Halvor Ekeland


Halvor Ekeland



We grabbed two beers with Matt Chernin, and talked about his frat-boy past, his adventures all over the world and his biggest passions of all – karaoke and fish.

It’s impossible not to notice Matt. His wide grin, baseball cap and zest for life have made a massive impact in Ås, despite his short time here. He arrived in August 2017, eager to return to student life and get his masters in aquaculture. “All those dream jobs you see on LinkedIn demands years of work experience and a masters, so I figured: I’ve got the experience, why not have a bit of an adventure while getting my masters?”, Matt says, and explains how he left USA to tour European schools. Eventually he settled on NMBU. “It’s a very close-knit community, which I really like. And the academic side too, NMBU has really great programs for aquaculture. I didn’t know it was going to be this cold and snowy though!” he laughs, and gestures towards the snow-clad landscape outside.

Growing up with Grandma

Matt grew up in a small town just east of Berkley in California, sandwiched between two National Parks, and a 45-minute bus ride from downtown San Francisco. “You could hop in your car, and in five minutes you’d be in the wilderness”, he says. This kind of environment naturally fosters outdoorsy people, and Matt especially loved fishing and being around water. But when he moved to Davis to go to University of California he started majoring in history and economics. He even worked two summers in London as an intern at a trading company before he realized he could major in something closer to his heart; animal sciences, specializing in aquatic species.  

There’s no doubt that Matt’s heart belongs to fish, the outdoors and travelling. The latter is a passion he inherited from his grandmother, Ruth Voll. She lived with him and his parents throughout his entire childhood, and Ruth didn’t let a partially amputated leg stop her from dragging them along on her adventures. “When I was 8, she said: Let’s go to Antarctica!”, which led the Chernin family to spend their Christmas break on a cruise in the Antarctic Ocean. Another year they went on a riverboat cruise on the headwaters of the Amazon. “I remember helping her in and out of the dug-out canoes and going through a flooded rainforest with snakes and monkeys, and she was 92 at that time!”. With a family like that, it’s no wonder Matt has become quite the adventurer himself. He describes his spirit animal as a sturgeon. “They travel between different environments and I kind of relate to that”.

Straight out of college he landed a job managing fish farms in Sri Lanka. “I hate monkeys”, he states with a deadpan expression. “Like when they’re pounding the tin roof of the farm house you’re staying in at 3 in the morning, or stealing the papers from your desk”. Matt travelled around the island visiting different fish farms, and in some of the towns he was the only English-speaker. “You really learn to be by yourself. At the end of the day you’re the only constant in your life. You better be okay with who you are and being alone, you’ve got to learn how to handle all of that”. But after a year in Sri Lanka and a run-in with a big, fat scorpion he was ready to head back to the States.

“Do everything!”


Matt “B.Å.” – Before Ås” – managed a salmon farm in the San Juan Islands in Washington. “There was a beach just two blocks from my apartment. I’d just throw my kayak on my shoulder, walk down and go fishing – just have a great time!”. He misses being around the water and the pristine nature around the San Juan Islands. But nature is also what drew him to Norway, and he is amazed by the public right of access (allemannsretten). “There is so much nature to discover, and that’s what I did all summer – just played in the woods and mountains. Epic!”. He had a hard time adjusting to the amount of daylight here in summer though. “I feel obligated to go outside and be in nature, and just do all the things!”.

This seems to be Matt’s motto; do everything. Which probably explains how he has become such an integral part of the student life. Since he arrived in 2017 he has managed to start a new tradition called Lørdagslounge, where you can sing your heart out on the karaoke or just hang out and have fun on Saturdays. “Wherever I’ve been I’ve always found a karaoke bar somehow” he says. “I approached the board (Samfunnsstyret) at Graskurs about karaoke, and they helped me get Lørdagslounge started to satisfy my karaoke needs. And somehow it’s taken off!”.  Matt’s also worked in the International Student’s bar during UKA 2018 and hosted events like Samfunnet Grand Prix – to mention a few things. “Apparently they think I’m cool or something” he says with a goofy grin.

Ås is not his first encounter with an active student life though. At UC Davis he was a member of the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon and ended up being the president of “all the Greeks” – which is what he calls the group of fraternities with Greek names. “There were about 5000 people in the Greek life at UC Davis – so I was essentially in charge of an organisation the size of NMBU!” he laughs.


Surprising fact: Matt is deathly allergic to shellfish. “Oh, the irony!” the fish scientist says and shakes his head. “One time I got scared shitless because I made out with this girl and my mouth suddenly went all itchy. I asked what she had eaten, and she said; just a California roll!”. Luckily the sushi-kissing was easily rectified with some anti-histamines and he lived to tell the tale. Matt wasn’t always allergic though. “It kind of sucks because now I know how good it all tastes. Oh life, you cruel mistress!”.

Despite the shellfish-trauma Matt is the dictionary definition of a happy-go-lucky guy. If he’s not singing or whistling or playing in the woods, you can bet he’s out skiing or sitting in the Bodega planning his next adventure. “At the end of the day we’re all here for the academics, to better ourselves, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun too!”. So, what’s on the horizon for this fun-loving sturgeon? “This summer I’m planning a big boat trip along the west coast, all the way from Washington up to Alaska. Just 3 and a half months of epic nature!”. We wish him the best of luck, and who knows? Ås might not have seen the last of Matt Chernin – the man who “does all the things”!


Comments from friends



When Matt started swing dancing he was hard not to notice. He was the perfect stereotype of a loud American. A great distraction for a room of shy beginners trying out their dancing shoes for the first time. It immediately became clear that it was impossible not to be affected by his boisterous mood and high energy level. We realized with a half sigh, half smile, that no one could keep their mouth shut when standing beside Matt during a course. You know that it will immediately be a more vibrant evening when he enters the room, and the instructors have a love/hate relationship with the back and forth banter he tosses out. In any case, the members of Swingklubben have been lucky to get to know someone as intoxicating(ly cheery) as Matt.  

Lots of love from us in Swingklubben Snurrebass 

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Karaoke and whiskey, Matt is your dude 

His liver is dead, and his voice always booms 

He went on and on 

Till the morning was gone  

Our American prophet of booze 


How I first met Matt Chernin  

It was a warm August day as I walked to the SiT office as a new student at NMBU. With no wifi in Pentagon I had to use a computer in the SiT office to do a few emails and fill in some forms. My quiet concentration was interrupted when a plaid shirt, backpack carrying, trucker cap wearing Californian strolled into the room. He loudly introduced himself as “Matt from California.” The stereotype of a loud, arrogant, rootin’ tootin’ American immediately came to my mind - not the type of person I’d come to Norway to find! Well, that experience (re)taught me a valuable lesson; never judge a book by its cover. Because you’ll be hard pressed to find a guy with a bigger heart, more friendly spirit or warmer demeanour. He’s one of those people who never seems to be in a bad mood, and everyone who sees him on campus greets Matt with a smile. That says a lot. It has been an absolute pleasure to work, socialise and party with Matt over the last year and a half; and I’m so glad he proved my first impression to be so wrong. He’s still pretty loud though.  

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