Have you ever heard of the Faroe Islands? If not, “don’t feel bad,” Bjarni Rasmussen (W '22) reassures me and potential readers. “About one in every two hundred people actually know what it is.”
Dressed in a white T–shirt and sharp, black glasses, Bjarni casually explains what the Faroe Islands are and why he moved over 3,000 miles to a University yet to be attended by anyone from home.
First, Bjarni gave me the low–down on a country that is remarkably unknown. The Faroe Islands is an archipelago made up of 18 islands in the North Atlantic, northwest of Scotland and settled in between Norway and Iceland. The country is so small, he explains, that "you can put two [of the 18] Faroe Islands into the Yankee Stadium."
However, Bjarni brings much more life to his beautiful home than any geographical fact could. The Faroe Islands is a lot like Puerto Rico, he explains—it is part of the kingdom of Denmark but has more autonomy than the U.S. territory. In fact, Bjarni made it quite clear that the islands are not a part of Denmark.
“Faroe Islands are just the Faroe Islands,” he clarifies. “Our language was there long before Denmark’s, our history actually goes back a lot farther than Denmark’s history, and it doesn’t coincide.”
He adds, “We are descendants of White Vikings, the original Vikings, we are the most advanced nation when it comes to fishing and most, or second most, advanced when it comes to salmon.” Bjarni clearly lives out his claim that the Faroese are proud of their beautiful country. “People identify the island as a ‘hidden natural paradise.'"
So why leave the Faroe Islands for Philadelphia? For Bjarni, the answer was quite simple: Wharton.
“Wharton was this thing, for me, that I dreamed about but almost didn’t dare to dream about,” Bjarni reminisces as he traces his finger along his chin. “Wharton has the best tools for amazing careers and strong connections.” From 2013–14, Bjarni lived in Wisconsin as an exchange student, giving him exposure to the U.S. and the Ivy League schools. And Wharton was mentioned in his favorite TV show, Suits, so how could it not catch his eye? In fact, while researching schools, Bjarni was stumped when he couldn’t find Wharton, until eventually learning it was a school under the University of Pennsylvania.
After “working for it” by building his character and maintaining impressive grades, Bjarni received news of his acceptance whilst backpacking through Southeast Asia. “It was like 3 a.m. and I hear this plink on my phone…and I’m like ‘oh, fuck.’”
Eventually move–in rolled around, and Bjarni traveled from the Islands to Copenhagen to New York, and with three suitcases, arrived on Penn’s campus. “While everyone in Wharton was wearing suits, I came in joggers.”
Since then, Bjarni has taken advantage of the boxing club and looks forward to being an international mentor for Scandinavian students. He hopes to be an entrepreneur someday. Though Penn is different to what he’s used to—being so much bigger than his hometown—he’s excited to take advantage of all the opportunities Penn has to offer.
And as for America, he loves how friendly and open everyone is, even if he misses handball and going to bars without his passport.
An earlier version of this article included an incorrect spelling of Rasmussen's last name. 34th Street regrets this error.