“The organizers are very happy with our students.”
Around 150 INN University students currently volunteer during the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer. Axel Colin, Pauline Conrad and Wiebke Langenhan are among them.
Wiebke Langenhan is one of many INN University students who have volunteered. Photo: Private.
Around 900 volunteers have in recent weeks contributed during the event, where approximately 150 of them are INN University students. About 50 of these are international students.
20-year-old Axel Colin is from France, where he studies Sport Management. He spent the autumn semester 2021 in Lillehammer, and his student life turned out to be so rewarding that he stayed an extra semester.
“I am very interested in sports, so for me Lillehammer was a good choice. This is a historic and Olympic city, and Norway as a country is both beautiful and different from France,” says Axel.
He describes the time from his arrival in August until now as the best experience he has had. He has used the beginning of 2022 to prepare, and now work, as a volunteer during the World Para Snow Sports Championships.
“I have been involved in recruiting other volunteers and organizing their shifts, in addition I have done a lot related to logistics, including electricity, cables, and advertising posters. I have also escorted one of the World Cup winners to get drug tested, transported equipment by snowmobile and observed quite a bit that would come in handy in the future,” says Axel.
From Germany to Lillehammer
Wiebke Langenhan came to Lillehammer from Zella-Mehlis in Germany. She studies international tourism in Wernigerode, and to get a double bachelor's degree she must complete two semesters abroad.
“I have always had a desire to travel to Norway and have heard so many good stories about being an international student in Lillehammer. I came by ferry to Kristiansand in August last year, and started with a short road trip in southwest Norway before my trip took me north,” Wiebke explains.
She describes life as an international student as very positive, as she has made many new friends from Norway and other countries.
“What I really love about student life here is that you meet many new people through common interests and hobbies, such as skiing or climbing. We partake in many activities together in our free time, and thus get to know both the culture, the language and not least the people,” says Wiebke.
Like Wiebke, Pauline Conrad studies international tourism in Wernigerode. The 22-year-old is in her second semester at Lillehammer.
“I got to meet many people during Buddy Week, which was a nice experience and completely different from what I was used to. In addition to the academic aspect, I have had the opportunity to travel around a bit. Seeing the Northern Lights in Lofoten was a highlight that increased my motivation to see more of Norway in the future,” says Pauline.
This autumn, Pauline also volunteered during the European Championships in curling and the World Cup in Lillehammer, which she describes as fantastic experiences. During the World Para Snow Sports Championships, she helps at the event office, where she registers athletes and people in the support apparatus so that they receive accreditation. In addition, she is involved in the work with infection control and procedures around quarantine and testing.
“I also answer questions from the teams and help solve problems that arise along the way. For example, I assisted a German TV team in the work of finding and interviewing a German athlete,” Pauline explains.
Working with social media
During the World Para Snow Sports Championships, Wiebke works in the team responsible for social media. She posts live results and communicates with the participants, as well as works closely with the professional press.
“I love being part of the team who works with social media, as we get to work creatively with content, as well as move a little outside our comfort zone by interviewing the athletes. It is a great experience for me to be able to contribute during this event.”
Becoming immersed in volunteering
Axel, Wiebke and Pauline are all taking the course Volunteerism at events at INN University. The five-credit-course consists of lectures in late autumn, and a practical work requirement that includes compulsory practical experiential learning of five days during the Championships.
“There are just over 30 international students and approximately five Norwegian students taking this course, which was established precisely to give students the opportunity to learn more about volunteering both in theory and in practice,” says course coordinator Svein Erik Nordhagen.
In the course, students learn about what volunteering is, the role of volunteering in Norway and in other parts of the world. Motivation for volunteering and the management of volunteers are other key topics.
“In the long run, I want to work on organizing larger sporting events. Working and organizing volunteers is a big and essential part of working with events, so I’m taking the course to learn more about how it works,” says Axel.
“I have volunteered since I was a child and always liked it. Back home in Germany, I am, among other things, a member of the local mountain rescue service. My opinion is that volunteering is very important, both for the individual in terms of experience, but also for society. By volunteering, you show respect and interest in the local community and the people around you. The World Para Snow Sports Championships would have been impossible to arrange without the volunteers,” says Wiebke.
“The organizers are very happy with the work the students do and the students get relevant experience, so this is definitely something we want to do more of. The course will be continued, with another event where students can gain practical experience, such as Birken or the World Cup,” says Nordhagen.
Wiebke will eventually complete her degree in Germany and then continue to a master's degree, where she is also open to new exchange stays before working life begins. Then she first and foremost wants to work with reputation building/management online. Axel Colin has a goal of working with major sporting events in various roles.
“I want to be responsible for the organization of major sporting events. The ideal would be within football with the World Cup or Champions League. I want to meet and work with people from all over the world, so therefore I am very happy that I get to practice my English here,” says Axel.
“If there is one thing I have learned, it is that future plans change quickly and that you do not end up where you had intended. I never thought I would study tourism, but now I am very happy with where I am. Now the plan is to take a master’s degree and that in a future internship I will be able to steer myself in the right direction,” Pauline concludes.
This article was translated from Norwegian by Noorit Larsen.