When Norway native Inge-Martin Seim Tverborgvik first came to America in 2010 as a foreign exchange student to attend Minooka High School, his English less than fluent, he could not have imagined that four years later, he would be eagerly anticipating speaking to an audience of thousands at his Joliet Junior College graduation ceremony.
But that’s exactly what the JJC business major will be doing on May 16, as the featured student speaker for JJC’s 98th May commencement.
“I am excited to share my story with my fellow graduates and their families,” said Tverborgvik. “I will be speaking about not only my victories but also my struggles. It’s important to know that nobody is perfect— you will stumble and fall along the way. By incorporating that, I hope people see that having struggles isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I think you learn from them.”
After his year at Minooka High School, Tverborgvik found that he loved his experience and the connection he made with his host family so much that, after a year spent back in Norway finishing high school, he wanted to come back to the area and start college at JJC.
He credits his host parents, high school teachers Jane and Matthew Jones, and his two host brothers Bryan and Alec, with not only helping him navigate the local culture but also providing a safe and welcoming home environment.
“I formed such a great bond with my host family that I knew I wanted to come back to continue my education in America,” he said. “I was already somewhat familiar with JJC, and knew that was the right place for me to start college.”
Tverborgvik considers himself very fortunate to have two families on two different continents. He is from the town of Bømlo, Norway, a rural region on one of the northern European country’s western islands, where he grew up surrounded by the North Sea, oil rigs and a vibrant fishing business. He stays connected with his family by returning home every summer and Christmas, and having them visit him in America when possible.
He said his parents, Inge and Signy, while not always happy about spending a lot of time apart from their eldest son, have always been very supportive of his desire to live and study abroad and had encouraged him to continue.
And it was that sense of curiosity, that natural inclination to try new experiences and to push himself in his areas of academic weakness, that served Tverborgvik well during his time at JJC.
He pushed himself to take a math class every semester so that he could strengthen his math skills, which had never been a favorite subject. And while he was already somewhat proficient in the English language (students in Norway start learning it in first grade), he had a goal of becoming fully fluent in speaking, reading and writing it by the time he completed a bachelor’s degree, and he knew his time at JJC would play a key role in that goal. What he didn’t know was how life-changing his JJC experience would be.
“Whatever my preconceived notions about college were, it surpassed all of my expectations,” he said. “At Joliet Junior College I was met by an array of welcoming people empowering me to strive for success.”
Tverborgvik found the JJC library, the Math Center and the Speech Center to be invaluable support services. He was also inspired by professors who challenged him and helped him flourish in his classes, such as business professor Wayne Gawlik and English professor Janet Look.
“I loved Professor Look’s English 102 class,” he said. “She expected a lot out of her students, which I liked, and also was willing to devote a lot of her time and energy to us if we proved we were serious about succeeding in the class. That was one of my favorite classes and I got so much out of it.”
In addition to applying himself academically, Tverborgvik made sure to fully immerse himself in the college experience by getting involved as much as possible. He joined the staff of the student literary publication, the Wordeater, earned admission to the honors society Phi Theta Kappa, and participated in the International Students Club, of which he was president this past semester.
“I enjoy being an international student at JJC, and especially being part of the international student club,” he said. “It’s a community of international students where we can share our stories and give each advice on difficult things.”
The business major, who plans to eventually complete a master’s degree and work abroad in international business, is still deciding whether to transfer to Illinois State University, DePaul University or Roosevelt University for the fall semester to begin his bachelor’s degree.
But wherever his future takes him, and to whatever corners of the world, Tverborgvik will always look back on his time at JJC as providing the strong foundation he needed.
“I’ve learned so much during my time at JJC,” he said. “I’ve learned to be more responsible, and I’ve learned so much about other people and other cultures. I’ve also learned that you only get as much out of something as you put into it, and since I poured myself into getting the most out of my JJC education, I’ll be taking quite a bit away with me.”