International Dialogue and Debate at the International Summer School
Internationalization for us means the meeting of people, ideas and worldviews from many different countries through discussion and dialogue, rector Svein Stølen and director Nita Kapoor at the International Summer School write in this welcome speech adressed to this year's summer school students.
OPENING CEREMONY: This photo is from last year's opening ceremony for the International Summer School in the University ceremonial hall, the Aula.
Today is the opening day of the 72nd session of the International Summer School (ISS) at the University of Oslo. We say, “Come to Norway – Experience the world!” and with that, we mean that we want the International Summer School to be an international learning experience. The educational perspective at ISS is a holistic program, with learning happening both inside and outside the classroom. Apart from the academic dimension, cultural events and excursions are an integral part of the six-week program. Many of the students also share rooms at Blindern Dormitory. The entire atmosphere on campus represents global diversity.
ISS is a central tool for the internationalization of UiO. However, what does it really mean that the ISS is international? To promote international understanding we need discussion and debate that expands our perspective and comprehension. We do not simply make a summer school international by admitting students from across the world. For us, this is simply the starting point, a space for internationalization to begin, not end. Internationalization for us means the meeting of people, ideas and worldviews from many different countries through discussion and dialogue.
In other words, for ISS to be truly international we work towards facilitating and encouraging intercultural engagement, while we remain mindful of the power dynamics at play in such meetings. When attempting to bridge perceived differences, we have found that the simple prescription of passive tolerance does not always go far enough. We therefore try to facilitate active engagement among students from around the world.
This requires something of our students in return. Students at ISS may find themselves challenged by perspectives that do not match their own experiences. In the past, we have had students shocked to find that they have been conversing amicably with students from countries with very different political and social systems than what they are used to. Through the years, the Summer School has brought together national groups whose governments may traditionally have been in conflict with each other.
This may appear challenging for some, but from past experience we have found that such meetings lead to more and deeper reflection among our student base. Various studies describe how cross-border students gain so-called “transversal skills”, including increased tolerance, confidence, problem-solving abilities, curiosity and decisiveness through international exchange. Drawing on this knowledge, and through objective analysis in combination with interpersonal contact, our goal is in many ways to be a platform where our students develop more insight, deeper understanding and empathy, as well as increased knowledge about our international world.
We at the University of Oslo are therefore excited to open the International Summer School for this year’s batch of students. They provide impulses to our development as a university. We are looking forward to a summer full of conversation, dialogue and debate, experience, learning and new insights.
And to our international students; a warm welcome to our campus. This experience would not be possible without you!
(This welcome Speech was first published in Rektorbloggen)