Department of Comparative Politics
Student exchange program

–A journey of personal growth

Elisabeth Lyons is the first exchange student from Chapel Hill in the USA to UiB and Sampol through CONTEST.

Elisabeth Lyons in Bergen
Magnus Buseth Danielsen (UiB). In the picture: Elisabeth Lyons during her stay in Bergen.

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CONTEST (The Politics of Contestation in Europe and the US) is a collaborative project between the Institute for Comparative Politics (Sampol) at the University of Bergen (UiB) and the Center for European studies (CES) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill).

Through student exchange and research, CONTEST seeks to strengthen the students' understanding of political conflicts, political mobilization and polarization in Europe and the USA.

In autumn 2023, Elisabeth Lyons was an exchange student at UiB and Sampol, and she tells about a semester and an experience that was both academically and socially enriching.

Why did you choose an exchange semester UiB?

The allure of UiB is wide. Not only does UiB offer a vibrant academic environment with diverse courses, but Bergen’s stunning landscapes, rich culture, and welcoming atmosphere made it an ideal destination for an enriching exchange experience.

Have you taken any exciting courses this semester?

The academic experience at UiB is both stimulating and distinct from UNC. I took Sampol 223 (Democratic Transformations in Europe: Trends and Implications), Sampol 120 (Scandinavian Politics and Government), and an introductory course in Norwegian. My favorite course was Sampol 223 because it allowed me to explore how democracies evolve by focusing on (1) citizen-state relations, (2) the restructuring of politics and institutions of the state, and (3) developments that reach “beyond and below” the state.

UiB and UNC are both renowned for their academic rigor and excellence. They offer a wide range of courses across various disciplines, encouraging critical thinking and research. These universities emphasize research and provide ample opportunities for students to engage in research projects and contribute to scholarly endeavors. Both institutions offer vibrant campus lives with numerous extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations. UNC and UiB have a friendly environment, supportive community, hospitable culture, and greet newcomers with opening arms.

How is studying at UiB different from/similar to UNC?

UNC is a larger university with a more extensive student population, offering a broader array of programs and extracurricular activities. UiB might have a more intimate setting with smaller class sizes and a closer-knit community feel. While both universities offer a broad spectrum of courses, the educational structures and approaches might differ. For instance, the Norwegian education system often emphasizes independent learning, while UNC is known for its strong emphasis on liberal arts education.

How is student life/daily life in the city?

Student life in Bergen is vibrant. Daily life here is a delightful mix of academic pursuits and social activities. I love to study in cafes near campus or at the Ulrike Pihls Hus. The compact nature of Bergen makes it convenient for students to navigate, and the city’s student-friendly atmosphere fosters a sense of community, making it easy to meet people and form connections. UiB offers a plethora of events catered to students, including cultural festivals, concerts, and gatherings. There’s a sense of inclusivity and diversity, ensuring that everyone can find their niche within the city’s social fabric. Overall, student life in Bergen is dynamic, engaging, and filled with opportunities for both academic growth and personal exploration.

What about culture, nature, excursions, travel, or other activities?

Bergen is steeped in history and culture. From Bryggen’s iconic Hanseatic architecture to contemporary art galleries, the city provides a vibrant cultural backdrop. Nestled amidst stunning natural landscapes, the university benefits from its proximity to the fjords, mountains, and hiking trails. Due to efficient public transportation, it is easy (though time consuming) to navigate around the country. My favorite excursion occurred in the beginning of the semester when I hiked to and camped at the top of Trolltunga with friends for my birthday. It was a memorable adventure that had breathtaking views of the surrounding fjords and Norwegian landscape. I was also able to travel to neighboring countries like Sweden and experience the culture there, too.  In essence, UiB’s culturally rich and naturally stunning city provides students with a holistic experience, fostering personal growth alongside academic pursuits.

What has been the best part of your stay?

My stay at UiB has been a beautiful blend of academic enrichment and social experiences. But, the social aspect was vital for my understanding of Norway and Bergen as a whole. Interacting with students from diverse backgrounds, sharing experiences, and learning about different cultures has been incredibly rewarding. The friendships formed, the conversations shared over coffee, and the laughter was invaluable. I will carry the memories I made here with me forever.

Why would you recommend others to travel on an exchange to UiB?

I would wholeheartedly recommend others complete an exchange semester at UiB. UiB offers a high standard of education across various disciplines, providing an enriching academic experience. The opportunity to learn from esteemed professors, access cutting-edge research facilities, and explore diverse courses is unparalleled. Norway's rich cultural heritage is an integral part of the UiB experience. Engaging with the local culture, meeting students from diverse backgrounds, and immersing oneself in Norway's traditions enriches one's worldview and fosters a deeper understanding of global perspectives. Bergen's location amidst fjords, mountains, and picturesque landscapes offers a unique setting for exploration and outdoor activities. The chance to hike, witness the Northern Lights, or simply soak in the breathtaking scenery is a priceless aspect of life at UiB. The exchange experience at UiB transcends academics; it's a journey of personal growth. It challenges you to adapt to a new environment, fosters independence, and cultivates resilience, all while creating lifelong memories and friendships. The exchange experience at UiB transcends academics; it's a journey of personal growth. It challenges you to adapt to a new environment, fosters independence, and cultivates resilience, all while creating lifelong memories and friendships. In essence, UiB offers a holistic experience—blending academic rigor, cultural immersion, and the beauty of Norway's landscapes—which makes it an extraordinary choice for anyone seeking a transformative and unforgettable exchange opportunity.