It is the first year that Mario Eskaroos, 26 will not be home in Egypt with his family during the holidays. He is sad, but is thinking long terms and is happy to be fulfilling his dream of getting a master’s degree in Micro and Nanosystems technology from USN at Vestfold campus.
This Christmas, Mario has been invited by two USN families to spend time during the holidays.
– I am looking forward to getting to know new people, meeting Norwegian families, experiencing a typical Norwegian house and eating Norwegian food. It is very good of the university staff to open their homes to international students, says Mario.
Mario will visit Pia Bing-Jonsson’s family. She used to be an international student abroad and has fond memories of being invited to Welsh home during the holidays. It is not the first time Pia’s family has had international students at their home and says it is exciting to do things differently. She and her family are looking forward to Mario’s visit.
– We will have dinner with the whole family, and since he is looking forward to eating Norwegian food, he will be served ribs and everything else that comes with a traditional Christmas meal, says Pia Bing-Jonsson, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.
Want to get to know Norwegians
Karolis Keturka, 29, is from Lithuania and studies Norwegian Language and Social Sciences. He has worked as a Northern Lights guide during Christmas in Tromsø for two years. This Christmas he had hoped to be home in Lithuania—his family misses him, and Karolis misses them—but says it would be irresponsible to travel home now during the pandemic. He adds that the quarantine rules also make travel challenging.
Karolis says that it is difficult to get to know Norwegians, and he is therefore looking forward to visiting Ingeborg Nordbø at campus Bø during the holidays. The two met for the first time this week and found they shared common interests.
Ingeborg Nordbø teaches tourism and like Pia, Ingeborg studied abroad in Chile and knows how lonely it is to be away from family and miss all the Christmas traditions.
– In Chile, I was invited home to a family at Christmas. It was different and I was very happy. It is great to be able to do the same for someone in Norway, says Ingeborg.
She praises USN’s initiative. As Ingeborg has a lot of contact with international students, she also knows that many want to get to know Norwegians better. Inviting international students home for Christmas serves a dual purpose—it helps international students get to know Norwegians and reduces the loneliness of not being able to go home.
Almost 50 USN employees volunteered immediately when Maija Heinilä and Pernille Astrup from the Department of Education sent out an email asking if they would like to host international students during Christmas.
– It can be lonely being away from family during the holidays, especially for the international students who have not been able to go home due to pandemic travel restrictions,” says student pastor Pernille Astrup who was overwhelmed by the response she reived to her email. “We hope this will be a positive experience for those who cannot be home this holiday season, adds Pernille.