ISS prepares for a yearlong celebration for its 75th birthday

Photo courtesy of Oslo International Summer School

St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

The Oslo International Summer School (ISS) is preparing for a yearlong commemoration to celebrate its 75th session to the 75th year. Since 1947, tens of thousands of students have attended a summer session at the University of Oslo, with students coming from more than 100 countries. It has often been referred to as a mini United Nations.

Norwegian language courses are offered at all levels along with bachelor’s and master’s courses taught in English on various aspects of the Norwegian model, including courses on peace research, human rights, and gender equality. All ISS courses provide an atmosphere of academic achievement, while fostering international goodwill.

Seinn Seinn Min from Myanmar said, “I always wished there would be something I could do to improve relations and cooperation in the diverse and challenging multicultural contexts that I come from. I found an answer to this problem in a land thousands of kilometers away from home.”

The Summer School began with its first session in 1947 after World War II as an act of gratitude for the United States’ contributions during wartime. In 1958, the program was officially changed from the Summer School for American Students to the International Summer School.

Summer 2020 was a first for the ISS, as the session was held digitally because of COVID-19. Around 500 students from 74 countries participated, and this opened up ISS to some new possibilities. Of course, in-person teaching is preferred, but the virtual courses made learning and international interaction possible even in a time of isolation.

Whether they attended the ISS a year ago or almost 75 years ago, the one word former students use most often to describe their ISS experience is “transformative.”

“The ISS not only changed my summer, it also changed my way of thinking and therefore my life. Long live the ISS!” said Amy Evans, who attended from the United States in 2012.

At ISS, the world becomes both bigger and smaller. Places become no longer names on a map or news headlines, but friends from the classroom, in the dining hall, on excursions or on the soccer field.

Pat Shaw, student body president in 1947 said, “For the first time I became aware of myself as a member of an international community. And this is what the Summer School is all about.”

Many Norwegian teachers from around the world have had their beginnings at ISS.

“It wasn’t until I attended ISS that I realized that studying Norwegian wasn’t just a popular choice for heritage learners like myself, said Kari Lie Dorer. “There, I discovered this large network of individuals from all over the world who were learning Norwegian for a plethora of reasons. Getting to know these individuals and to hear their connections to Norway made me realize just how relevant the study of Norwegian is worldwide.”

“I had a lovely experience at the ISS,” said Ida Moen Johnson. “Not only is it where I started studying Norwegian, which eventually led to becoming a Norwegian teacher myself, it offered a collegial setting for learning of many kinds. One thing I appreciated was being able to study Norwegian alongside other professionals. For example, my beginning Norwegian class included a preschool teacher from Iceland, an English businessman, a Canadian professor, and an American veterinarian. It was great to learn about their various motivations for learning the language and to study with people from a variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds.”

The 2021 session will be primarily digital, except for some Norwegian language courses, which may be available for in-person instruction, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications will open Jan. 4 and close on Feb. 15. The 75th session will run from June 26 to Aug. 6, 2021. A special course on Norwegian culture and society, designed especially for alumni, will be offered as a webinar with distinguished guest lecturers.

ISS is asking for alumni to be a part of the celebration. Please write to to be updated on events or to learn about opportunities to get involved or to participate.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 25, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.