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Norwegian officials tout relations between countries during Midwest tour

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Category: Education / Research

Bard Ludvig Thorheim, political adviser to Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, expected his recent trip through the Midwest to be informative and productive, but he did not expect to find home. Nevertheless, he discovered the spirit of Norway lived on in the residents of the “Norwegian-American heartland.”

“They told about what they had heard from their ancestors and how it was for the first settlers who started with two empty hands, strong faith and a patch of land and how life is today,” Thorheim said. “They’re down to earth people, very practical. I see that a lot in Norway, so it was like coming home.”

Five million Americans can claim Norwegian heritage. For comparison, Norway only has 5.2 million citizens today. Though he was heartened by Norwegian-American’s connections to the country’s past, Thorheim was focused on the future as he toured North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa.

One of the main goals of the trip was to learn about Norwegian-based businesses in the region. A 2017 survey done by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington found that 1,381 jobs in North Dakota were supported by Norwegian investments and trade.

“I think that this region is sometimes overlooked despite (the fact) that Norwegian companies are very welcome here,” Thorheim said. “They look to go to Los Angeles or New York instead, but in fact this is a very good—a better—starting point.”

Thorheim would also like to see a more vibrant exchange in higher education.

“We have several programs to incentivize Norwegian students to come here in a range of areas, but we also want more American students to come to Norway,” Jon-Age Oyslebo, minister counselor for culture, communication, and education at the Norwegian embassy, said.

At the end of his tour of the Midwest, Thorheim said the future is bright for the strengthening of its ties with Norway.

“I will talk to the minister of trade and industries in Norway to see what we can do to more focus on this region of the United States,” Thorheim said. “Also, since there is so much development and growth going on I think we need to be more connected.”

Source: Grand Forks Herald

Published: September 22, 2018

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