Scandinavian Area Studies

Why Study Scandinavia?

  • Cross-cultural perspectives: This program will prepare you for living and working in a globalized world by moving you beyond the comfort zone of the culturally familiar and into a world of cultures that differ from and parallel your own in surprising ways.
  • Dynamic cultures: As they continue to change rapidly, Nordic cultures* wrestle with issues of globalization, migration, multiculturalism, postcolonialism, and integration within Europe, offering a remarkable framework within which to study the complexities of culture and society in the contemporary world.
  • Multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives: Drawing on the approaches of multiple scholarly disciplines, the Scandinavian Area Studies program will ground you in a variety of complementary approaches to studying culture and society, while also educating you to make connections between these approaches and fields of knowledge.
  • Critical thinking and reading skills: All the courses in this program stress critical thinking, developing rigorous approaches to questioning culture, society, and the stories that we tell ourselves every day.
  • Strong writing and research skills: Drawing on the tradition of the liberal arts, this program will teach you research methods and develop a clarity of writing that will prepare you for professional life after college.
  • Study away and internships: The Scandinavian Area Studies Program strongly encourages a semester of study in Scandinavia, through PLU's gateway program in Norway at the University College of Telemark, while a January study away course investigates language, culture, and identity in Scandinavia. Internships are arranged on an individual basis, and make use of the experience and expertise of program faculty and advisors across campus.

*The Nordic region includes Denmark, the Faroes, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Åland Islands.

While the cultural traditions of Scandinavia are known to many North Americans of immigrant background, the contemporary Nordic region, an expansive region of Northern Europe including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, the Faeroes and the Åland Islands, is rapidly changing, and thus presents an ideal focal point for relevant study of globalization, multiculturalism, cultural identity, international relations, and innovations in literature, film and art.

Study of the Nordic region at the intersection of cultural heritage and contemporary realities provides the unique opportunity to stretch ourselves beyond the known, and to acquire skills of critical inquiry, language proficiency and cross-cultural literacy that can be applied to life and work in our socially, culturally and politically interdependent world.

Why Study Scandinavian Area Studies at PLU?

The Scandinavian Area Studies program at PLU distinguishes itself in its emphasis on the interdisciplinary study of the contemporary Nordic region. Professors in the program are active scholars who bring to the classroom their expertise in Nordic languages and cultures, societies and literatures. Particular research interests of the faculty include construction of ethnic, national and cultural identity, Sámi studies, immigrant studies, postcolonial studies, women's studies, expressions of Nordic identities in literature and film, Scandinavian music, politics, and economics.

In the program, Scandinavia is defined not only by national borders, but also by its relationship to the circumpolar Arctic region, Europe, developing countries in Africa, and North American populations of Scandinavian immigrant background. In addition to required courses in Norwegian language, literature, culture and society, students select from courses with topics ranging from the Viking age to Scandinavia and world issues, and from folklore to contemporary film and fiction. Classes in the program are small, and attention to each student's unique academic focus is an integral part of the advising process.

Careers for Scandinavian Area Studies Majors and Minors

Majors and minors in Scandinavian Area Studies open many career paths both domestically and internationally. The range of career choices is particularly broad for those who double major or pursue specialized training. Our graduates work in careers including international banking, business, the travel industry, education, art, communications and public relations.

A number of students in the program have been granted Fulbright scholarships, and have conducted research in Scandinavia prior to going on for advanced degrees at the Master's or Ph.D. level.

Additional Opportunities for Scandinavian Area Studies Majors and Minors

Beyond the classroom, the Scandinavian Area Studies program offers a diverse number of learning opportunities, including residence on the Norwegian wing of Hong International Residence Hall, a language immersion weekend, roundtable discussions of current events in Scandinavia, film evenings and guest lectures.  Scandinavian Area Studies students also benefit from a rich Scandinavian environment that has been a hallmark of the university since its founding by Norwegian pioneers in 1890. Each year quality speakers, guest scholars and performers from Scandinavia visit our campus, providing students an in-depth experience of Scandinavian political debates, artistic creativity and current thought.  Recent visitors to campus include the U.N. envoy to Sudan and former Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. Tom Vraalsen, the director of the Dialogue Center for conflict mediation and peace building Steinar Bryn, Sámi rights lawyer and music performer Ande Somby, University of Oslo literature professor Ingeborg Kongslien, and guest scholars and authors from Sweden, Norway and the Faeroe Islands.  Finally, each year a number of students from the Scandinavian countries come to study at PLU and become part of the life of the campus community.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Study abroad makes it possible for students to apply their knowledge and skills learned in the program to real world contexts.  J-term, summer and semester programs in Scandinavia are available. The fall semester program in Peace and Conflict Studies at Bjørknes College in Oslo explores Norway's approach to conflict mediation and peace building, relationships with developing nations, and the role of the media, religion, and government institutions in society. A semester at Telemark University College provides a challenging study of Norwegian language and literature.

Other study opportunities in Scandinavia include a PLU J-term course, the International Summer School in Oslo, Norway, the DIS program in Denmark, and semester and summer programs at universities in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Faeroe Islands.  There are a number of scholarships available to assist in financing this study.  PLU financial aid applies to approved programs.  

University Centers with Scandinavian Emphasis 

Two on-campus centers also contribute cultural and research opportunities for students, faculty and community members. The Scandinavian Immigrant Experience Collection, with its extensive collection of books, manuscripts, oral histories and organizational histories, serves as a valuable resource for those researching Scandinavian-American history and immigration.

The Scandinavian Cultural Center arranges exhibits, concerts, lectures and Scandinavian holiday celebrations. Volunteer and work-study opportunities at these centers are possible for interested students.