St. Olaf graduate receives prestigious German Parliament award
Recent St. Olaf College graduate Kristian Noll ’21 is the first Ole to receive the German International Parliament Stipendium, a highly competitive and prestigious international award.
The stipend supports a five-month program that takes place in Berlin, Germany, at the Bundestag, with the purpose of immersing recipients in the decision-making of the parliamentary process, not just the results. It gives participants a broad, comprehensive picture of not only the function but the meaning, motive, and operation of the German parliamentary system, and democracy as a whole.
At St. Olaf Noll majored in Norwegian and political science, with concentrations in German Studies and Nordic Studies.
He was also a member of the men’s soccer team and maintained a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. In November Noll received the Elite 22 Award from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), recognizing him as reaching the pinnacle of competition at the conference championship level, while achieving the highest cumulative grade-point average.
Noll plans on pursuing a career in environmental policy, and says all of the experiences he had on the Hill have prepared him well for his future. Part of the reason he’s interested in this career and applied for the stipend is because of the time he spent studying in Norway on the St. Olaf Oslo Internship Reflection Seminar.
“St. Olaf has been a fantastic place for me to develop my interests,” Noll says.
Here he shares what he’s most looking forward to about spending five months at the Bundestag and how St. Olaf helped prepare him for this opportunity.
How did you end up at St. Olaf? What have you been involved with in your time at St. Olaf?
I’m originally from Pennsylvania, I grew up mostly overseas, and I’m currently in Jerusalem, but I started at St. Olaf when my family lived in South Korea. One of the reasons I chose St. Olaf was the language department: I spoke Norwegian and German coming in, and I wanted to continue that. I also really enjoyed the community feel when I visited. I just felt like it was a great community, and the campus is beautiful.The opportunity to work on campus, play soccer, and be involved in the community was a big deal for me when deciding to go to St. Olaf. Financial aid was also a major factor in my decision. At St. Olaf, I spent a lot of time on academics, which is what introduced me to this program. I played soccer for all four seasons, and that was a lot of fun. Besides school work, I worked in the Norwegian Department and in the Piper Center, which was a really fun learning experience and an overall great experience for me. I was also in St. Olaf’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national Political Science Honor Society, and was president of that for one year.
How did you balance a double major with two concentrations, two work study jobs, soccer, and graduate early with a 4.00 GPA?
I think having a lot to do forced me to be productive with my time. With soccer and work both being large time commitments, I had to find my routine and that was super important for me. I enjoyed not necessarily every single assignment or aspect of my studies, but overall I had the interest and desire to learn my language concentration and majors, which helped me do well in the classes and manage my time. One of the things I found really helpful about St. Olaf were the professors, specifically in my case for Political Science, Norwegian, and German. I found the professors that I enjoyed taking classes with, who I connected well with, who gave me good feedback on my work, and who worked with me to do my best.
Can you tell us about the stipend and how you got it?
Essentially it’s a stipend that sponsors me spending five months in Berlin. Two of those months I’ll spend attending seminars on parliamentary theory and the German government to prepare for the Bundestag internship. The other three I’ll spend working in the office of a representative in the Parliament of the Bundestag, with the opportunity to audit courses at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I learned about it from a German professor at St. Olaf, Amanda Randall. I remember discussing it with her during Interim 2021, doing some research, and thinking, ‘Is this something I want to apply to?’ It runs from March until July, and when I saw those dates I thought ‘Wow, that’s the perfect timing for me because I’m graduating in December, and planning on going to graduate school in fall of the following year.’ I applied, and was invited to interview for it in Washington, D.C. I prepared expecting an American-style interview and received a completely different German-style one. I was asked questions about the German government system, the IPS program, and how it connected to my personal goals. Honestly, I found it quite difficult, so I left thinking: ‘Oh boy, I don’t know how well that went.’
What was your reaction when you heard you were accepted?
I was surprised. I felt that I was a good fit for the program, especially given my interests in politics, my time speaking German, and my time living in Germany (from 2013 to 2017), but I didn’t necessarily feel like I expressed that in the best way in the interview, so I’m glad it worked out, and I’m looking forward to it.
What are you excited or nervous for?
I think the program is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about democracy and policymaking from an inside perspective, especially in a place of such importance as Berlin. I’m interested in environmental policy, and Berlin is a crucial location for that. The opportunity to work alongside the people who are front and center in decisions and debates surrounding Ukraine, NATO, and other important issues is something I’m really looking forward to. Personally, going back to Berlin and using my German in a professional and everyday setting is also something I definitely look forward to. But I am nervous about taking phone calls in German.
I think the program is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about democracy and policymaking from an inside perspective, especially in a place of such importance as Berlin. I’m interested in environmental policy, and Berlin is a crucial location for that. The opportunity to work alongside the people who are front and center in decisions and debates surrounding Ukraine, NATO, and other important issues is something I’m really looking forward to.Kristian Noll ’21
What are your future interests and plans?
At this point, I’m looking at going into environmental policy, specifically within the energy or shipping sector. I’m interested in how policy can be used to incentivize sustainable technologies and their adoption within industry. Next fall I’ll be doing a one-year master’s degree program at the London School of Economics in environmental policy and regulation, and I may go to law school in addition later on to take on these challenges from a legal aspect.
What role will the stipend play in your future plans?
Learning some of the behind-the-scenes discussion and coordination of environmental issues in this program, I hope I will be able to bridge the gap between industries — maybe German industry in the United States or vice versa — in my future career. What I think the stipend ultimately will give me is a better understanding of the processes of policy making, which I hope to apply to international cooperation in addressing global environmental issues. I hope to end up working on issues important to both U.S. and European markets, but where exactly that will place me, I’m not sure. What’s most important to me is that I’m able to work with people from all over the world in all sorts of industries and governments to work slowly but surely towards progress on the environmental front — specifically when pertaining to the use of renewable technologies and implementing them in the U.S. and other places.