Amanda Vang holds a PhD in Biomedical Science from the University of Connecticut, USA. She moved to the Faroe Islands 8 years ago. Since then, Amanda has been awarded several research grants at both the National Hospital and the University of the Faroe Islands. She is currently the Head of the Biotechnology Department at the Aquaculture Research Station of the Faroe Islands.
What was your main reason for coming to the Faroe Islands?
I dreamt of moving to Europe for a post-doc position after completing my PhD in the Boston area because I wanted to try a different way of life. I was born in Alaska so when I met my husband who is half Faroese during my studies, the Faroe Islands seeemed like a good fit. To me, it was Europe plus the nature and self-sufficient spirit of Alaska.
What is it like to work as a researcher in the Faroe Islands?
I didn´t have a position or any professional connections on the Faroe Islands prior to moving here but it was important to me to use my experience, so I started by contacting people and asking to meet with them. Going and getting to know people, having coffee and telling them about yourself is important to build trust here. People are interested to hear your story and understand your values.
Also, there is a lot of freedom to come up with a new idea and try it out here. In the academic environment I came from you are often part of an ongoing routine but here you might be the only person with your specialized skills. It is harder and more risky because you don´t have the same level of support as you would find at large institutions but it is fulfilling and you have a closer contact to people. I like it, it is fun!
Is it difficult to be integrated in the society as a foreigner?
For me it was fine because I was already very close to my husband´s family that lives here. Faroese people want to understand who you are so being able to introduce myself by explaining what family and village I came from was important to integrating. But it also very much depends on what kind of person you are. If you take the initiative and reach out to people they are very open. If you are more reserved I imagine it is more challenging. There are also several people here with no family connection in the Faroe Islands that are deeply rooted in the society because they share a passion with people, especially artists and musicians.
Has the language been a problem?
I have built my Faroese language up over time and I get along fine socially. I understand more than I can speak so I try to concentrate on listening and mostly, for work, respond in English. In may ways being a native English speaker has benefited me in that I can help others to write manuscripts and other international science texts. It helps to make an effort and explain that “I want to speak Faroese, I´m learning but I´m not great yet”. The Faroese language is very special and needs to be respected, so I try my best but it is still difficult.
What has it been like for your family to get settled in the Faroe Islands?
We had 2 small children when we came and we had another one here, the oldest was only 3 when we moved so they identify as Faroese. We live in a small village close to nature which is a perfect place for children to grow up.
For me, I go to more things here than I did in Boston. Tórshavn has everything now, the cultural life is world class. The biggest difference in lifestyle is living in a country with a social welfare system where everyone has access to health care, daycare, and education. I think it equalizes people and makes a society where money isn´t as linked to personal value or status, which is a very wondeful way to live.