Children of Statoil Employees Brought to Westport

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Dylan Donahue , Staff Writer

Most students at Staples will say they have always lived in Westport.  Many will describe being born in Norwalk Hospital one room over from someone they happen to sit next to in biology. However, some students have a different story, largely because of the company Statoil.

Statoil is an international oil and gas company that provides  energy, while trying to protect the environment. In 1987, the Norwegian-based company established its only North American trading office in Stamford, CT, employing about 170 of the company’s approximately 23,000 employees.

In recent years several students have traveled across the Atlantic to live in Westport and attend Staples while their parents work in the Stamford office.

However, Statoil doesn’t actively steer Statoil employees to live in Westport.

“Based on that [Westport] is a good area, families tend to go there,” Ola Morten Aanestad, who is based in Houston and is the media contact for Statoil’s activities in North America, said. “A lot of the praise passes from word of mouth.”

While the normal Staples student stresses about grades and sports and SATs, many foreign exchange students, like the Statoil students, juggle the strenuous Staples world while trying to learn the ever-complicated English language.

“Going to school in a new country is extremely difficult, especially when you don’t speak the native language,” Yasmin Zarrinfar ’14, who moved to Westport in 2006 and now attends Staples High School, said.

Andrea Svendsen, who lived in Westport for five years and would have been part of the class of ‘15, but has now moved back to Norway, echoed Zarrinfar’s sentiments, saying,  “The first year I absolutely hated it, I was mad at my parents from making me move across the world away from my friends and family.”

Though Svedsen studied English at her Norwegian school, moving to Westport offered the same confusion and anxiety the typical Staples Spanish student would have if they moved to Mexico.  Svedsen was afraid to talk to other students because she was embarrassed by her accent and poor vocabulary.

Although she didn’t have the struggle of not being able to understand her new classmates, Miranda Brekke ’15 had trouble adjusting after she moved to Westport the summer before her freshman year, having previously lived in both Stamford for about ten years and in Stavanger, Norway for three years as an expatriate. “Moving countries is really hard,” Brekke said, “It was really hard like having to leave your friends, and everyone already knew each other here.”

Distinct to these moves for business, students often know their time in the new home is limited.  “They’ll tell you three years,” said Brekke, “but it could be two or it could be five.”

Similarly, though Svedsen should finish high school where she currently lives in Norway, there has already been talk of her family moving to Singapore or London.  Moving is bittersweet; despite the exciting prospect of a new place to discover, the girls often miss their old home, especially family and friends.

The consensus among Brekke, Svedsen, and Zarrinfar is that they always try and keep in touch with their friends despite the struggle of working around long time differences.  Brekke said Skype is her method of choice for keeping in touch with friends as, like her, many of them have traveled to new homes such as Texas, Canada and even Australia.  Svedsen even had the opportunity to share her native home with five of her friends from Staples when they visited her over the summer.

In a school where many students can find their parents’ names on the athletic plaques in the field house, these Norwegian students offer the Staples community the opportunity to expand its knowledge of a different culture. And it is the things often taken for granted by Staples students that Svedsen misses the most such as “the building and the sports program and not having to bring my own lunch to school.”