If I would be asked to summarize Laura’s story in one word only, that would certainly be “courage”. A huge courage, to start over, to fight, to learn, to try, to want more, to admit it’s not easy but never give up. Almost 20 years ago, she was a student at the Law School in Romania, when she had met, on the internet, her future husband. The love of a lifetime, so strong that she had the courage to leave everything behind and start a new life in Norway, together. She didn’t know anyone except her husband and his family, did not know the language, either. She started from scratch, working in an asylum for the elderly and in a kindergarten. She learnt the language, passed different tests and succeeded in being admitted at the Law School in Oslo. After a few years spent in the biggest debt collection company in Norway, where she has reached the position of team manager at Legal collection section, Laura is now chief court clerk in Department for criminal cases in Oslo district Court. And, almost 20 years since she had left Romania because of love, she is happy and a wonderful example that yes, if you want, if you try hard and if you trust you certainly can. It depends on you, only.
Laura Tollefsen (40 years old) dreamt of being a lawyer since she was a teenager. She simply loved justice – and felt highly frustrated of what she was seeing in the Romanian society. The Law School was a natural option but, once admitted, she faced the corruption in the system – we all know that. To be accepted as a disciple in a notary’s office you have to pay, unofficially – that time, the tax was the equivalent of a two rooms apartment in her native town. So she thought about trying in a different way. She was meditating two girls in grammar for the faculty of office – and thought she could give a try there also, and then try to enter the system as a secretary in a notary’s or in a lawyer’s office. She was accepted, started her second year at the Law School, first year at her second faculty, when something that changed her life had happened.
The love of a lifetime, found on the internet
She was coming from a photo office, when she saw a logo of an internet café. Now, she remembers laughing that episode – she was 20 and had never seen something like that before, didn’t actually know what that was. The boys hired there tried to explain her. “They told me I can talk to people from different countries – and that seemed extraordinary to me. They logged me inn and created me an account – I had never used a computer before”, she remembers.
People who used the internet at its very beginnings certainly remember mIRC – a new way of communicating with people all around the world who seemed amazing at that time. That’s the way she met her husband – he still keeps, with love, in a frame, her first picture she had sent him, back then. There are emotional miracles in life that you can’t describe – things that might sound a little bit crazy to others. But you just feel you have to go on a direction and follow your heart – with all the risks.
They met online in September, then started talking on the phone for hours, sent pictures to each other. They had fallen in love without even seeing each other, face to face. “I loved the values that he had, the fact that he was a good listener, he seemed a very serious man to me, a man with a good heart”, she says. He proposed her on the phone, without even seeing her in person – and she accepted, just felt like that and followed her heart. When he first came to Romania, in December 1999 and 3 months after their first talk, he had the wedding rings with him. She came to Norway in February 2000 and they got married in April.
The same year, in June, they had the religious wedding ceremony in Romania. Their godparents were her first employers and very good friends. She remembers with nostalgia and love how they met – her grandma sold her house, she was only 19 but she negotiated – they liked the way she did that so much, that they offered her a job. And she worked at their real estate agency till she left for Norway. “Doina and Vali Dragoescu were the first people who believed in me, professionally speaking, and those who have told me that I can manage, wherever I go. This helped me so much when it was hard, it gave me courage”, Laura says.
The hard road of adapting
After the wedding, they left Romania with a 9 years old car, bought for them from Germany by a very good friend. They got here but, although her husband was a Norwegian, it wasn’t easy at all. “The beginning was difficult, it wasn’t love at first sight. I missed my family, my friends, it was a different culture, I didn’t know the language”, Laura says. The lack of social interaction was painful – her husband recently moved where they were leaving and had no friends in the area. “It was a huge difference from the life I had in Romania – with faculty, lot of friends, my job – to come here and have absolutely nothing. I had no studies or a profession, I was nobody – this is how I perceived myself, without value”, she adds.
She started learning Norwegian – she did that for one year – and in the meantime she started asking about the Law School – beyond all the difficulties, she had never forgotten that she had a dream. And she promised herself she would do anything if necessary – cleaning, other jobs, it doesn’t matter – until she will succeed in doing what she was dreaming of.
