Texas Nytt — HGSSCS

Written and translated by Anne-Brith Berge.

Houston-Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Society (HGSSCS)

Historical High Points

Houston-Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Society (HGSSSCS) was founded in 1980 as a result of growing oil and shipping industries in Houston and Stavanger. Since then, the organization has been actively engaged in exchange programs with mostly students from high schools in addition to business, culture and promotion of Texas and Stavanger.

In 1988, Galveston was included in the organization when the three mayors from Houston, Galveston and Stavanger signed an official document, which emphasizes international sister city cooperation and partnership.

The list is long when it comes to schools and student groups that have participated in the many exchange programs through the years and, in regards to number of persons who have engaged in the programs, the number reaches as many as 1800.

While the organization first and foremost is supported by companies within the industries of oil, shipping and finance, it has also has support from the scouting movement, the medical field and learning institutions. The main activities, however, have been exchange programs related to culture and athletics. Houston and Galveston together and then Stavanger have alternated as hosts every 2 years.

Many of the programs in which students from various high schools have participated, have won awards from the “Sister Cities International (SCI) Organization”. Performances and competitions have largely been focused on music, theater and sports and have for the most part been scheduled at schools and those types of arenas. In connection with all these programs, a large number of teachers, group leaders, parents, family members, chaperons, industry leaders, politicians, board members, sister city members and volunteers have been engaged. Furthermore, the programs are managed in the way that all the youth stays with host families and all the adults stay in hotels.

“Texas Days in Stavanger” June 17 – 25, 2014

The participating groups:

  1. High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA, which is a very well-known “Magnet School” within the Houston Independent School District. 2 singers and 5 musicians participated with a great jazz program.
  2. Spring Woods High School – “Safari Singers” – participated with 11 students. The group performed a wonderful song program.
  3. Campers: A group of outdoor enthusiasts, which counted 3 youth and 2 leaders.
  4. Guthrie Center’s Culinary Arts: The Guthrie Culinary Department works with high school age students who are interested in a culinary carrier. The group that travelled to Stavanger counted 5 students, one teacher and one school administrator. In addition, the group took part in the so called “World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS)” competition, which was arranged in Stavanger just after the exchange program came to an end.
  5. St. John’s School was represented with a “Houston Area Golf Team”, which consisted of 3 student golfers and one coach.
  6. Galveston Ballet is a regional pre-professional ballet school that offers instruction in classical ballet all the way from 3 years of age and up to adult age. 3 girls and 2 boys performed a great and varied program.
  7. The HGSSCS Board also took part in the tour except for one who was unable to participate.

After the tour, all the students were handed a questionnaire. Below, are listed some of the answers.

On the question what value the “Texas Days in Stavanger 2014” have had on them, they all answered that the exchange program was very interesting and taught them much about the Stavanger area and that the program has spurred and interest in learning what happens also outside of America.

Some of the experiences are especially emphasized and are mentioned as follows:

  1. The trip to the “Pulpit Rock” was the absolute high point and many still like to talk about it.
  2. The program in the Stavanger Cathedral during the church’s Sunday service was a fantastic experience and the entire Texas group, students as well as adults, experienced Norwegian religious traditions and viewed beautiful Norwegian architecture.
  3. The bus tour on Jæren was also a high point and many mentioned that they were surprised to see that it is so flat and because of that compared it to Texas.
  4. Boat trips were wonderful experiences not only because it was great to be onboard in a boat, but that they took place in fjords surrounded by majestic Norwegian nature.
  5. The exchange trip did not only offer the opportunity to get to know people in the Stavanger are, but gave the opportunity to live with and get to know a “Stavanger family”.
  6. The students were anxious to know what kind of food they would be served by their host families in Stavanger. Many of them guessed that they would be served a lot of fish. After the stay, they were surprised that they were served fish only once.
  7. A program which was titled, “The Norwegian Society”, was very well received. Two Norwegian speakers gave a very good and interesting picture about how the Norwegian society functions and how it differs from the American society.

Finally, we will start up the planning of “Stavanger Days in Texas 2016” very soon since Stavanger is expected to bring a delegation to Houston and Galveston in March 2016.

Some comments from the American youth:

  • I enjoyed the City of Stavanger a lot, but what I enjoyed even more are the Stavanger people’s thoughts and views. It looks like most families are very closely knit together and that they protect and take care of each other. I felt I was a part of the family I stayed with even though I stayed with them only for a few days. My hope is that we can stay in contact for years to come.
  • The trip to Stavanger changed my life. Most of all, I enjoyed the travelling in the beautiful Stavanger nature. The trip has opened my eyes that life is not only a lot of work and carriers.
  • My greatest moment in Stavanger was the wonderful view from the top of the “Pulpit Rock”. I really hope that I one day can return to Norway and experience and see much more.
  • The trip to Stavanger was an experience I will never forget. I can hardly believe that travelling to a foreign country would give me such a positive experience. After returning to Houston, I immediately have started to think about how and when I will be able to travel to Stavanger to visit my host family and also travel around in Norway.
  • I’m so happy I got the opportunity to participate in such a great trip. Every day we experienced something new. I enjoyed Stavanger a lot and really enjoyed the food, all the activities and the magnificent nature whereas the concert in the Stavanger Cathedral was a high point for me.