When student chaplain Anne Anker Bolstad began thinking about the practicalities of making The Lillehammer campus of INN University more tangible for the local community, she did not imagine the enthusiastic response that was to come.
During the summer Bolstad conceived of the idea of reaching out to the local community, and asking families to open their homes and invite international students studying at INN University for a single dinner.
- I wanted the locals to become better acquainted with INN University, we’re a part of the community, and I think it’s an important thing. I also wanted those who come here from other countries to have the opportunity to learn a bit about Norwegians, to get a taste of the local culture, says Bolstad.
Help from the local newspaper
Once the plan was in place, the local newspaper GD agreed to help by publishing an article inviting the locals to open their homes to 2-3 students for an evening. GD has even agreed to include Bolstad’s email address in the article itself, to help simplify the process of registering interest in the project.
Within a week of the article’s publication, her inbox was overflowing with emails praising the initiative and voicing interest in participation – both from locals and from exchange students.
The locals interested in participating are quite varied, families with small children, families with children no longer living at home, elderly couples and more.
More families than students
Out of the 86 international students studying at the Lillehammer Campus of INN University this semester, 60 have voiced their interest in participating in the project. With 35 families offering to have a pair or three students over for dinner, there are now more interested households than available students.
Bolstad asked the families to write a bit about themselves to get a sense of who they are, but the act of inviting is all on the hosts. They will be the ones inviting the students to share a dinner in their homes.
- Sharing a meal helps tear down borders and helps build bridges across lands, says Bolstad.
The Lillehammer enthusiastic response inspired Bolstad to share her experience with the other INN University campuses in the hopes that similar initiatives would bloom in other places as well.