CM’s Guide to the Scandinavian and Nordic Studies Major

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With “lefse,” cozy sweaters and trolls galore, the Scandinavian or Nordic Studies majors make you want to go to class. You can pick random history, foreign language and literature courses to fulfill your gen eds, but you might as well make use out of them and major in Scandinavian or Nordic Studies. On top of learning about the rich and unique language, culture and history of Northern Europe, this major offers opportunity to travel abroad, allowing you to put your knowledge to the test and make connections in a foreign country. Plus, you can satisfy that wanderlust taking over your Pinterest boards.

What You’ll Be Doing

Nordic and Scandinavian Studies majors can make a mean batch of lefse and achieve occupational success. Specifically, you’ll study Scandinavian immigration history and read Henrik Ibsen’s famous plays, as well as learn the basic grammar rules of a Northern European language. Why learn a language only spoken by a small percentage of the world, you ask? Rather than dismissing Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic as useless languages, consider the diverse coursework. “The interdisciplinary major provides a strong foundation in critical thinking and communication skills, historical understanding and current events, and literary, media and social analysis, all in addition to language abilities,” Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dean Krouk said. What employer doesn’t want a candidate who understands diverse cultures?

The classes you’ll take

You’ll need a few semesters of a foreign language within the Nordic or Scandinavian region along with literature and history. Take advantage of those lit credits and learn about topics like Viking mythology or Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Fulfill your history requirement by studying immigration histories of those who travelled from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland to the U.S., who could very well be your own ancestors. If you still aren’t completely sold, imagine the study abroad opportunities. Not all Scandinavian/Nordic studies program require study abroad, but it makes a great excuse to immerse yourself in the language and culture of a Northern European country. “I got to go to Oslo for six months and take courses at the University of Oslo…” said Luther College senior Emily Crowe. “Studying another culture in-depth is so beneficial because you can connect with them more if you can understand their jokes and puns.”

Internships for this major

Apply your knowledge in the real world with a unique internship for the Scandinavian or Nordic studies major. The Norway House in Minneapolis, Minnesota is a nonprofit organization that connects the United States with modern-day Norway. It provides community events to embrace Norwegian culture and provides educational opportunities for those seeking to learn more about Norwegian heritage. For those interested in government affairs, intern for the U.S. Department of State to learn about United States foreign policy and diplomacy. Interning at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington allows students to research, organize and work with historical collections at the museum such as household objects, furniture, clothing, textiles and art. A major in Nordic Studies sets you apart in the job market, opening the door to countless career options.

Career Opportunities

1. Professor

Whether at a large university or small, liberal arts college, teach students about the rich culture and language of the Nordic countries. Some even lead study abroad excursions.

2. Marketing Representative

Create marketing campaigns to build customer following and increase company sales.

3. Archivist

Preserve, collect and organize material for government agencies, museums, colleges and universities or businesses.

4. Travel Agent

Provide travel information and advice to clients regarding transportation, housing and insurance costs.

5. Foreign Languages Teacher

Teach the elements of a language either abroad or in your country of origin.


1. “Not to be cliché, but our world is only getting smaller—the need for people who are critically aware of cultural norms and values and can speak another language is going to be even more necessary in the years to come. In this major, students gain the skills to critically evaluate and assess the norms and values and distinguish this region of the world. In doing so they become thoughtful, engaged global citizens and even leaders.” – Maren Johnson, 2009 graduate from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Norwegian Language and Literature, Luther College professor

2. “Whether you are of Nordic heritage (I am actually not!) or just have a fascination with other cultures—the Nordic Studies concentration at St. Olaf is a great way to integrate these studies into your liberal arts career and also it will help shape you into a member of an ever-changing global community… Nordic Studies and Norwegian became the classes that I loved and remember most when I look back on my college career.” – Samantha Bavage, 2009 graduate from St. Olaf College with a major in Norwegian and Anthropology and a concentration in Nordic Studies

3. “The most important skill one can gain from the Scandinavian Studies major is foreign-language competency. The mental discipline and cognitive skills required for learning a foreign language will help a student in almost every other field of study and work. After foreign-language skills, the most important skill offered by the Scandinavian Studies major is critical thinking. To successfully study a foreign region—including its arts and culture, political and economic systems and relations with the rest of the world—a student must dismantle many of the intellectual assumptions that he or she grew up with.” – Jonathan Poole, 2003 Gustavus graduate with a degree in Scandinavian Studies

Emma Deihl is a junior at Luther College, studying English, psychology, and Spanish. She loves wearing wool socks, making indie/folk playlists for the road trips she hopes to take, and wandering through farmers markets in search of weird vegetables.

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