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— I am just speechless, says Henry Mutebe (30).
He is on his second year at his master’s degree in Multicultural and International Education at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA).
And he just got elected into the student parliament as the only, and possibly first, international student.
— Something will have to change as I am learning Norwegian, but I definitely do not speak it, says Mutebe.
He is also president of the International Students’ Union at HiOA. The Ugandan’s speechlessness was short-lived, as he has lots to say.
I want to break new ground and allow international students to participate and contribute at another level.
I think that is a positive, and a very natural development, on an international higher education institution like HiOA.
— I am very shocked, because I did not expect this, he says.
Henry Mutebe describes how international students stay here only briefly, and that they do not know the student democracy.
— It is not that they feel excluded, they just do not feel included, he says, continuing:
— I want to break new ground and allow international students to participate and contribute at another level, he says.
Mutebe is sure that the practical changes this requires will facilitate reflection on how to include international students more.
According to President of the Student Parliament, Sunniva Myrene Braaten, they will begin testing solutions, like a translator, already at the next meeting.
Mutebe says that the students have made a statement, not just about him, but about diversity in the student democracy.
— And I want to become Vice President next year, he says.
— I want to positition myself through bringing in the international perspectives, in addition to representing all students.
He emphasizes that the Norwegian democracy is interesting to learning from, and that he is looking forward to exchange experiences with the rest of the Student Parliament.
— The students have made such a statement making me the face of diversity, he says, obviously flabbergasted.
— And the Norwegian students have been so open to it, encouraging me. Norway is a really open society, says Henry Mutebe.
He describes a very open student election where people vote for issues, not color or religion:
— I am very happy about all of it, and will do my very best not to disappoint.
Rector at HiOA, Curt Rice, is excited about the news of an exchange student being elected into the Student Parliament.
— I think that is a positive, and a very natural development, on an international higher education institution like HiOA.
— Mutebe says that he wants to become Vice President of the Student Parliament next. What could this mean for the student democracy at HiOA?
— Internationalization is extremely important for the leadership at HiOA, and this this is one of many very welcome developments, says Rice.
The American rector finds it positive to see parts of the administration, and institution in general, be more open to internationalization, and mentions more classes in English as a development he wants to see more of.
He is however careful embracing the early candidacy:
— I do not know the other candidates, and it is not right for a rector to say anything about the candidates in the student elections.
— But this is exciting, he adds.