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Graduation

This weekend was special in many ways, but mostly because I graduated! I have now officially completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in journalism and a minor in theatre from Augustana University. I’ll need at least a handful of blog-entries to reflect upon these three years on the American prairie, but before I delve into that, let’s talk about the day.

Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Up until this weekend, this whole thing called “commencement” was something I’d only seen in the movies, so the fact that I—inside a packed arena with hundreds of students and thousands of spectators—got to wear one of those flat hats and a tent-sized gown was an almost surreal experience. It was so formal and ceremonious that I, at one point, told myself I wouldn’t be the least surprised if I happened to run into the Pope or Harry Potter on the way out.

If you think I’m exaggerating, please remember that in Norway there’s no such thing as a graduation ceremony when you finish your degree — unless you’re a nurse or want to host it in your own living room, of course. So excuse me for being a little overly fascinated with everything from the “faculty regalia” (aka the professor robes) to the “tassel turning” (when the President of the University “bestows” the degree upon you, and all the graduates move the tassel from right to left at the same time to symbolize that they did it!”).


Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Anna and I also happened to be on the news that day, so if you want to see what that flat hat looks like with a moving head inside, please consider clicking on the video below:

We were simply waiting for Elin outside the restrooms when we were approached by the reporter, so those of you who now think I seek out the media to put my face on your TV-screens better think again, haha.

 

Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Even if we didn’t all have our parents with us there in the Arena, Ana, who works in the dining hall at Augie was a great supporter. No less than five nationalities in one picture: Irene, me, Ana, Carina, Anna and Elin.

And then the mandatory “holding-the-diploma-in-front-of-a-greenscreen-while-smiling-like-a-sorority-girl-picture.”


Photo: Jessica Ruf.

Once the ceremony was over, Anna’s parents adopted me for the day and threw an amazing open house-party for the two of us.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Augustana community, and even if this chapter is about to come to an end, my heart will always have a tint of navy and gold. More about that later.

Also, I have some huge news to share later this week, so stay tuned!

Photo: Crystal McDowell/Pinterest.

Blessings,
Maria

Seven days of spring

Thanks for all your love and get-better-messages I’ve received since I told you about my hospital visit last week. You’re truly amazing <3

After a week of laying in bed, eating nothing but bread and baby servings of french fries I now feel much better. Several pounds lighter and a couple of shades paler, but better! Thank God.

It’s been a week of contrasts. When I started to feel sick last weekend, it was snowing and I was—like I mentioned in my previous post—freezing my butt off (mostly because of the fever, but still). And now, as I took on my first day back in the world, I had to deal with sunshine and 28°C (83°F). It felt like I had slept through a whole season! Which I probably did, in South Dakota terms. Spring must’ve been last week.

Just a screen sample from a video I shot to illustrate what snow looks like.

Oh, and before it fades too far into the past, I just want to share something fun! Right before the whole kidney thing I had the pleasure of attending a so-called “friend raiser” event with the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House (the homeless shelter where we shot “Over the Bridge”). I was honored just to be invited, and enjoyed the fact that I could see the gala venue at the Hilton downtown from the inside, but I had no idea what was awaiting me there.

In hindsight I see that I probably should have taken the hint, but oh well. I just remember thinking people were unusually welcoming, “but hey, these people run the biggest homeless shelter in the state — hospitality is their thing,” so I didn’t think twice about the fact that everyone knew my name or wanted to say hi.

Apparently I was “the guest of honor” — something that only became clear to me when I was asked to step onto the stage area in front of a 170 people crowd to receive a “Sincere Appreciation Award.” I did not see that coming, but I can’t express how much that particular award means to me. When Sarah and I started producing “Over the Bridge,” our main goal was to raise the awareness of homelessness, and by receiving this type of recognition from the people who sacrifice blood, sweat and tears to help the people in need in Sioux Falls, it feels like we succeeded.

We have won several awards for the filmmaking aspect of it, but nothing felt quite like receiving a humanitarian award for the work we did. The circle was suddenly completed, and I now know that Over the Bridge has fulfilled its purpose.

To God be the Glory.

Photo: Naras Prameswari.

Maria

Escapes and Paths

Good evening, and happy belated Easter!

In my last post I mentioned the guest I was expecting in my dorm room — a TV-crew from KELO. I already shared the link on Facebook, but some of you have asked when I would post it on the blog, so here you go.

