Tobias Varntoft (he/him)
Class Year: 2021
Hometown: Terslev, Denmark
Major: Environmental Studies
Minor: Political Economy
Extracurriculars: International Students of Lewis & Clark (ISLC) member, Environmental Studies Symposium organizer, Pioneer Success Institute facilitator, music technician
Overseas study: Australia Regional Study Program, spring 2019
What three words would you use to describe L&C?
Progressive, challenging, welcoming
What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?
My absolute favorite class I have taken so far at Lewis & Clark is Social Change (SOAN 214) taught by Professor Bruce Podobnik. The class tackles various social issues globally, and as a student I got insight into some incredible activism that I have been applying to my own actions in my home town in Denmark. To be able to read, discuss, and learn about some inspiring activists has not only been informative, but the class itself has been one of my most engaging classes so far because I felt that every single student in my class wanted to learn from one another.
Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?
I think Professors Jim Proctor and Liz Safran are the mentors I have on campus. They are both teachers in the Environmental Studies Department and I always seek their advice when I want to do something. For example, as I was preparing to go abroad, I asked them whether it was a good idea to do it in your sophomore year since most people do it in their junior year. Having people who are experienced teachers within your major is comforting because I know that my future at Lewis & Clark is in good hands.
“I take on more responsibility because of the independence we have at Lewis & Clark, and I have grown into a more authentic self.”
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
Being an international student, it can be quite difficult to pick a college when you cannot physically see the campus and you do not really know much about American schools. I was intrigued especially by Portland’s landscape and the vicinity of Lewis & Clark. I had also heard from talking to people at the International Students and Scholars (ISS) Office that the school offers great support for international students, whether it is through the Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) Office or Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). I had also read on L&C’s website about the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies major, which I was excited about because I like to combine my natural sciences with social sciences.
If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience so far?
I am currently studying in Australia. In my freshman year, I already knew I wanted to connect my overseas study to my major and potential thesis. Australia was a great pick for me because it is an ecologically diverse country and the program has loads of biology. Having lived in Germany for two years of my life and at the time not speaking fluent German, I also knew that I wanted to go to a place where language would not be a hindrance for my learning. The program so far has given me real experience, especially because we face some of the brutal realities of Australia’s history and the fact that we get to meet inspiring people almost every day. The program has also brought me closer my major and made me realize how I would love to pursue something within natural sciences in the future. I am excited to go back to the Lewis & Clark campus to continue my learning and use the knowledge I have acquired in my overseas studies.
How do you feel supported as an international student at Lewis & Clark?
I could not be more grateful for the ISS Office at Lewis & Clark. Not only have they helped me through taxes, settling in another country, and academically, but I have also created friendships and memories with the office that I am forever grateful for. Being an international student at any school, you can often feel alone and lost. However, I have come to appreciate and utilize the various supports Lewis & Clark has to offer. As a member of International Students of Lewis & Clark (ISLC), I have also realized that there are so many events and offices that I can seek out if I feel hopeless or I want to raise my voice about any issue I have. The community between international students is a safe space to be, especially when I feel overwhelmed by the American structure and culture.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Put yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. As a freshman, college can feel quite overwhelming. Having to adapt to living away from home with new people, and having to make a new friend group while maintaining good grades can be quite intimidating. My advice is just to understand that this is all overwhelming, but also to understand that this is your chance to grow and develop sets of skills that you might never have the opportunity for again! Join clubs, governments, offices, or whatever is comfortable.
Another piece of advice is to learn what to prioritize. It is different for every person, but I have had to learn the importance of finding a balance between studying, sleeping, and having a social life, and finding that balance have been a life-saving achievement!
What’s your favorite spot on campus?
Being a religious person, my favorite spot on campus is definitely the chapel. I go when I want to either pray or just be in silence. It is the sort of place that comforts you, and the fact that my job is in the chapel means I get to spend most of my time at my favorite spot!
What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?
If I had to choose one it would be Thanksgiving during fall 2018. My friend and I stayed on campus over the break and decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner for the other people who stayed. Both of us are not Americans and we had absolutely no idea how to make a full-sized turkey plus side dishes. However, it turned out to be such a fun and great experience! The most rewarding bit was when 25 people arrived at the dinner with their own meals to share and we all sat comfortably together for a true Thanksgiving dinner!
How do you manage stress?
Stress might be one of the biggest challenges I have had to figure out while I have been at Lewis & Clark. What I love to do to manage my stress is find a room in the library with some of my closest friends, play some music, and just slowly do the studying. This obviously requires us to start our homework many days ahead and not the night before, but being surrounded by people who I feel comfortable with has managed to reduce my stress a lot! Personally, I think it is impossible to completely manage stress, but I try to reduce the stress to the minimum! For example, I get more stressed out if I leave my room a mess so I try to keep it tidy so when I get back from a long day of school, I at least have a clean room.
How has Lewis & Clark changed you?
Lewis & Clark was my first experience in the United States. It welcomed me into a small community and through this experience, I personally feel more mature. I take on more responsibility because of the independence we have at Lewis & Clark, and I have grown into a more authentic self. There is really not more to say other than I am grateful that I chose Lewis & Clark.