Faith

Thank You

I left you hanging a little longer than I would have wanted after my previous post, but so many small details had to be put into place before I could share the big news. Now, however, it’s time!

I apologize to the few individuals who already know about this but started expecting some other big news after reading my last entry. If I already told you it means you’re a part of my inner circle, so try to see that as something nice.

If you’ve read the blog regularly, you probably know that the three letters N-Y-U have been the source of a lot of excitement—and despair—for me over the past few months. You may remember my post, “So very bittersweet,” about how I got accepted to the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and about how I was $30,000 short and couldn’t go. I was heartbroken, but I told God that I wanted to walk on His path, with or without NYU. I let it go, right there in that moment and chose to trust His ways, while I started looking at other—and more affordable—ways to fullfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

But then, some things happened behind the scenes, and I wrote the follow-up, “Mysterious Ways,” where I shared that I was suddenly just $15,000 short. Changes in the budget and several donations from family, friends and strangers made the whole thing seem a little less impossible — but still not quite within reach.

In the weeks that followed, I was asked to do a number of interviews with the media, and I told all the reporters that “Yes, I’m going to NYU, and I look forward to starting my studies there in the fall.” When I didn’t say anything on the blog, some of you probably thought “oh, she must have found a way to pay for it then.”

At that point I had only told a few people about my secret because I wanted to wait for all the paperwork to to be completed. But now I can finally write the words:

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, my family’s support and the tremendous generosity of Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman, I now have the money I need to attend the first year at NYU!

I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m still blown away, and I realize that this sounds like one of those stories you only see in the movies: “Foreign girl without financial resources gets accepted to prestigious university, and a Hollywood-couple—whom she has never met—watches her zero-budget documentary and decides to give her the help she needs to fulfill her dream.”

This is the short version of the story, but the truth is that most of this happened without me knowing. My family did what they could to help me on my way, but when they couldn’t go any further and had to let it go, some people picked up that near-doused torch before the relay eventually ended up in Los Angeles where Mary and Burt ran the final leg of the race.

God surely works in mysterious ways.

I did not see this coming, and words cannot express how grateful I am. I laid down all my plans of going to NYU that day when I wrote the first post about it, but there was a way there all along. I just couldn’t see it on my own, and I needed help to run the distance. I don’t know how I’ll finance my 2nd and 3rd year in New York, but I believe there’s a way for that too.

I want to thank my family for doing everything in their power to help me make this happen, as well as my friends and the Augustana community for their support and encouraging words.

I want to use my talents to honor God, and I will do my absolute best to make sure these resources are well-spent.

Love,
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

New Words and Nice Meals

This weekend was so packed it didn’t really feel like a weekend at all, but I had so much fun that it didn’t matter.

It started off with tons of errands, emails and meetings on Friday, then on Saturday I attended my first ever “Luncheon” with the Board of Trustees at Augustana.

When I got the invitation from Augustana President Rob Oliver a couple of weeks ago, I honestly thought he meant to write “lunch” and just added “eon” by accident, but it turns out that “luncheon” is an actual English word. Who would have guessed! I’m so happy whenever I can add another word to my vocabulary, and I wouldn’t be opposed to making this a regular one. (To any new readers who now wonder how I even got into college … I’m Norwegian, okay)

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it means:
“A formal usually midday meal as part of a meeting or for entertaining a guest.” 

Anyway, I was there as a presenter and told the story of how I came to Augie, and how that somehow led to NYU and the opportunity to bring “Over the Bridge” to film festivals all over the country.

Just being there was an honor in itself, but to stand alongside my fellow students and friends, Kofi Gunu and Matthew Watt, was simply amazing. They inspire and impress me, and I’m excited to see the great things they’ll do in the future.

With Kofi Gunu, Matthew Watt and President Rob Oliver. Photo: Becky Blue.

Also, an important detail: Ole was there too! Throughout my years here at Augie, this guy is the closest I’ve been to having a date, so a big shoutout to this handsome fella for always being there for me.

Following the luncheon, “The Fam” (aka a large group of individuals who—despite our diverse backgrounds—consider each other family. Read more HERE) and I went to Falls Park for a photoshoot, which I’ll tell you more about in my next post. But I can tell you it involved a live Pyton snake, so you don’t want to miss it. Stay tuned!

Bless you,
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

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