In her second semester at the Norwegian course, one of her colleagues found a job at an asylum for the elderly and she told herself, if she could, I can also, that’s for sure. So she just went there with a CV and told them that she was available and flexible – and she got to work there for the next 5 years. She prepared breakfast, helped old people to wash themselves and get dressed. “I felt I did something that mattered a lot for those people, something motivated me to go there and help. I felt useful, worthy, I was helping other people, I was doing something for myself, also”, she says.
After finishing the Norwegian course, she made one step more to get a little bit closer to her dream. She attended a course for secretary in a lawyer’s office – because the legislation was taught in an easy way, covering all law areas, and she thought she could learn the basis of the Norwegian legal system. She continued with her job at the asylum and took a second one, at a kindergarten.
The Law School in Norway
Three years after getting to Norway in the 9 years-old car, with a lot of dreams and a lot of fears, also, Laura had one of the biggest satisfactions on her life. After courses and hard tests, she was admitted at the Law School in Oslo. It seems easy when someone reads this, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t at all. There were 600 students who applied and only 200 admitted. Laura remembers the moment when she found out the results and, after all these years, she has tears in her eyes. A mix of good, wonderful emotions – and the girl coming from thousands of miles away, who was finally living her dream. “I can’t believe the joy that I’ve lived, it was my biggest wish, my dream”, she says.
It wasn’t easy. As a foreigner, even if you learn Norwegian, you don’t have a very vast vocabulary, at least at the beginning. And the law is a very technique discipline, with a lot of specific terms. She had to read a book three times, to understand it, with the dictionary all the time. The system itself, the teaching method was completely different from the Romanian one, individual study for theory, lot of practice at school. The exams were not easy – her vocabulary wasn’t vast enough. But she loved it so much, and kept on learning over and over. “I loved it, no matter how hard it was”, she says.
She graduated with a master thesis in labor law, although, initially, she decided to prepare it in foreigners law and work in the same field. “And now I work in criminal law and criminal proceedings – how many things can someone change in his life”, she says.
Chief court clerk in Department for criminal cases in Oslo district Court
While she was a student, she was accepted for a job in a debt collection company, Lindorff AS, the biggest in Norway in this field. It was another challenge – to call the debtors and convince them to pay, to answer the phone when they called. Another barrier fell – the fear of speaking on the phone, in Norwegian. For the law field, it was a relevant job.
She grew up professionally inside that company. Her chiefs had seen her potential and encouraged her, at one point, to apply for a manager trainee position – she did that and was accepted. After a two-years training program, she got a team manager position at Legal collection section.
After giving birth to her second child, she decided it was time for her to do something else. She resigned and took her a few months to find what she wanted. The job in Oslo district Court was a challenge. “I never worked with criminal law, it’s a matter of personal development, it’s legal environment, my chief was a judge, I see the procedural part, how they work on criminal cases”, Laura says. It was a job that involved both law and management – and the interview went perfect. She became Chief court clerk in Department for criminal cases in Oslo district Court and simply loves what she’s doing – and that’s so important, no matter what your professional options are.
Yes, we can
Almost 20 years since she got to Norway, Laura is looking back, to the 21 years old young lady who decided to change her life completely because of love, and she is smiling. She has so many reasons to be proud – and she certainly is. She and her husband have two wonderful children together, and the same strong, beautiful love – she keeps on telling how important his support was, that she wouldn’t have been here without him. She has a successful career in the law field, in a country where she started absolutely from scratch. She helps other people a lot, also – she is the “heart” of a non-governmental association that supports the Romanian expats in Norway.
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t at all, but she is a very good example that if you want hard enough, work hard enough and believe in yourself you certainly can. “To the asylum, to the kindergarten, to the debt collection company, at every step I took, I could. I went scared and unsure that I will be able to do it, but I could. You find the courage only inside yourself”, she says.
There are not secret receipts for success. She was lucky to have curiosity all the time – it’s something that defines her and it was extremely useful. She combines an old passion – that one for the law – with a new one she had discovered, that one of working with people. She does what she loves and is an action person – she feels good doing things. But we are different. “You just have to appreciate yourself for what you are, to be open minded. You have to start somewhere and be open – and the opportunities will certainly come”, she says.
Do you know a very special person? Someone who has followed his dream, built it piece by piece, with passion, energy and lot of soul? An usual, simple person who did something in life, who you can identify with, who can be, for others, a source of inspiration? Tell me about that person and let’s tell the others his/her beautiful story. Write me at email@example.com, here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.