18 employees invited 30 international students to their homes for Christmas. There were even more employees who wanted to invite students home at Christmas, but there were simply not enough international students to go round, and distribution on the campuses was slightly uneven.
Had a great time together
Vasan Sivalingam came to Norway from Sri Lanka in 2015. He started as a Master's student at USN in 2017 and is now a doctoral research fellow in technological sciences in Porsgrunn. Vasan invited Alireza Bazargan and his family home for Christmas.
Vasan and his wife served proper Norwegian Christmas fare with salted lamb ribs, pea stew, Brussel sprouts, almond potatoes, sauerkraut, gravy, Dauphinoise potatoes, minced pork patties, traditional Christmas sausages and rice pudding with strawberry sauce! Alireza had also brought along some delicious Iranian food and sweets.
"We had a lovely time together, with wonderful food and exciting conversations about culture, food, festivals, studies and much more. Alireza, his wife and two children have not been long in Norway. We were delighted to give them an experience of Christmas in Norway.
For Alireza and his family, this was their first ever Christmas celebration. They were very happy to be invited into Vasan’s home and get an insight into Norwegian Christmas traditions. One highlight for Alireza was the conversations about similarities and differences in cultures and traditions:
"We can learn from each other and improve our lives from what we learn. And one of the best ways to achieve this is to meet new people and talk with them.”
The best day in Norway
Student Chaplain Kristian Gotehus Køhn was the initiator behind the Christmas invitations this year. Together with Pernille Astrup and Maija Heinilä, he took the initiative to organise the Christmas visits. Kristian can confirm that he has received a number of lovely thank you emails from both students and staff. We have collected a small number of extracts from the emails here:
- We are back from the Christmas dinner and it was really great. Thank you so much for such an opportunity. We are really overwhelmed.
- Hi, we had a lovely, pleasant afternoon with three great students!! Everything went really well and I think they enjoyed themselves.
- We had a great dinner time and owe it all to great planning and accommodation of USN.
- I want to thank you for arranging this party it was so great and we get more familiar to Norwegian culture.
- Thank you for the great arrangement and the awesome party.
Pernille Astrup tells of how one of the students who visited her wrote afterwards that it was the best day in Norway so far. None of the students who visited her had celebrated Christmas before, and found it new and exciting to try Norwegian Christmas food (salted lamb rib) and learn about Norwegian Christmas traditions. Their families back home must also have appreciated the invitation, as they asked the students to take photographs and describe the visit.
"The students were incredibly polite and lovely. They said they were happy to get tips (from Maija) about how to behave when visiting people’s homes in Norway, because otherwise they would not have known that they had to take off their shoes in the hallway. We will keep in touch with the three students and will invite them here again. We’ve planned, for example, to take them on a visit to Munch's house in Åsgårdstrand.”
Kristian Gotehus Køhn says that, despite a few misunderstandings, it is clear that this was a positive experience for both the students and staff, and that they are happy to arrange this for the third time next Christmas.