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Interview with Paul Nolan

Describe your post-graduate international experience(s) or program(s).

My interest in good governance and education systems led me across the world, to the small town of Ås in Norway. From 2019–2020, I was an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. I spent a year teaching Norwegian high school students about U.S. government and American culture. I also held a position as a teaching assistant at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, helping international students with their academic writing skills.

How did you find out about this program or opportunity?

I felt the urge to experience a new culture outside of the United States. That curiosity led me to explore different programs, and I discovered Fulbright. The mission of the program resonated with me: to share knowledge and foster mutual understanding, bringing people and nations closer together. Once I decided to apply. the University Fellowships Office provided guidance throughout the entire process: identifying the right country, preparing application materials, interviewing, and securing the grant.

What are some highlights of your experience abroad?

I met so many people in Norway who were kind, helpful, patient, and who welcomed me into their home while I was away from mine. I carry these people and their stories with me, and I’ll reflect on our adventures for years to come. Some stick out more than others:

  • Dog sledding in Tromsø, north of the arctic circle
  • Watching Oslo transform into a winter wonderland during the dark season
  • Celebrating the 17th of May (Norway’s national day) with friends dressed in their local bunad

Perhaps the most meaningful experiences were the small ones: the collection of laughs shared, coffees sipped, trains taken, classes taught, stumbles made and lessons learned. The culmination of which created a year of my life that I’ll never forget. I’ve emerged a stronger, more independent person with a deep appreciation for Norway and its people—and I’ve made some lasting friendships in the process.

What advice do you have for NC State students considering going abroad after graduation?

When I graduated, I thought I missed my chance to study abroad — I was wrong. Your opportunity to go abroad doesn’t end when you graduate! I applied for my Fulbright 6 months after graduation and left for Norway a year after that. Look into different programs, get creative, and take ownership of the experience you want to create.

My advice for students going abroad? Lean into the experience, even if that means getting uncomfortable. Travel the country, try out the language, meet interesting people, listen and take in the culture. And if in Norway, try the iconic brown cheese on a waffle.

This post was originally published in Study Abroad.