Joseph Seo (computer science major), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient (now the Global Access Ambassador Scholarship), participated in Oslo Metropolitan University Exchange in fall 2023.
Monday, February 5, 2024
joseph seo

Before my semester abroad in Norway, I didn’t think about what I was getting myself into or what the next four months of my life would look like. I kept being told I would experience culture shock and gain new perspectives on various things, but I didn’t understand exactly what that would look like. I’ve visited different countries in the past and have noticed some obvious and generic differences, but living in a different country for months seemed to be a bigger deal than a week-long vacation. Fast forward a few months, my culture shock moment was a lot more subtle and intricate than I thought it would be. 

The Monday after I arrived in Norway, things quickly set into motion as my university’s international buddy week program kicked off. Not only did I get to meet many Norwegian students who were enrolled at my university, but also numerous exchange students from all around the globe; most notably my friends from Switzerland and Brazil. Who would’ve thought my best friends in Norway would be from completely different countries than the one I was studying abroad in. While I did have many Norwegian friends, I found myself being able to connect better with other exchange students because of that shared identity. I quickly realized that I had a similar experience even at the University of Iowa. As an Asian American student, I often shared spaces with other Asian American students because of that shared identity. While my time in Norway wasn’t shared with other Asian American students, I did find it extremely easy to connect with other exchange students through that shared identity.  

"Studying abroad is so much more than just the country you’re studying in, it’s the people and their individual stories that make your trip memorable. "

Even though I spent most of my time connecting with Norwegian culture, perspective, and ideas, I’m privileged to say that I had the wonderful opportunity of connecting with cultures all around the world through my international peers. I got so much more than just the Norwegian perspective, which is something I would’ve never expected. Studying abroad is so much more than just the country you’re studying in, it’s the people and their individual stories that make your trip memorable. 

Reflecting on my entire semester, I realized so much about myself as an individual and what truly brings people together. Even though I was a complete foreigner and didn’t know any of the Norwegian language, I was able to connect with people and feel at home through our shared experiences. 


The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support students who study abroad with the intent to serve as Global Access Ambassadors upon return to the UI campus. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.