My research stay in North Carolina, USA

In the summer of 2018 my family and I moved to North Carolina, USA for me to have a research stay at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Durham, North Carolina for the fall 2018.

I received funding from Epinor, University of Bergen and the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation for Educational Exchange. In June 2018 the Fulbright grantees met in Oslo for information sessions as well as for an award ceremony. This was such a nice and useful preparation before our trip and it paved the ground for new friendships.

My mentor for the research stay was Dr. Allen Wilcox at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Wilcox is a Senior Investigator at the NIEHS, a former Editor-in-Chief in the journal “Epidemiology” and a pioneer in the field of reproductive epidemiology. My overall scientific aim was to collaborate with Dr. Wilcox and his team in disentangling maternal health in pregnancy and the relations between adverse pregnancy complications in successive pregnancies.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is located in Durham by a lake with a nice walking path around it. I spotted geese and deer when walking in the area.

I used data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway and worked together with Dr. Allen Wilcox and Dr. Quaker Harmon at NIEHS, Professor Truls Østbye at Duke University and Professor Rolv Skjærven at University of Bergen. My days at work consisted of doing analyses, discussing them with my collaborators and writing a manuscript based on the results.

I attended meetings for the Epidemiology branch at NIEHS as well as weekly meetings for the Reproductive group. The weekly reproductive journal club had a thorough paper critique that taught me methods and topics that were new to me. At NIEHS, I felt included in the everyday life at the institute, celebrations and meetings. When giving presentations to the group, I received valuable feedback and comments. I also participated in Truls Østbye’s group at Duke University , attended meetings there and presented my findings. I only had the fall semester at NIEHS, but thanks to efficient and fast collaborators I got to prepare a manuscript before returning to Norway. I am very grateful for the way Dr. Wilcox, Dr.Harmon and Dr.Østbye made me feel welcome and included.

One thing I really enjoyed about the American culture was that they celebrated fall in a manner that was new to us. While I am used to dreading the fall with rainy and cold days, the fall semester in North Carolina was the time when it was comfortable to be outside again. We went for hayrides, pumpkin picking, corn mazes, and farm activities.

When Halloween was approaching, we were excited to see the neighbourhood prepare for the big night. On Halloween we walked around for hours, being greeted with kind neighbours offering candy, juice boxes and some tricks. For Thanksgiving we enjoyed a celebration with American friends. Football and baseball were new sports to us and we got to see both sports live.

We lived in Chapel Hill, which is the city of University of North Carolina, UNC. “The Old Well” on the university campus is an unofficial symbol of the university, granting students who drink from it on the first day of class good luck in their studies ahead.

Fellow “Fulbrighter” Stine Harstad at Duke University, explored the area together with us, including the old Tobacco District in Durham. We were grateful for the friendship with a fellow Norwegian in the same situation, trying to find our ways in the American society.

We met a lot of kindness and as a family we felt we learned so much about the American school and society. We went to Washington to learn more about the capital and were amazed by all the monuments, museums and things to see there.

There were many pieces in the puzzle before we left for the U.S.; visas, apartment, insurance, schools and vaccines to mention a few. Luckily they all came together before we left. It was close to a full time job in the spring before we left. Though a fall semester is short, I felt that the time spent on applications and preparations before leaving for the US was all worth it. The experience was unique for me both professionally and personally, and also for our family. We learned a lot about coming to a new country, including the importance of attention and kindness. We hope that we’ll be able to offer the same to people who are new to our country.

Liv Grimstvedt Kvalvik

Page administrator: Liv Grimstvedt Kvalvik
Last updated: 12.12.2019 09:30