Click on the picture below to start video:

After a year with numerous media appearances I have realized that I prefer TV over radio. I don’t know why, but my English is significantly better in front of the camera. On the radio I sound like I a freshly immigrated kid reading off a script without knowing how to say the words, but on TV I feel more like myself, haha.

Well, with our without my Scandinavian accent, I think KELO did a really good job telling a story I never thought would be told on a screen. I already shared my secret about “The tumors that changes my life” on the blog, but it was a different experience having it told by someone else.

Reported by Brady Mallory/KELO, 2017.

Some of you have asked why I’ve done so many interviews lately, and I honestly don’t know how it happened. I’ve simply been contacted by the media and accepted the offers. Not because I want the attention, but because it allows me to continue shedding a light on an important social issue through Over the Bridge and because I’m a storyteller looking to inspire with my work.

Here’s the full radio interview I did for SDPB with lots of extra footage and special features from the production process of Over the Bridge.

To see more, go to Media Appearances under “Maria” in the menu above.

Have a blessed night,
Maria

Covenant Awards, Thoughts, Friends & Photos

Good afternoon!

I can’t believe yet another week has come to and end, and that I only have six weeks left of my Augustana adventure, but pondering of that sort is a topic for another post. Right now I just wanted to check in and write a perfectly ordinary post about what I’ve been up to since last time.

Feature Story
As a journalist I usually tell other people’s stories, but this week I was lucky enough to have Kelly Sprecher tell mine. We talked about my childhood and NYU, and everything that happened in-between the two.

I still think it’s a little strange to be the subject, rather than the writer, of the story, but I’m very happy with how this one turned out. Kelly really brought out the essence of why I do what I do. Please read the full story here HERE.

Covenant Awards
This week has been filled with more meetings and events than school work, so the feeling of drowning in papers, assignments and exams presented itself a number of times, but I got it done just in time for the Covenant Awards on Friday, which was a great way to wrap up the week. You can read more about what kind of award ceremony this is HERE, but it’s basically a celebration of Augustana’s five core values: Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. And a few students get nominated in each category every year. I was nominated for the first one, which was a huge honor. So even if I didn’t win, it was a great pleasure just to be there as a nominee.

It got even better when my dear friend, Alejandro, won the award for Community! “The Fam” (the collective name of our unique assembly of friends seen in the picture below) started celebrating his victory before the announcer even finished pronouncing his name. A proud moment for us all! <3

Thankful for these people💙💛#augustanauniversity

A post shared by marialavelle1 (@marialavelle1) on

 

With Alejandro Garcia. Photo: Jessica Ruf.

We then went out to celebrate with Indian food (after this highly formal photoshoot, of course)

With Elin Hægeland and Anna Myrmoe. Photo: Jessica Ruf.
I still don’t know how to carry a purse while also wearing heels. Thankfully I had my buddy, Jacob, there for support.

Based on the names in the caption below, one would think we’re all Norwegian. But besides the fact that my name hardly sounds Scandinavian and my friends tell me I’ve become too Americanized to bear the title “Norwegian” there are actually just two Norwegians in this picture. I don’t know how to respond to such claims about me. It’s quite scandalous, really.

With Elin Hageland, Anna Myrmoe, Jacob Knutson and Philly Harkness. Photo: Jessica Ruf.

 

The photographer herself, Jessica. Photo: Anna Myrmoe.

I’m so grateful to be surrounded by talented, ambitious and hardworking people who inspire me to be a better version of myself. Knowing that I’ll leave them in just six weeks makes my eyes produce salty liquids. I think I need to wrap up this post before my keyboard gets wet. Sniff sniff. Love u all.

Blessings,
Maria

Talking about NYU & filmmaking on the radio

Hello!

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I was invited to the “In the Moment Live” radio show with Lori Walsh at the South Dakota Public Radio.

 

This is the second time I’ve done a live radio interview, and it was nice to be back, even if I still think radio is more intimidating than TV. I don’t know why, but it may have something to do with the fact that TV allows you to use more than just your voice to express yourself, and since I’m sort of an immigrant with an intermittent accent, it’s always interesting to see hear how it turns out, haha.

To watch my other interviews, CLICK HERE.

You see, after almost three years in the US, my accent fluctuates between “so American that people ask if I’m from Watertown, SD” and other times I sound like I came riding into the US on a fjord-horse just two days ago.

But with or without accents, I’m happy with how it went and Lori made me feel comfortable in the setting. We talked about Over the Bridge, NYU Tisch and everything in between — for almost 17 minutes. So feel free to hit the play button below and listen along.

 

Or click on this picture:

 

Have a blessed day,
Maria

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