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Student exchange

Guest students from Armenia in oral pathology project

Currently UiB/CCBIO have two PhD guest students from Armenia within a collaboration project promoting oral pathology and research (Eurasia program).

Andrey and Gayanna standing in front of their posters.
Andrey Papyan and Gayane Manrykian standing in front of their posters in which they presented their research after only one and a half month at UiB.

Collaboration in the Eurasia program

The collaboration project for education and research in oral pathology between Norway, Moldova, Belarus and Armenia is an important internationalization project financed by SIU through the Eurasia program.

Within this project, UiB/CCBIO is currently hosting two PhD guest students from Armenia. The two PhD students, Gayane Manrykian and Andrey Papyan, also hold academic positions at their home institution, Yerevan Medical State University, and are expected to teach and promote oral pathology when returning back to their home institutions. They are here for a period of 3 months to get training in oral pathology and research in oral cancer.

Academic and cultural exchange

Both Gayane and Andrey have integrated smoothly into the Bergen Oral Cancer Research Group and Experimental Pathology Research Group. Each of them is carrying their own research project, learning laboratory experimental methods in addition to training in oral pathology and contributing to the online oral pathology platform and course. They impress by their determination and eagerness to learn. Their hardworking attitude and enthusiasm is something to learn from!

In addition to the academic exchange, they are catalyzing a cultural exchange as well. They were even brave enough to try paddling in the fjords of Norway!

Interview

We have asked them to share some of their thoughts and experiences about being in Norway.

What do you find to be the largest differences between our countries?

"Norway is a “rigorous“ country. That was my first impression when I  came to Norway," Andrey explains. "We were met with heavy snow, cold wind and rain," he continues. "But then, when we met the first Norwegians, my impression changed." Andrey seems relieved that we weren't as harsh as the weather. "Both the weather and the people are very different from what we are used to, though. We come from a very sunny country and that might be the reason why Armenians are more emotional and warm. In Norway I never see much emotional expressions among people. It looks like Norwegians prefer to keep  emotions inside," he ponders.

"Norway is a unique country with unique weather, rules and also with kind welcoming people," Gayane adds. "I think for every person, the homeland is something special and not comparable with other countries," she concludes. 

How did you experience to join our academic and research environment here?

"Norway has fantastic educational options and I am happy with the academic and research training I get here," Gayane says. "The best thing is that there are so many opportunities to do research here, and the availability of researchers. You can get support anytime of high qualified scientists. We were invited to participate in the CCBIO Annual Symposium at Solstrand in May, and it that was for me an amazing event that gave me the opportunity to talk with highly profiled researchers and listen to experienced lecturers from Norway and abroad. We are very glad that we had the opportunity to attend the symposium and have a poster presentation, and I want to express my thankfulness to CCBIO and the organizers of the symposium for giving us this opportunity," she declares.

Andrey agrees. "Norway is a country of research. I can state it based on my experience and previous work in different European countries. You only need to have a good idea here, and then the laboratories are available and the staff are very welcoming to help you to do your research," he adds.

Was it a difficult process to get permission from your home institution to be here for 3 months? 

"Three months is quite a long period of time to be absent from Armenia, for our families and from our positions at the University and in the hospital," Andrey and Gayane explains. "Due to our teaching and clinic duties at the Yerevan State Medical University, our administration would have preferred that we left for a shorter period of time, so we had to do a lot of persuasion to get permission to come here. Our efforts were successful and when the leadership of our university percieved the possibilities this project brings with it, we got the permission to come here. In return, it is expected that we will bring with us further professional growth and new perspectives to our home institution," they say. 

What motivated you to take 3 months here despite obstacles?

"We are open minded and curious persons by nature, and eager to understand more of the biology of diseases we see daily. This would enable us to provide better care for the patients. We could not miss out on the opportunity to bring the field of “Oral pathology” to our country," they both agree.

How would you sum up your experience of being here?

"We have learned a lot, both academically and culturally, and we hope we also brought some new flavours into the local environment. Using this opportunity we want to express our gratitude to the Centre for Internatinalization and the University of Bergen, the Department of Clinical Medicine and especially to Gades Laboratory for Pathology and CCBIO and the Oral Pathology department administration and staff for all valuable knowledge and  experience that we have got during this period of time. We got fantastic support throughout our stay here, not only on the academic level, but also when we faced logistic issues. We hope these will be solved for the next PhD guest students who will come through this amazing Eurasia project."

Any thoughts on how to continue research home, or this collaboration?

"We are very motivated and now know how to establish an oral pathology laboratory and department at our home university, and we have the support of our rector and dean for this, which was strengthened and reconfirmed when the Workshop in Armenia took place at the end of May in Yerevan. We plan to organize teaching courses for students and doctors, international conferences like the recent event organized buy our Armenian and Norwegian collaborators in the Eurasia Project in Yerevan (see below) and exchange our knowledge and skills," they conclude.

Oral Pathology Eurasia-Norway Collaboration Workshop in Armenia

The project has as a very ambitious goal to improve and harmonize the teaching curriculum in oral pathology at the dental schools of the collaborative institutions involved. To achieve this goal, a whole range of activities have to be coordinated: agreement on the topics to be included, training of teachers, availability of teaching material, visibility, lobbying, etc.

Workshops with attached Awareness days with open courses on oral pathology are very important activities in the project. This year, at the end of May, the second workshop of the project took place at Yerevan, Armenia, at the Yerevan Medical State University.

The two PhD guests at UiB, Gayane Manrykian and Andrey Papyan, were part of the organization committee together with Professor Marina Manrykian and Associate Professor Isabela Vardanyan.

During the Awareness day, the online course in oral pathology developed by Professor and CCBIO PI Anne Christine Johannesen with help from the IT department at UiB (senior engineer Helge Opedal) was introduced, as well as the online digital platform based on the open source cytomine software.

There were delegations from each of the collaborative institutions. The beautiful nature of Armenia, rich culture and spirituality, and particularly the hospitality of the people, established a good ground for fruitful discussions and agreements. The coordinator of the project Professor DE Costea and the members of the Norwegian, Moldovian and Bellarusin delegations are very thankful to the local organizing committee for arranging such a successful event, for introducing us to the exciting Armenian culture in addition to providing excellent support for academic discussions.