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Swedish Student Offers Insight
While Preparing to Graduate


May 26, 2004 :: No. 263

Fullerton is a long way from Lysekil, Sweden . . . not only in terms of geography but also in culture, language and outlook.

When Solveig Haugen arrived in Southern California in 1999, it was her first trip to the United States. On Sunday, she’ll prepare to graduate, summa cum laude, from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor of arts in communications. She is among 459 international students who are members of Cal State Fullerton’s Class of 2004.

“In high school, I thought I’d pursue a career in medicine,” she recalled. “I never really thought about the field of communications. It wasn’t until I arrived in America, that I realized such a degree program existed. I love it — communications combines language, speaking, writing, business — it’s a perfect field for me.”

Haugen did know that she wanted to study abroad, however.

“Because of the European Union, it’s easy for Europeans to move around to different countries,” she said. “Many of my friends had studied abroad, and I wanted to experience the culture of a different country.”

Ideally, she was looking for someplace warm and coastal; that led her to Southern California.

Haugen originally started her studies at Citrus College in Glendora, staying for two years with a host family. When she completed her studies at Citrus, she transferred to Cal State Fullerton.

“It was such a culture shock when I first arrived,” she laughed. “At first, I couldn’t believe everyone had a car. In Sweden, we usually walk, bicycle or use public transportation. Here, that is almost impossible.”

And although Haugen did speak English when she arrived, she had been taught “a proper British-style of English.” She quickly learned that Americans speak less formally than their European counterparts.

“My host family was originally from Mexico, and they mostly spoke Spanish so as an extra bonus, my Spanish improved quite a bit too,” she said. “They were also wonderful cooks so I got to eat a lot of Mexican food.”

Haugen also was surprised at how multicultural Southern California is. After transferring to Cal State Fullerton, she moved into a Fullerton-based apartment with a roommate, purchased a car and continued to focus on her studies. She still manages to return to her native country twice a year: at Christmas and in the summer.

Fluent in five languages — Swedish, Norwegian, English, French and Spanish — Haugen hopes to work for an international company, where her knowledge of languages as well as communications skills can be utilized. To that end, she has interviewed with a few companies, mostly on the East Coast, to see about securing employment following graduation.

“While the job opportunities are greater in America, I still think of myself culturally as European,” she said. “I can work up to a year in America after my graduation and I’d like to do that. I’m guessing that at some point, I’ll return to live in Europe but I will always remember my time at Cal State Fullerton and all the people who helped and encouraged me.”

Haugen’s College of Communications commencement exercise is scheduled to begin at or after 9:45 a.m. Sunday in Titan Stadium.

Media Contact: Valerie Orleans, Public Affairs, 657-278-4540
or vorleans@fullerton.edu


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