at the Olympic Ski Jump (which is quite difficult), swam in the lake, drank “coffee” in the park, played lots of soccer and volleyball, and cheered on Bosnia and the USA in the World Cup.

As someone who is constantly on the go, this has been a great exercise in learning how to sit still. Hooray for not having to schedule my life with Google Calendar!

Our dialogue sessions at Nansen focused on group discussion, listening, and sharing our stories and perspectives. I did not have extensive knowledge of the conflict in Ex-Yugoslavia and it took some time to understand the core issues that still affect the Balkan nations. We began questioning why our history and geography classes in the states often skip over the war and conflict in the Balkans. The leader of our seminar, Steinar Bryn, is one of the most inspirational individuals I have met. He also has an impressive beard. Steinar has dedicated his life to engaging individuals in dialogue to break down the barriers between “us” and “them”.

During our sessions he shared with us his thoughts on what it means to engage in dialogue… Dialogue is a process of sharing stories to understand one another, a process that can lead to negotiation. In more concrete terms, dialogue is movement, visibility, and relations. We move through our days asking questions to gain understanding thus making ourselves visible to the world and the world visible to us. Dialogue enables us to build trust and recognize that it is okay not to know the answer, but rather explore an issue further. Steinar made it very clear that dialogue is a relation, not necessarily a solution. This is an excellent reminder. Our work toward more peaceful relationships and understanding within our countries and communities cannot happen overnight. It takes the hard work of many to achieve understanding and peace.

What I have found most interesting during the past week at Nansen is the concept of historical narrative and if it is possible to have a standardized history. How can we make those histories that are hidden, visible? Education plays such a key role in this discussion. We take away a child’s innocence when teaching and reinforcing a one-sided history never stopping to engage with “the other” and build a common language. We must begin by asking more meaningful questions to truly move through each day.

Our classes at the International Summer School start on Monday, but for now we are enjoying some extra free time getting lost in Oslo.

Livert er herlig!

Now you’re probably wondering what that means…good question.


The beautiful view in Lillehammer


Loving our nightly walks!


Dialogue session with Steinar


Eric and I, Augustana Peace Scholars


Amy and Aimée in Norway, the title of our next blog.

I’ve Got My Knapsack on My Back, and I’m Headed to Norway

“Oh, I love to go a wandering..” My mom and dad would not stop singing “The Happy Wander” when I got home after finals. They said I couldn’t go to Europe without knowing the words. It’s safe to say that I will be humming (because no one wants to hear me sing) this song as I wander and study in Norway. After spending most of my spring semester comprehending the fact that I would be spending my summer in Europe, the time has come for me to board the plane and set off on a new adventure. June 14th was a big day for the Fisher/Carson family with my sister’s graduation party (the food was great, by the way) and my going overseas for the summer. Needless to say, things have been exciting, nerve-wracking, and wonderful. Sitting at my gate, I can finally catch a breath and try to organize my thoughts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a Peace Scholar, especially when I try to explain what I am doing as a Peace Scholar. My working definition so far:

Being a Peace Scholar means to have an open mind and to be able to jump into the unknown with confidence. A Peace Scholar seeks opportunities to learn about themselves and the world, and gain insight into the lives of others. A Peace Scholar listens to and honors the opinions and values of others while staying true to their own.

I am excited to see where I wander this summer as I study in Oslo, “come join my happy song!”


The Countdown Begins

In sixty days (yes, I have a countdown on my phone) I will be on my way to Norway representing Augustana College as a Peace Scholar! As I anxiously await my departure on June 14th, I cannot help but to wonder where I will be as an individual, scholar, and artist at the end of August. I never imagined myself embarking on a journey of this nature until coming to Augustana. I am surrounded by the most supportive and globally-minded individuals. My peers, professors, and mentors inspire me on a daily basis to explore a world full of opportunities and engage in dialogue concerning peace and social justice.

Amidst studying for tests, writing papers, and pulling all nighters in the studio, I have been developing my thoughts on what I will be studying and researching as Peace Scholar. Inspired by conversation today with Dr. Reynold Nesiba and 2013 Peace Scholar Alexandra Hjerpe, I am making my first post on this blog as a way to track my thoughts and experiences as I cross barriers of language, culture, and religion this summer.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum offers scholarships each year through a consortium of six private liberal arts colleges for students to study at the International School University of Oslo in Norway. As one of the thirteen scholars attending the University of Oslo this summer, I will be taking a course of my choice and attending a Peace Scholars seminar to deepen my knowledge of contemporary Norwegian culture, conflict resolution, and international peacemaking. In addition to my experience in Oslo, I will attend a week-long dialogue seminar in Lillehammer, Norway.

As an art and education major, I hope to focus my research on the support provided for youth at risk in the Norwegian and American education systems. My interest in this topic stems from a desire to use art as a form of therapy and community building. Today I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Dr. Steve Van Bockern, professor of education at Augustana and founder of Reclaiming Youth International, an organization dedicated to helping adults better serve youth who are in emotional pain from conflict at home, at school, and within their communities. I am in the process of conducting similar research focused on the role religion plays in governmental support of organizations helping destitute and orphaned children in India. I will be spending thirty-four days during January 2015 in Haridwar, India volunteering at Sri Ram Ashram Orphanage conducting my research and helping children share their stories through art.

I am excited by the possibilities these two projects hold, and cannot wait to share my experiences with you!