Norway’s ambassador to the United States visiting UND
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Norway's ambassador to the United States highlighted the importance of education exchanges between the two countries in a visit to Grand Forks Wednesday. K?re Aas, who became ambassador last year, arrived in Grand Forks Wedne...
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Norway’s ambassador to the United States highlighted the importance of education exchanges between the two countries in a visit to Grand Forks Wednesday.
Kåre Aas, who became ambassador last year, arrived in Grand Forks Wednesday as part of his first trip to North Dakota. One-third of North Dakota’s population is of Norwegian ancestry, the most in the United States.
Aas will tour the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation Thursday, where Norwegian air traffic students are trained under a contract with a company that operates 46 airports in Norway. Twenty-eight Norwegian students came to campus last week for training, according to a press release.
“I think with a globalized world, a globalized economy, it’s important to have inputs from various countries,” Aas said in an interview with the Herald. “(The United States) is a knowledge-based country.”
Aas also visited Wednesday with members of the Nordic Initiative, which focuses on student exchange programs. Bruce Gjovig, chairman of the group, said Norway has policies in place to encourage students to study abroad.
“We’ve been one of the No. 1 destinations for Norwegian students in the United States,” Gjovig said. “We want to continue to grow that, enhance that, look for ways to do that.”
There are more than 60 Norwegian students on the UND campus this fall, according to a press release.
Cultural, business ties
Cultural ties between North Dakota and Norway have existed since some of the first European immigrants arrived here, and business connections have grown as well in recent years.
Statoil, a massive oil and gas company headquartered in Norway, entered the Bakken oil formation in 2011 by acquiring Brigham Exploration. According to its website, it holds about 330,000 net acres in the oil play.
The Norwegian government has a 67 percent ownership interest in Statoil.
“I think that the company can bring a lot of knowledge and experience to what you’re doing here in North Dakota,” Aas said.
Aas first traveled to Minot this week, where he attended the 37th annual Norsk Høstfest, billed as the largest Scandinavian festival in North America.
“There are few other places, other than North Dakota, where someone from Norway feels so much at home,” Aas told festival attendees Tuesday, before telling an Ole and Lena joke.
“I would say I’m going back with a much better understanding about North Dakota,” Aas said. “But I also see much more opportunities and possibilities for strengthening ties between this state and Norway.”