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4-H around the world: Kansainvälinen 4H

4-H has spread around the world. Let’s explore 4-H in Norway, known as 4H Norge.

States’ 4-H 2018 Outbound Norway group with two Michigan youth
States’ 4-H 2018 Outbound Norway group with two Michigan youth. Photo by States’ 4-H International Exchange Program.

The Michigan State University Extension series exploring 4-H around the world continues. Summer and fall have passed and everyone is enjoying winter time activities. School is in full swing, county youth fairs have completed, and Michigan 4-H summer camps are now preparing for winter camps. Did you know there is a tradition of organizing 4-H camps every second year by Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish 4-H organizations, which is properly called 4H Norge? Did you know there is a 4H Norge Facebook page you could like? Let’s explore more about 4H Norge!

How does 4-H look in Norway? The first 4-H club in Norway was founded in 1926, just 12 years after Michigan 4-H, which officially started in 1914. The Michigan 4-H motto is “To make the best better.” Similar to Canada 4-H, where the motto is “Learn by doing,” 4H Norge’s motto is Learning by doing. Like the 4-H structure in the United States, 4H Norge is organized at the local, county and national level. There are approximately 590 clubs in Norway today, representing 13,700 members and alumni. 4H Norge is open to all youth between the ages of 10 and 25. The actual 4-H programming in Norway is for youth between the ages of 12 and 19.

Did you know that States’ 4-H International Exchange Program offers an exchange program with Norway? During the summer of 2018, 17 youth from the United States returned after experiencing a homestay with Norwegian 4-H families and sightseeing in Oslo.

Zoe Bungart from Michigan shares, “Traveling to Norway exceeded all my expectations. I was able to be surrounded by the Norwegian language and the Norwegian landscape. Both were bigger and more complex than I expected. Daunting. Amazing. At times it was too much to take in and all I could do was step outside of myself for a moment and think 'Wow, I’m in Norway.' The Norwegians are excellent conservators of their history and their natural resources and are dedicated to their arts and occupations. They are rightfully proud of who they are and what they have.”

In 2019, 15 volunteer host families across the United States opened their homes to a Norwegian 4-Her and had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the Norwegian culture while also sharing their own American culture. The Norwegian group reported having a wonderful experience and feeling a sense of achievement through their participation in this exchange. One delegate shared, “I accomplished my goals including learning the language better, experiencing American culture, and leaning about 4-H in the United States.”

States’ 4-H International Exchange Program group
Photo by States’ 4-H International Exchange Program

During the summer of 2020 through the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program, 20 American 4-H youth will embark on a journey of a lifetime as they spend one month living with volunteer host families in Norway. We could not be more excited for the 2020 cohort – for the adventures they will have, new friendships they will forge, and the memories they will bring with them back to the United States.

Zoe with her host sisters
Zoe with her host sisters in Norway. Photo by Zoe Bungart.

For incoming youth from Norway, States’ 4-H International Exchange Program provides an orientation program in Washington, D.C. It is a two-day program that helps them prepare for their host family stay and gives them an opportunity for some civic education by visiting some of the Washington, D.C. landmarks.

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States’ 4-H International Exchange Program group in front of the White House.Photo by States’ 4-H International Exchange Program.
Ford host family welcoming Mona from Norway
Ford host family welcoming Mona from Norway in the summer of 2019. Photo by Jim Ford.

My primary contact in Norway, Sølvi Egner-Kaupang, said, “We greatly appreciate our partnership with 4-H in the U.S. It is a lifetime experience to be part of the exchange between our two countries. They learn the culture and everyday life in a completely different way than when coming on holiday. 4-H Norway looks forward to several summers with the exchange, and want our U.S. 4-H friends to feel welcomed!”

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. Visit the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs for information on hosting exchange students or traveling.  Other global educational opportunities can also be found on the MSU Extension Global and Cultural Education webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office.

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