Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Media darling. We hope.

My pursual of a midwife and nursing license in Norway came to a sort of standstill back in May, when the appeals board upheld SAFH’s decision that I should essentially begin my entire education from the beginning. Back in June, we were in contact with a former head of a nursing department at a local nursing college, but the spark from that initially promising meeting fizzled out over the Norwegian fellesferie (common vacation time in July). Every other Norwegian that we spoke to has been equally disgusted and disappointed in the decision, and their response is almost exactly the same: “You need to take this to the media! That’s how things get done in Norway! Take this to a politician!”

But frankly, I didn’t have the energy to mount another battle. The process of making the right contacts, assembling the papers and presenting our arguments one more time was overwhelming. It was summer. I had just failed two Norwegian exams. I was feeling defeated on several fronts. And I was juggling two new jobs, a bit overwhelmed in this shift from stay-at-home-study-Norwegian/mom/wife/home renovator lifestyle to full-time-job(s)-speaking-Norwegian/mom/wife/home renovator. Not to mention blogger. I hadn’t forgotten my desire to blog about this all, despite what you may think.

Instead, the media come to me. Our neighbor, who owns a fat black lab dog who is Tika’s best doggy friend and invites herself into our home whenever she has the chance, is a TV journalist for the local news office of NRK. NRK is the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, a government-owned public television and radio broadcasting company, and the largest media network in Norway. After chatting with Erik in a neighborly over-the-fence chat about my current job situation, he told a fellow journalist about my plight; a journalist who has some experience investigating the health care system and related matters.

In mid-August, the journalist came to our house. I presented my case, summarizing as best as I could what has transpired over the past two years, trying to highlight our best points and not get caught up in the minor details. Oh, and trying my best to do this in Norwegian, of course. I handed her a stack of papers, offered her the 3-ring binder of documents and correspondence, and gave her a half-dozen names of people who have been “on our side”. Her response included, “Wow. I had initially thought I could get this on the air next week, but now I think I’ll need some extra time to interview people. I’m thinking the nursing and midwife organization, SAFH, NOKUT (the accrediting agency that has approved  both my bachelors and masters degrees), this nursing instructor, the local midwives, politicians. . . “.

Go girl.

A few days later she was back in our home, with a camera and microphone to boot. We sat on my couch, and she peppered me with the sort of “touchy-feely” questions you’d expect them to edit out into 15-second clips to highlight a few points. It was rather overwhelming. I was very cognizant that this could very well end up on not just the local “fylke” (county) news program, but on the national news program, and I did not want to sound like a blubbering, incoherent, grammatically incorrect foreigner who thinks she’s good enough to catch Norsk babies. But, on the other hand, I also wanted to succinctly answer her questions, to give her good soundbites, and adequately express both my frustration and my competence. But, on the third hand. . . sometimes the words just weren’t there. That elusive word or phrase that would capture my thoughts perfectly was not in my active Norwegian vocabulary. It was frustrating, and made me worry more that I had sounded like a simpleton and a thinks-she’s-entitled foreigner. Had my fluent husband been sitting at my side, he could have provided a few nice soundbites. He, however, was sitting at an ecological conference in Sweden.

The filming moved upstairs, where they filmed the typical “at home with family” shots of me reading a story to Greta in her room. The next week, they came to the museum shop, and filmed me doing the typical “underemployed menial tasks” of organizing T-shirts by size; a few days later, they came to the nursing home, and filmed me doing more typical “underemployed menial tasks” like loading the lunch dishes in the dishwasher, all the while asking me loaded questions like, “what is it like to work here, when you have such a high education?” Honestly, what am I going to say? “This job sucks, quite frankly. Somedays I cry after work because I think of all that I gave up to work here.” And piss off my colleagues and boss and get fired the next day? (Because honestly, the jobs don’t suck. They are just a little. . . you know.) But, is saying, “this is a great job, I love working here,” going to support their story—and mine--that Norway is throwing away my competence? It was a delicate balance. A nuanced balance. One that I can only hope was captured with my not-so-nuanced “mastery” of Norwegian.

The news report has yet to be aired. The journalist contacted me last week, and wanted to film me again at home, hopefully with the whole family. Erik is in the middle of a 12-day trip to France, and won’t be home until late this week, so the report is at least delayed until then. The journalist said she has had some “interesting” interviews with the nursing/midwife professional organization and has others still to interview. I feel like she is absolutely on my side, as I called her after one episode of filming and expressed my concern that my response to a question had not come out as I had intended. She immediately reassured me that she would not use that particular quote, as it would “not support our case, the fact that you are qualified and not working at the level that you are educated to”.

Stay tuned.


  1. Wow, this is huge. And I so know how you feel about not being able to express yourself on THAT level. Really frustrating sometimes. Keep us posted, I will definitely be tuning in to you on NRK! :)

    1. Thanks Lisa! I will definitely post when it's supposed to air on NRK. Haven't heard yet. . .

      I enjoyed your last post about struggling to find English words with your American customers. You are truly immersed!

  2. Hi Emily,

    I've thought of you so many times over the summer, hoping that you get some positive outcome from all of this.

    In the midst of putting forth a HUGE effort to get your NOKUT approved degrees recognized it is clear that you've worked really hard to learn Norwegian, gain employment and be a contributing member of society. It's also clear that it's not that you aren't grateful for a job and the opportunity to work, because you obviously are, but it's also perfectly normal to be able to want to work and contribute at a level that is commensurate with your education and abilities - and there's nothing wrong with that!

    Continued best wishes - we are rooting for you!

    suzyjohnmpls-insert at

    1. Hi Suzy,

      Thanks for all of your good thoughts and encouraging words.

      I wish we would have time to meet when we are back in MN, but we unfortunately only have 6 days in the MSP area that we need to divide between two sets of eager grandparents. I'm kind of regretting our decision to cut that portion of our trip so short, but so it is. . .

      Hopefully we can meet up at another time!

  3. I am so sorry it's been so difficult, but hurra, flott, supert that you have gone to the media! Once it comes out, the right strings will be pulled wherever they need to be... I am quite sure of it! (Ok, so maybe I should't say that, but I like to be positive/optimistic and have seen how may cases has gotten resolved once out in the media..) It sounds like the reporter is doing a really thorough job with this one. Good luck, lykke til and keep us posted!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I've been told over and over that getting the story out in the media will be what works. Let's keep hoping that's true!

  4. Wow! I'm trying to imagine myself being filmed at home while being interviewed by a reporter IN NORWEGIAN. Just the thought fills me with terror! I honestly don't think I could handle it at all. I'm so impressed with you, Emily! Don't worry that your Norwegian won't be perfect, it will be good enough to show people what you're capable of when given the chance. Please do let us know when this segment will air. Fingers crossed that this leads to a positive change for you and others in situations similar to yours.