Amazing Student: Mats Haugen

Mats Haugen

Mats Rime Haugen had to cross an ocean to come to UGA, and he uses his experience to help other international students see that the campus and community can be a home away from home.

Hometown: Oslo, Norway

High School: Ullern Secondary School

Degree objective: Bachelor of Business Administration in finance

Expected graduation: May 2018

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I remember I was thinking a lot about what was ahead of me on my way across the Atlantic from Norway. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous on the airport shuttle that took me from Atlanta to Athens for the first time on a Sunday afternoon in August 2014, but the reception in Athens couldn’t have been any better the next day as I, a little jet lagged, showed up to orientation.

My first weeks, and even my first semester, at Georgia were by far the most exciting and interesting for me. I don’t think I have ever made so many friends in such a short time. It honestly felt like I got to know someone new every day. I feared that the transition from Norway and military service would be big when I first arrived on campus, but I quickly felt at home.

My freshman year I also was introduced to the Office of Admissions, as I was asked to be one of four students in the first International Student Ambassadors group in the fall of 2014. ISAs are there to help promote UGA to international students and answer questions from both prospective students and admitted students. Working with prospective international students has been very interesting, especially since I can relate to their decision to move across the world and go through life-changing experiences. I was offered the opportunity to be a student worker in the reception area of the Office of Admissions my sophomore year. Working on the front desk of the Office of Admissions and as the international student ambassador has been one of my favorite experiences at UGA.

I was introduced to Association of Norwegian Students Abroad – USA before I came across the Atlantic, but it wasn’t before I started traveling to their meetings across the United States freshman year I realized what kind of impact the organization would have on me. ANSA is a nonprofit student organization for Norwegian students who study abroad, and works to promote the educational, cultural, political and economic interests of Norwegian students abroad. It has about 20,000 members worldwide, in 90 countries. ANSA USA is the chapter for students in the United States, and has about 1,200 members. I quickly realized that I wanted to involve myself in the organization and applied to be on the board of ANSA USA my sophomore year. I spent the next year serving as the information officer, before being elected the head of ANSA USA for this year, my junior year. My involvement has not only given me a lot leadership experience, but it has also introduced me to Norwegian students all over the United States and the rest of world. It is very inspiring to hear other Norwegian students’ experiences from all over the world, from Hong Kong and Australia to the U.K. and Denmark.

Current Employment:

Student worker in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Family Ties to UGA:

No prior ties to Georgia, but my mother has made sure to bring enough Georgia Bulldogs souvenirs back home to make it feel like Athens never is too far away.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I have always loved traveling and seeing the world, so studying somewhere else than Norway was a no brainer for me. I was fortunate to be accepted to several universities in both the United Kingdom and the United States, but Georgia and Athens seemed like an offer too good to pass up. I wanted a more authentic college experience than you will have in New York or Los Angeles. UGA stood out among the other universities I was looking at when it came to football, tailgates, the college town and academic rigor.

I also wanted to be a little nontraditional and go somewhere different than most Norwegian students abroad … but maybe I can help change that in the future and promote Athens and UGA for future Norwegian students.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

There’s nothing quite like walking around and spending time on North Campus, whether that involves some light reading on a bench behind Old College, relax for a minute between classes on Herty Field, hiding from the rest of campus in the Founders Memorial Garden or just strolling through North Campus to and from class.

When I have free time, I like…

I remember I read about Athens as a college town before coming here, but I could never have imagined all the things you can do here and how much I would enjoy my time here. Many of my friends would say traveling … which is partly true. I spend a lot of time traveling around the United States to see as much of the country as I can, but it is always nice to come back to Athens and spend my weekends here. There’s a Scandinavian saying, “Away is good, but home is best,” which fits perfectly to Athens. From the numerous shows Georgia Theatre puts on every week to Friday afternoons at one of the breweries, and eating at one of the many amazing restaurants around the downtown area, Athens truly makes you feel at home.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

One of the perks of coming from Norway is that everything we find somewhat normal is crazy for most Americans in the South. Serving in the Norwegian Army offered me memories and experiences I never will forget. Whether it was marching through the Northern Mountains in the midnight sun, sleeping under the northern lights in the Arctic winter, or somehow finding the right course in a snowstorm.

