Nikolaj K. Mandsberg, Fulbright 2017/2018

An American dream

The road to Harvard University was long and complicated – My American interest was ignited by an exchange in California in the year 2013; a personal and professional development with an (before then) unknown slope curve. Curious about the nuances of the American spirit, and with the certainty that California was not representative of the entire United States, the interest grew and a desire to experience the east coast manifested itself.

Back in Denmark, my Physics and Nanotechnology study continued, with a main focus on independent, specialized research projects. As one specializes, one encounters experiencing the same names over and over again – In particular, I came across Professor Aizenberg, whose way of thinking was and is similar to mine.

Cut to spring 2017, where Fulbright Denmark gave me their generous award and financially enabled a one year research stay at the Aizenberg group in the U.S.. My small (American) dream became a reality.

Welcome to Harvard

Contrary to what many stereotypes might prepare one for, the environment at Harvard was characterized by humility, and without a strong spirit of competition. The American loquacity, however, was ubiquitous, leaving inspirational discussions anywhere and with anyone. Many people, however, were very busy, leaving little time for deeper conversations. Perhaps one of the reasons why many departments facilitated weekly Happy-Hours with drinks and snacks, as these events often ended up fostering new collaborations. In addition, there was a daily opportunity to participate in exciting lunch seminars with sponsored food – the learning does not pause, not even during lunch.

Harvard University

Number of students



Harvard ranks number 2 in national universities in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2019.


Harvard is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established in 1636.

Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

While a Fulbright award for many Danish recipients is the icing on top, receiving a Fulbright award in other countries can mean the difference between making it or not.

Fulbright ‘Benefits Program’

Yes, in some ways it is a benefits program. Once the application had been written and the award was received, then Fulbright Denmark holds your hand all the way, making the larger number of administrative elements a breeze. Prior to departure, you’ll receive guidance and be treated as a genuine VIP – Fulbright is on their toes to help with any doubts raised!

An absolute highlight during my stay, was the participation in a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. About 100 people from 50 different countries gathered for a week, providing a unique atmosphere and massive insight into other cultures. The seminars exist with different themes and were wonderfully well planned; furthermore, they had the most inspiring speakers I have ever experienced.

Being a ‘Fulbrighter’ provides one with a network of ambitious like-minded people from over 160 countries. Everyone has an open mind and is curious to learn more, which is a great starting point for worldwide friendships. You only get to know these differences by engaging in the network.

Improving intercultural understanding

The Fulbright mission is to promote mutual understanding between countries, so during my stay, I wanted to visit other states  than Massachusetts. In addition to research, seminars and course participation, there was also time to visit 14 states. Experiencing the conditions and the differences of these places contributed to a more complete picture of the U.S.

Dear Fulbright Denmark, thank you for enabling this amazing development. I hope that many more will benefit from your existence in the future.