U.S. Friends of Chalmers Scholarship Award Ceremony. From left to right: Bo Hedfors, Emma Norden (awardee), Michael Sikora (awardee), Ilsa Juhlin (awardee), and Arne Dunhem
It was a typical mid-March morning at The Opus Group, the architecture firm where I had been working as an Intern Designer for the past year and a half. I was scrolling through my emails when I came across one from Chalmers University of Technology. Moving to Europe had been my dream for as long as I can remember. Becoming an architect had been my ambition for even longer. It was during my Bachelor’s in Minnesota that I realized I was especially interested in sustainable design. Thus, I applied to Chalmers. Not only did the school’s values align with my own but what better place to study sustainability than in a country that lives by it? I clicked on the email, having no idea that its contents would make all of my aspirations reality. I scanned the letter; my heart stopped and my mouth fell open. I was selected to receive a full tuition scholarship from U.S. Friends of Chalmers! It was all I could do but leap from my chair with joyful astonishment.
That email was just the first step into the journey that would follow. After accepting the offer, I was invited to the U.S. Friends of Chalmers Scholarship
Award Ceremony in Seattle, Washington. It was there that I met the other two Americans who received the scholarship, giving me my first student connection to the school. One was pursuing Sound and Vibration and the other would be studying Biomedical Engineering. They were as grateful for the opportunity and as eager to embark on this new adventure as I was. We still run into each other on campus and, of course, attend all of the scholarship activities together. I was also introduced to many alumni from Chalmers as well as the donors who made the awards possible. I immediately felt welcomed and the sense of community amongst the group was unparalleled. The dinner that followed the ceremony was lighthearted, filled with jokes, laughter, and traditional Chalmers songs (Yes, Chalmers has its own traditional songs!). I tried following along but I was a little out of my element as the lyrics were in Swedish. I enjoyed the ambience immensely anyhow. Everyone’s love for their alma mater was palpable in their spirit and humour. And albeit, I wasn’t yet a student, I already felt a part of the family. This feeling only confirmed that Chalmers is a wonderful place to be.
Ten months later, I still cannot believe my fortune. The scholarship has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and meet incredible people from around the globe. I have learned and come to appreciate so much more having stepped outside my comfort zone. People consider the U.S. to be a “melting pot” but I have found Gothenburg and Chalmers to be more of a melting pot than my hometown of Minnesota. In fact, I am enthusiastic whenever I meet another American! We are all interspersed among the plethora of internationality here and running into one is an infrequent occurrence. I wouldn’t have it any other way because whenever that happens, I get a little taste of my old home. Actually, it is funny because people often assume I have Swedish roots. It turns out my name is very Swedish and Minnesota has a large Scandinavian population. (Who knew!) Perhaps that is why I felt so comfortable here from the get-go. And to think I have one more year left, I am as thrilled as I was on my very first day.