Norway is 3,892 miles away from Milwaukee. For one University-Wisconsin Milwaukee soccer player, this is the distance that separates him from his entire family and the place he knows as home.
Robert Ekroll is a goalie for the UWM men’s soccer team. Soccer is the worlds most popular sport. In Europe they focus on club sports rather than school sports. This separation of the two creates an environment that makes it difficult to balance education and soccer. This is what led Robert to make the trip across the Atlantic.
What makes Robert’s journey to Milwaukee even more interesting is that he has only been here for three weeks. He is a transfer student from Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY. Robert said that having transitioned from Norway to New York made adjusting to Milwaukee easier.
“Norway and America aren’t that different, but everything is bigger here; the buildings, TV’s, everything,” said Ekroll.
Robert loves food, and one of the most exciting parts of going to new places is the food. That’s one of the perks of coming to America.
“There are many cultures here, so you can choose what to eat,” says Ekroll.
Despite the large selection of food, Ekroll misses Norwegian fish. He favors traditional fish over the frequently deep fried American counterpart.
Being a transfer student, Ekroll has decided to live in the dorms. It’s a decision he’s happy with. He went as far as to say that the cafeteria is his favorite place. His favorite thing to eat is chicken because it reminds him of Norway.
Ekroll says that although the distance between the two is great, the countries are actually fairly similar. The one major difference is that Norway is a socialist country. There is also a difference in culture and tradition in Norway. With America being a blend of so many different people the traditions don’t stand out as much. Which is one of the flaws of being the world’s melting pot.
Ekroll has many goals and aspirations, but right now his focus is just on improving. Last year he suffered a hip injury, and after surgery and rehab he is close to being in regular form. Being unable to play soccer for over a year was hard for him.
The life of a college student can be stressful enough on its own, and playing sports just adds another degree of difficulty to everyday life. The soccer team practices roughly three hours a day, and this is just the offseason. Ekroll says he also spends most of his free time trying to improve.
His mother, Asbjoean Ekroll, and father, Man-britt Havregierd both work in the medical field in Norway. His father pushes himself to be physically active, and that demeanor rubbed off on Robert. His parents encouraged him to engage in sports not only for the physical benefits, but for the social ones too.
Robert has three siblings; brothers, Richard and Jonas, and a sister Anniken. There is a five-year age gap between Robert and his oldest sibling. With there being such an age difference Robert said that there was never much of a sibling rivalry between him and his siblings. His siblings are also active in sports, and although he is better at soccer than they are, he pushes for them to get better. Although, he added that he will always do everything that he can to be better than they are.
When asked if he has dreams of going pro, he again mentioned his injury.
“Like I said, I had an injury, right now I’m just working at getting back, but I’m pretty ambitious,” he said.
As an aspiring business major there are many career opportunities that lay ahead. However, for Ekroll, he sees a future back in Norway. His reason for coming to America was the ability to balance sports and school. In Norway it isn’t possible at his age, and he is fully aware of the value of an education. He believes that his studies in America will help him find work in Norway.
Studying so far from home, “it says a lot of you as a person,” he said.