I finished the Four Days Nijmegen March for military personnel during my time in the Norwegian Army too. The march is 160 kilometers and consists of four stages of 40 kilometers with a 10-kilogram backpack and uniform in the Netherlands during the summer. We started marching around 4 a.m. every day, and we would walk for 10-12 hours in the summer heat. It was very tough, but also very exciting to walk around with 5,000 other military servicemen from all over the world. The locals in every town we walked through cheered us on, and you ended up walking in groups of different nationalities and support each other on our way. I could barely walk for the next three to four days after finishing the march. The memories, the medal and the friends you made along the march made it all well worth it though.

My favorite place to study is…

… the main library. You can choose to hide yourself away in the basement, study in the “fun” room on the fourth floor or sit down on one of the top floors to study with a view of campus and Sanford Stadium. If you need a break, head down to the café, get yourself a coffee and read one of the magazines on the shelves on the first floor.

My favorite professor is…

This is a tough one … so I would need to mention more than one professor.

Professor Martin Parker: I have only had him for about three months now, but I find it very interesting how he ties his work experience in management to the content we are studying. Classes move forward at a high pace so you need to pay attention, but Professor Parker makes sure we keep up with the practical use of the content by several in-class case studies and discussions. He also uses his experience from the industry to explain and present a lot of the topics, which shows you how you can apply the content in your career. He also offers all the students a lot of career guidance and job/internship opportunities.

Professor Chris Pope: Many students fear the Finance 3000 class, but I ended up liking it because of Professor Pope. He structured a class taken by a thousand students each semester very well, and you always knew what he expected from you on tests. He was always available for questions before and after class, and very helpful in his office hours too.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

Again, you can’t really pick one here either. I have always looked up to Nelson Mandela and the courage he showed in his fight against apartheid, but also his forgiveness and ability to forget the past as it ended. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to South Africa once and see his cell on Robben Island. I would have loved to hear more about his experience and thoughts.

I would have found it very interesting to spend an afternoon with any leader from one of the top international companies or a successful sport team like the New Zealand All Blacks to hear about their thoughts on leadership and performance enhancement. I recently read the book “Legacy” by James Kerr, about what the All Blacks can teach us about leadership. I found it very interesting how they have built a culture of winning, and the principles they have applied to do so.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

I actually had a conversation about this not too long ago. Putting everything aside, I would have loved to do something like Anthony Bourdain. I love traveling and learning about new cultures and meeting new people, so I wouldn’t have been opposed to exploring the world for a living. Although I am sure it is a lot tougher than it looks, Bourdain’s professional life looks very exciting.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

This is tied to the previous question: I would love to just travel the world and see every corner of it.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

I have always been part of a team or organization, whether it was soccer, church, the Army or different organizations. I like having people around me and work with others to reach our goals, so I believe that will be necessary for me to enjoy my career. Part of my road to become a better team player and leader is to take on new responsibility and roles in the organizations I am a part of. ANSA has been an amazing experience and learning arena for this. I have also been a youth leader in my local church in Oslo (Norway) ever since I was 15, and I still show up for their events and participate in their summer camps every year when I am home for vacation. It is very rewarding to give back to a community that has been such a big part of my youth, and doing so by talking to younger people about life and offering my guidance. My involvement in both ANSA and my church, along with my experience of being part of a soccer team and the Army, have taught me and continue to teach me something new about myself.

After graduation, I plan to…

Fortunately, I have another year to figure out what to do after graduation. I hope to stay in the United States and work for some years, but I will eventually pursue a master’s degree in business.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

The one thing I always mention to my friends back home is Saturdays in Athens. College sports and football is unique to the United States, and we don’t have anything like it in Norway. I think it is truly amazing to see how everyone stands behind their university in support, even after they have graduated and moved on. I can still remember my first game in Sanford Stadium, and hearing the roars while walking down to the stadium. The victory over Clemson made the experience of my first American football game and my first visit to Sanford Stadium unforgettable.