Meet Eigil Ramstad '99

Journalist & Editor, Øyene newspaper, Norway
— journalism major

 

I was born and raised on the island Nøtterøy just outside Tønsberg, the oldest town in Norway. (Founded in 871). The island is not that small though, since close to 22,000 people live here.

The last 15 years I have lived and worked in Kongsberg, about an hour away. I am still single (and looking), but I am blessed with three nieces and a handful of God children to spoil. I do enjoy visiting close friends in the Midwest and Southwest — who also have kids I'd like to spoil as well. But the Atlantic makes it hard to stop by for the weekend.

My BA major at Augie is journalism. This is the written proof of what had been a dream of mine since I was nine years old. Back in the 1990s, it was very hard to get in to journalism studies in Norway. My grades were fine, but you had to be a "genius" to get in, because of the low number of students who were accepted.

Because of the long waiting list, and since I was an exchange student in New Mexico 1990/1991, I wanted to study abroad. The goal was to come back to New Mexico, since I had my American "family" there. So I applied for the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. But to be able to receive student loans and scholarships from the Norwegian government I needed to be accepted as a sophomore.

Therefore I had to "negotiate" with UNM, since the admissions office really did not know that there was a country named Norway. It was a struggle. During these "negotiations" I read about Augustana College in the weekly magazine "Familien" here in Norway. In the story I read about the Norwegian heritage of the college, and there was this guy Donn Grinager who told about what they had to offer. Since UNM seemed reluctant to accept me, I thought "heck, this college seems to want Norwegians, so maybe I'll apply there as well."

It turned out that UNM did not accept me as a sophomore. They seemed more and more annoyed every time I called to ask about things. The correspondence with Augie was a whole other story. Donn Grinager was the one who called me many times asking if I wanted to come. I felt a whole lot more welcome to Sioux Falls, than to Albuquerque.

My conclusion was that UNM accepts the Augie credits, so I'll give Sioux Falls a year. Then I'll transfer to New Mexico. Well, I stayed at Augie until after graduation!

So much happened during my three years at Augie, that it is hard to describe my Augie life. It helped me grow as a person and gave me close friendships that I still treasure. Even though we don't talk every day, it's like we talked yesterday when we meet. Some friends have come to visit me in Norway, but I have been to the USA quite often since my time at Augie.

Even though I have a serious fear of flying, one of the Augie advantages for me has been the chance of traveling. During and after college I have covered most of the West, Southwest and central states in the USA. South Korea, Japan and China with the Augie band in January 1999. (Unbelievable to see the DMZ in Korea and Tianamen Square in Beijing on TV knowing I have been there.) I have been in a number of European countries and Russia.

My Augie life was busy with lots of great experiences. Needless to say, I have mostly fond memories from my days at the college. Everything from watching movies and ordering pizzas on our meal plan cards, to sit and chat while waiting for the laundry and bringing many Augie friends on a road trip to Sioux City to speak at a Sons of Norway meeting — and having the car breaking down on my way back late in the evening.

Of course, it was not happy days every day. Who doesn't when you are a college student. Homesickness was a struggle once in a while, but with good, understanding friends I managed well. One of the huge challenges was when I as a PA I had to write up some fellow students. I never listened at doors, but an open door to a beer party was not the wisest thing to do when I was on duty. I was a PA in Tuve as a junior and Granskou as a senior, and there were times I regretted being one. Today I don't regret it one bit. Being a PA is a part of my Augie education. It was a wonderful way to get to know more people in the whole dorm, and I know I did play a part in some students to be more included in a daily college life.

My favorite classes were the journalism ones. Of course, since it was my major. At times I wondered why I had to have all those other classes, like geography and such. But today I see that my liberal arts education was a good one. Journalism is a small part of Augie, and through "mixing" the different classes I got to know many students with other majors.

Needless to say professors Janet Blank-Libra and Jeffrey Miller were my favorite professors. They were the ones who I got to know best, and still honor them for making me into the journalist I am today. Even though I never was in any of professor Sandra Looney's classes, I was also blessed to get to know her as well. Guess I got to know many of the English professors since I enjoyed "hanging out" in the English hallway. (That sounds really nerdy, right now, doesn't it?) And believe it or not, I also enjoyed geography with professor Quam.

There are so many Augie memories. I want to mention the band trip to Asia. Or the journalism conference in Kansas City. (We weren't all bad, Janet?) Maybe the (all too often) all nighters down in the Mirror office? I was "headhunted" as the sports editor — even though I suspect I was the editors' last desperate choice. We made the paper the old way back then with cut and paste, but even though there were long nights we always made the deadline. (Or what, Matt, Katie, Ryan and Kaleb?)

