More than 50 years ago three Norwegian students formed lifelong friendships when they began their engineering courses in Sunderland.
This month three friends made a special visit from their homes in Oslo, Norway, to rediscover their old stomping ground where fond memories were forged at the University of Sunderland.
The three graduates and their wives, who also lived in Sunderland between 1967 and 1972, while their husbands studied, made the three-day trip, taking a tour of Sunderland’s campuses to see the changes that have taken place since they studied their HND,CNNA and Newcastle degrees in Mechanical Engineering four decades ago, when the university was still a polytechnic.
The group, who carved out successful careers since graduating, running their own individual engineering businesses before retiring, were impressed by the new developments on campus and changes in the City itself, since they first arrived and were taught in Wearmouth Hall, which is now the University’s CitySpace sports and social facility in Chester Road.
So great was the impact the place and people had on them, that this is the friends’ second reunion at Sunderland in 30 years. They have also been sharing photos, stories and even poems from their happy time on campus, from ragweek, to their students union, even a translation book on ordering beer.
Carl Frederik Selmer and his wife Kirsten, whose son was born while staying in Sunderland, lived in Roker.
“We absolutely loved it here, the people were so friendly, we loved the city and the seafront, there was so much to do - the memories we made have never left us,” explained Carl.
Oyvind Kirsebom who also studied a degree in Engineering in Newcastle, eventually working across Europe in the concrete plant industry. His wife Tove loved their flat off Chester Road. Tove was editor of the Norwegian paper Dovre, while her husband studied.
Tor Samuelsen, whose business was in corrosion in water pipes in the oil industry, said: “Coming to Sunderland had a great impact on all of us.
“When we began studying here 50 years ago we didn’t know each other but became lifelong friends. The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming and we have nothing but good memories. We loved a drink in the Wearmouth bar and a walk along the beach!”
He added: “We have been so impressed with the changes that have taken place at the university, the facilities are fantastic.
“The city also looks great now, but we were shocked the Vaux Brewery was no longer there.”
Tor Samuelsen, who met his wife Karin after returning to Norway, said: “It’s been great to be back, we had such a great time and remember there was such a large community of Norwegian students at the Sunderland at the time.”
As part of their tour, the Norwegians also visited the University’s state-of-the-art engineering facilities at the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s. Dave Knapton, Acting Head of School for Engineering, delivered the tour and explained how developments in engineering technology have changed since the 1960s, and the international research that takes place, from manufacturing and maintenance engineering to material science.
Dave said: “It’s great to see students have such strong links and fond memories of their time in Sunderland and return after all these years.
“I was very proud to offer the tour of the faculty and show the recent and ongoing developments that have been made since they first studied here. It was also fascinating to hear of the visitors stories from their time studying in Sunderland and in their professional careers.”
Sunderland’s Alumni Officer Elena Perez said: "It has been a pleasure to see our former students back on campus after all this time and they have such fond memories.
“We often take alumni members on a tour of the university and also organise many reunions. It's my job to keep graduates in touch with the university."