Melissa Gjellstad, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Languages, Norwegian
I have had a variety of educational experiences in Norway: as an undergraduate, a graduate student, and a post-graduate fellow. The most recent episode was to work as a postdoc in a research group at the University of Agder. Each phase of my path in higher education to date has included an opportunity to study at a Norwegian university; destinations for these semesters abroad include the Oslo International Summer School, the University of Oslo, and the University of Bergen.
Living in Norway has allowed me to travel extensively to the other Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. It also offered opportunities to travel for business and pleasure to Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, and Wales. I have also traveled a good deal in the countries of North America while living in the United States. Because I have a weakness for cold and remote places, the poles are high on my list of places to experience. Next stop: Svalbard!
Why do you think students should study abroad?
To study abroad is to open your entire self to a new level of understanding. This can include intellectual challenges in your field of study, linguistic challenges as you learn how to function on a daily basis in another language, cultural challenges as you experience what it means to be an American in your host society, and personal challenges as you are confronted with defining and presenting yourself in new surroundings. Studying abroad allows you to meet wonderful people with a complex set of life experiences.
How have your international experiences influenced your career/life decisions?
On my first trip to Europe (on a high school choir tour), I caught the European travel bug; I returned as an undergraduate student to the International Summer School at the University of Oslo shortly thereafter, and quickly incorporated language learning into my bachelor degree at home. That summer in Oslo ignited my passion in Norwegian culture, which some years later resulted in the completion of my Ph.D. in Scandinavian languages & literatures. In sum, studying abroad completely redirected my career path … and I’ve never looked back.