Colin Gioia Connors, 27, from the United States. He was born in California, but now he is living in Wisconsin, which is in the middle part of the country. He is doing Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies. And one of his main interests in academics is researching the Viking Age. During my visit to International Summer School at University of Oslo this year I had a chance to have an interesting discussion with him.
Imran: What brought you towards Scandinavian Studies?
Colin: That’s a bit of a long story. I was studying archaeology in California when I was invited to participate on an archaeological excavation in Iceland. And that was a Viking Age excavation. So we dug up an old Viking chieftain’s hall, um, in previous years they dug up a church and a graveyard. Uh, and they had also found a burial mound that was in the shape of a ship. So it was a very exciting excavation and I just got very interested in the research in the Viking Age.
So after that I started studying in a Master’s in Iceland and learned Icelandic. And after I had been there for a few years, I really wanted to learn Norwegian. Um, and I thought, what better way than to just go there and try it.
So I came to Norway first two years ago, and I worked as a volunteer in the countryside. And I lived here for nine months. And I just learned by being here and doing it and speaking it. So I really wanted to come back this time so that I could actually get some instruction–learn some grammar, learn some spelling, and just improve myself.
Imran: Now you are here once again, do you think the summer school experience would be beneficial for your future?
I think this experience here this summer will be very valuable for my career, but it is also just a personal goal because I have a lot of friends here in Norway and it is important to me to be able to communicate with them and talk to them in their own language.
So while I have been studying and working quite hard here, it is a very intensive program and I really enjoy it one of the most amazing things has been being able to have some free time to go see my friends, go out running. One of the greatest things about Oslo, I think is that you can be anywhere in Oslo and you are only 3 km away from the forest and this forest just stretches out into infinity as far as I can see. I don’t think there are many cities can claim that. It seems to be a big problem with many cities that they just keep spreading out and spreading out and it is really a blessing to have nature so close at hand to go explore, so when I have time in the evening, I like to go out by myself.
I love being able to share my experiences with other people, but it is important for me to have some time to myself. And so being able to go off on my own and explore on my own time it is a chance for me to relax and recharge my batteries. If I spend time outside I am just inspired by what I see and everything that I fell, so then I can come back and work twice as hard for the rest of the week.
Imran: What do you do in your spare time?
Colin: I love being outside. Um, basically, whenever I am inside I am always very anxious to get out…well of course, if there is good weather, if there is bad weather I am happy to be inside but whenever there is good weather I feel trapped I just want to get out.
And so I love riding my bicycle, I love running, I really like swimming and I have thought about next year maybe joining my school’s triathlon team, but not because I’m any good at any of these things but only because I really like to do them. Um, I think I’m a decent cyclist, a decent runner; I’m terrible at swimming though. Um, I sink like a rock. But it is something that I really love doing. I just enjoy being outside and moving my body.
When I am outside and riding my bicycle, for example, um, I just like being able to go as far as I can. Always going to the next horizon, and just trying to see what I can see. Part of the joy of it is just, um, exhausting my body, actually, um, is something that just in itself for me is enjoyable. But always being able to move and get to a new place and see something new.
So when I’m hiking or when I’m cycling, it’s often about trying to go as far as I can and as hard as I can and to push myself.
Um, but when I am with my father, for example, and if we for a hike together, my father is a botanist, so he loves looking at plants, um and if we have a goal, trying to get to the top of a mountain, we’ll almost never make it, because we are stopping every five minutes to look at a plant. And we’re getting down on our hands and knees and we’re examining it. We want to understand it, and figure out what it’s about. So, on the one hand I really going as far and seeing everything on as big and grand a scale as I can, but other times I love just focusing on what is small what’s immediate.
Imran: What is this “Gioia” mean written on your T-shirt?
Colin: So I have been wearing a t shirt that proudly bears my middle name Gioia, which is an Italian family name. And so people are often interested talking to Americans, we are a countries of immigrants, people want to know where my family came from. That side of my family came from Italy, but I am regular European- American, because I have ancestors from Germany, Slovakia, Ireland, France, but I have the strongest connection to my Italian side because my great grandfather wrote a memoir about his experiences.
When he immigrated in 1904 and reading it, just tremendously inspiring, that was already over a hundred years ago, So i feel removed from his experience, I had a comfortable life, so I never had to go through what he experiences, arriving to America with no money, and needing to walk to the next town for a job and then for very little money, and then walk home. I think being about to have that kind of memory is very important.
And it is still how America is today, there are many that come to our country and work just as hard today, it’s just sad that I think some people forget that connection because came from the same kind of experience.
Imran: You are a Fire Marshal here? Would you like to share your last Friday’s drill experience?
Colin: I had earplugs in my ears in order to be able to sleep better, so I barely heard the fire alarm, I was very slow and groggy, so looked around and asked my roommate, is that the fire alarm, and he said, yeah, I think that is, so I jumped up because I knew this was my time to shine because I am the fire marshal. so I closed my windows and put on my jacket, and started going around, knocking on doors, trying to get everyone outside. Fortunately they did not do it too early in the morning; it was a very invigorating way to start the day. My blood was pumping, so I was happy that they chose to do this on a Friday so I could take it easy for the rest of the day.
Imran: Do you like your stay in Blindern dormitory?
Colin: I am very satisfied with the dorm experience…being in a place with so many people from so many countries is really refreshing. As an American, and here there are many Americans, but I just don’t have much interest in talking to them because when I am in America I can talk to an American every day. But here I actually get the chance to talk to people from other countries and that is rare and nice. I can have conversation with people that don’t look anything like me, don’t dress the same way, as I do, it is wonderful to find out how they think, how they see the world, and what their experience have been, and it is easy for me to strike up these conversations because almost everyone knows something about America, or have an opinion about American, and the great thing is to be able to discover these nuances and difference, because often, you find that you have a lot in common with the other person.
Imran: Thank you for your time. It was pleasure talking to you!
Colin: You’re welcome!