This year, the annual Rauland International Winter Festival took place at campus Rauland from February 12 to 18. The culture festival brings both national and international names within the folk music and folk art scene together in the small village of Rauland in upper Telemark county. Naturally, USN students makes up a big part of the festivals participants. But many students are also active on the organizer side. First year students on the bachelor programme in Norwegian Folk Music are responsible for organizing the annual kappleik, the main event of festival.
"Finally having the opportunity to put our mark on the event is a great deal of fun", Birgit Haukås says. She is a first year student and this year’s kappleik general.
Haukås and fellow student Guro Gunleiksrud are both experienced kappleik-participants. However, none of them have any previous experience in organizing such an event.
"We are 15 first year students all together. Everybody contributes, which is important because it's a lot of work", Gunleiksrud says.
Despite all the hard work, both students find the job of organizing the event rewarding.
"I am very pleased with what we have accomplished so far. This year we are making sure that every winner gets a great diploma", Haukås says.
Experiencing a culture festival at their own campus is also great, according to the girls.
"The festival contributes positively to our student community. All of us gather around this one event, and we all get the opportunity to meet many students from other countries.
Stian Roland, leader of the Winter Festival and the Department of Traditional Arts and Traditional Music, perceives the festival as an international get-together for students, teachers and others who are active within the traditions of folk music and folk art.
"For that reason, the festival becomes an important showcase for campus Rauland. We are able to present our academic community and Rauland as a great study destination throughout the whole week", Roland says.
According to the department leader, this year's festival officially had about 40 foreign students and teachers visiting from eight different countries. Yet, there where far more Internationals present, he says.
"Many of our students are Internationals who are here through exchange programmes. Several of them have invited friends from back home to visit them this week, so we know that there are a lot more internationals visiting than those who are here as academic guests".
Having a strong international presence at the festival is important, according to Roland.
"To be able to understand your own traditions you need to have knowledge of other traditions. Therefore, when we in addition to the internationals have most of the Norwegian folk music community present, there is no doubt that this is a high-competence-festival".
Beyond the good vibes, competence is exactly what Roland feel the festival creates.
"With so many skillful people gathered in the same place, academic development can prosper all week long. We wish to raise both our staff's and our student's competence through exchange programmes. That is why we also organize meetings with our visitors from the foreign academic communities where we discuss the possibilities for new exchange agreements".
Enjoying Norwegian dance styles
The Irish dance students Ranog Townsend and Karen Tansey are among the many international students visiting the Winter Festival this year. They are students from The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, and have assisted their teachers during the music and dance workshops at campus Rauland.
"It is very cool and at the same time valuable for us to be a part of this", Tansey says.
"We get to learn and try out dances that we have never heard of before, and that gives us inspiration we can use to develop our own dances. I especially found the Ganger and the Springer dances to be amusing".
The Irish girls says their own dance culture seemed to be familiar for several of the participants.
"I am actually surprised at the number of students that already had some knowledge about the Irish folk music. The atmosphere at our workshops where also very good, so it has been very fun to be a dance instructor here", Townsend says.
Even though the different dance arts have been both fun and interesting, the girls feel they are bringing home even more important forms of experiences from the Winter Festival.
"Better than ever I now see the value of being open and embracing towards other cultures, folk music and folk dance", Tansay says.
"We have got an insight into a variety of different traditions and cultures over a period of a very short time. And from that I have learned to be more self confident in presenting my own culture and dance to others".
Townsend notes that being in Rauland has given her a special kind of feeling.
"This is my first time in Norway. I've never seen so much snow before. I just love it. And I love our walks her. This is truly a winter paradise".