Student Story: Unni Soelberg.

Being Norwegian, a parent, and with 14 years of experience in graphic design and advertising, Unni has a unique perspective to share on her MA Digital Experience Design journey. 

With 14 years of experience under her belt, Unni Soelberg wanted to future proof her career and expand her academic skill set in the field of service design and user experience. By applying for a loan and a grant from the Norwegian government, Unni was able to fund the MA Digital Experience Design program and fulfill her dream. She started at Hyper Island this January and is now working on her Industry Research Project. We caught up with Unni to learn more about her journey to date.

Tell us a bit more about yourself
I’m Unni and I live in Trondheim, Norway. All my life I’ve cared deeply about how society is shaped, politics and environmental issues. One day when I was thinking about the serious challenges we as humans face and deal with, now and in the near future, I started to question whether I was using my abilities in the best way, and whether I could accept going down the same path for the rest of my working life.

Luckily, I’ve always had a lean approach to work. Starting my career in graphic design and advertising when print was king 14 years ago, means I’ve adapted my skills over the years as these industries have gone through huge changes. However I came to a point where adapting constantly felt like a perpetual game of catch up. I knew I needed to go down a different path, but didn’t want to start a new career from scratch. Instead I decided to future proof my career with an MA from Hyper Island. 

How did you end up at Hyper Island?
Being in my forties, I didn’t really want to spend many years back in school, and with a 12-year-old son to take care of, I could not afford to take a long break from working. It made sense to keep building on what I already knew, so I started looking for design related opportunities. I discovered the Hyper Island MA Digital Experience Design half by chance – a stroke of luck perhaps – but as one of my favourite HI learnings goes: luck is when preparation meets opportunity!

What made you apply for the MA?
The MA Digital Experience Design was everything I was looking for; I’ve learned to use design in a more meaningful way and to create solutions that can make a difference to people’s lives. The fact that the program has come about as a response to the needs of the industry was reassuring, and the quick pace suited me well (Although quick in this sense also means ‘really intense’ and I’ll admit balancing family life with studies was not a walk in the park. But it was manageable:))

Important side note: going for the program was an easier financial decision because the MA Digital Experience Design in Manchester meets the requirements for funding through the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.

Using her acceptance letter from Hyper Island and being a Norwegian citizen, Unni was able to apply for the maximum loan and two grants from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund. She received a total of 273,500 Norwegian Krone (≈ £ 23,000), of which 49,200 Norwegian Krone (≈ £ 4,150) is an ordinary grant, 18,300 Norwegian Krone (≈ £ 1,550) is a parental grant, 159,000 Norwegian Krone (≈ £ 13,400) is a loan that Unni needs to be pay back depending on her income and assets, and 47,000 Norwegian Krone (≈ £ 3,900) will be converted into a grant if Unni completes her degree on time.

What’s your favorite Hyper Island tool?
Reflection (and feedback). No team should go without.  

How has Hyper Island impacted you?
A bit superstitious perhaps, but from the moment I was accepted to Hyper Island things have fallen into place. My little family went on a small adventure abroad. I met and connected with amazing people from around the world, tried my skills on real challenges from real clients and I now I’m doing my Industry Research Project with a company I really admire. I came to Hyper Island thinking I would learn hard skills, but the most prominent learning has been in developing my soft skills: managing teams, stretching my comfort zone, harnessing my impatience, accepting uncertainty and creating a new mindset on giving and receiving feedback, teamwork and people awareness. 

Did Hyper Island have an influence on your network?
I’m not a networker by nature, but Hyper Island has taught me that reaching out to people is nothing to be afraid of and that there are so many people out there willing to contribute or share their expertise and ideas. I was introduced to so many great people, industry leaders, thought experts and Hyper Island Alumni through talks, lectures and workshops and not to forget the amazing humans that are Crew 19. I’m still gutted and probably will be for some time, that I couldn’t take part in all the social events, but that’s the tradeoff of being a parent.  


Unni is a student on our Full-Time MA Digital Experience Design Program.

If you’d like to learn more about Unni, connect with her on LinkedIn. Reach out to Dean if you’d like to understand our full-time MA in Digital Experience Design program in more detail.