Skogfjorden Blog

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My Story - Rikke

Published: August 26, 2017

Hei! Jeg heter Rachel “Rikke” Peterson. You know those posters that say “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten / from Star Wars / in Marching Band”? I’m pretty confident that everything I need to know in life I learned at Skogfjorden, Concordia’s Norwegian Language Village.

The summer of 1989 is when it all started for me. My older sister had been a villager at Skogfjorden for a couple of summers already. She would come home with these amazing stories about trolls and Norwegian pop musicians and Arctic expeditions, not to mention all the songs she could sing in Norwegian, so naturally, I wanted to go, too. My first one-week session had me hooked and I was a Skogfjorden villager for a total of six magical summers.

The incredibly creative, immersive environment that the staff at Skogfjorden provided is what inspired me to return summer after summer. I was one of those villagers who picked a new name every summer and I loved that I could spend a large part of every day outside - learning, speaking, singing, and playing in a new language. I was constantly being challenged to try new things, but it never felt overwhelming or scary. It was fun!

My summers at Skogfjorden have impacted my life in countless ways. It was at Skogfjorden that I learned the true meaning of global citizenship. I learned that speaking a second language and learning about cultures other than my own would open many doors. For example...

  • I decided to spend my senior year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Norway.
  • I became a counselor at Skogfjorden and spent six summers on staff during college and graduate school. I met some of my closest friends during these summers.
  • I chose to attend Luther College in part because of its Norwegian history.
  • My time at Skogfjorden fostered within me a deep curiosity about culture and people, so I decided to study anthropology and sociology in college.   
  • I received the Wigeland/Scandinavian-American Foundation Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Scandinavia and naturally chose Norway as my country of study. I received my M.Phil. in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies in 2007 from the Centre for Peace Studies at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø.
  • I wrote my master’s thesis about intercultural competency, social identity, and transformation among staff at Concordia Language Villages.
  • Because I had so thoroughly enjoyed working with children and youth while a counselor at Skogfjorden, I decided to volunteer with Save the Children while studying in Norway.
  • After completing my degree, I was hired by Save the Children and worked for the organization for six more years as a Regional Director. Our work focused on advocacy on behalf of refugee and asylum-seeking children and families, children living in centers for victims/survivors of sexual abuse and violence, and education about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

People have often asked me why I chose to learn Norwegian and live in Norway. It’s a language with so few speakers, wouldn’t Spanish or French have been more useful? But the answer I give is always the same. It’s about the process of learning in an immersive setting, like the one Skogfjorden provides. Because once you learn your second language/culture, learning a third, fourth, or fifth becomes so much easier. It’s not about the popularity of a language or culture, or the number of worldwide speakers, it’s about making connections and learning about oneself in the process. We become better communicators this way.

If you’re wondering if Skogfjorden is the right place for you, I can only tell you that it was absolutely the right place for me. And, of course, Skogfjorden’s high returning villager rate year after year speaks for itself! So kom til Skogfjorden and experience the magic for yourself!