But one of my best memories are actually my front page layout assignment in Copy Editing for Jeffrey Miller's class. Deadline was the same morning as the Mirror, and I was desperate. Procrastination was one of my weaknesses (still is) and Jen Seavey Dauer came to my rescue. She gave me some input, and kicked my butt — so to speak. I added some "Norwegian elements" to the front page, and I got the assignment back with a top grade. Jeffrey especially liked my little sun in the corner meant as a weather report. It was actually then I realized that I was going to have a chance to actually do something with my major. I don't think Jeffrey Miller knows how important that assignment was to me - even though it was not the most important assignment in that class.

I worked at Harold's Photo Centers at 41st for a year after graduation. I did not want to move back home until the US government sent me a letter telling me to get out of here by June 21, 2000. Or else.

Back home in 2000 I applied to different journalism jobs for about three months until I got a job at the local paper "Laagendalsposten" in Kongsberg. I have been there since, but I have not felt "stuck." Luckily my boss has given me the chance and trust to try different positions within the paper. From being "just" a journalist, I became an assignment editor for about four years. Then I became the first culture editor at the paper, and made the culture section to what it is today. Three years ago I became the assignment editor with the responsibility for both the paper and online editions, but then we restructured the editorial staff because of the major changes to the digital future. I became the online editor two years ago.

But then, a year ago I got the chance of a temporary journalism job at my home island. Ever since I came home after my US years, I've had a dream to work in the area I was born. My current job is in a small weekly paper, with a staff of just three people: the editor and two journalists. I got a year of absence from "Laagendalsposten," and started in "Øyene" last summer as an all round journalist and chief editor when the real one is on vacation. It was quite a culture shock coming from a daily to a weekly paper — and with so few coworkers. But it has so far been a great experience, and a dream come true. I will be back as the online editor at "Laagendalsposten" in the summer, with exciting challenges.

I don't know about the USA, but here in Norway the smaller papers still manage to keep their paper subscribers fairly well. So the focus on the digital edition is not as strong as it might be, but in my job in Kongsberg they have a strong focus on the digital news writing. Today a journalist needs to write, take pictures and edit videos. Not neccesarily in that order, but preferably an hour ago. To be a reporter today is quite different from when I studied at Augie. Many reporters have been laid off in the recent year and a half because of economy cuts. I am fairly safe in my job at "Laagendalsposten," but I have had to think of what to do if I was not going to be a journalist any more. With my liberal arts education I might have a foundation to maybe take some additional classes at a university or college here in Norway to become a teacher. Well, let's hope that won't be neccessary.

My greatest professional accomplishment so far must be my journalism assignments going to Moscow and Sweden. European television channels have a huge annual competition called Eurovision Song Contest. In 2009 a local folk dancer from Kongsberg was a part of the stage routine for what became the Norwegian entry. I covered the national final, and on my way back to Kongsberg I texted my boss saying I'll order tickets to cover the international final in Moscow that year. He surprisingly said yes, so I represented my local paper in one of the biggest media events of the year. With my fear of flying I went to Moscow with two cameras, a tiny video camera and a laptop to multi task. It was crazy for the four days I was there, but an amazing accomplishment for me. The first big trip as a reporter was to the port of Gothenberg. I don't know how many of you remember the story, but in 2001 the container ship "MV Tampa" was in the middle of a diplomatic dispute between Australia, Norway and Indonesia. The ship's captain was from Kongsberg, and he had ordered his crew to rescue over 400 refugees from a sinking fishing vessel. The whole ordeal got a lot of international media attention. On the ship's next mission out of Gothenburg, was also going to be captain Arne Rinnan's last sailing before he retired. I went to Gothenburg and the story ended up over four pages, and it was a great experience to visit the captain on one of the (at the time) best known ships in the world. Since I have been a culture editor I have covered the international Kongsberg Jazz Festival, interviewing Diana Krall and filming Steve Wonder. Fun assignments, to say the least.

Augie has a special place in my heart. There are so many reasons for that. Too many to list up, really. I have been back a few times after I moved back to Norway, and it is incredible to see how the campus has evolved. New theatre, the art building, the football field. It seems that the physical room for education truly has improved since I was there. But I chose to believe that Augie experience with dorm life and the educational quality have not changed that much. At least I hope not. Together with my one year of college in Lillehammer, the Augie years are among the best of my life. Friends close to Sioux Falls might wonder why I need a day back on campus every time I am back in town. It is hard to explain, but Augie is still a big part of my life. If it wasn't so incredibly hard to get a green card in the USA, I might even have considered an Augie career.

Maybe without knowing it, Augustana's five core values (Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service) have been part of my Augie experience. I often wonder what would have happened if I did not read about Augie in that magazine. What if Donn Grinager did not call so many times? What if I wasn't so open minded about the Augie life, and transferred to UNM in Albuquerque after a year? What if? Augustana helped me grow, and I think I will bring parts of all the core values with me, throughout both my personal and professional life. My grades were never too bad, but I was never a top student either. I have always had to work hard to achieve whatever goal. If it wasn't because of many many friendships and support from the professors, it would have made it even harder to reach those goals. I did not know it when Donn Grinager met me at the Sioux Falls airport, that the whole Augie "package" would still play a part of my life 20 years later.