International semester: The opportunity to widen your perspective

Written by: Ella Marie Roll-Hansen, Gracjana Plociennik, Julie Taule Erichsen, Nguyễn Thanh Tâm, Nora Blomkvist & Hoàng Thị Thanh Huệ

International semester at Centre for Crisis Psychology, at The University in Bergen, is a collaborative semester in global mental health and crisis psychology. The course is led by Unni Marie Heltne, senior advisor at the Centre for Crisis Psychology and Ragnhild Dybdahl, Associate Professor in global mental health. They have a lot of experience working in international settings. The first part of the course includes subjects in Norway where students from Norway, Nepal and Vietnam work together. Later, the Norwegian students are having an internship at Tribhuvan University in Nepal. We wanted to participate in the international semester because crisis psychology and mental health on a global scale is insufficient in the psychology studies. The course differs from similar courses by including lecturers from for example Uganda and Nepal, realistic tasks and issues to solve and collaborate on, as well as practical experience. It is safe to say that mutual learning from all sides is taking place. 

We have been through many topics, such as human rights, treatment gap, cultural sensitivity, and caring for carers, which play an important role in global development. This course has widened our knowledge in how conveniently one can adapt and help others. A wonderful collaboration has allowed us to explore diversity and distinctions together, which has made us grow and mature. This semester is an opportunity for students to “travel while learning and learn through traveling.” There is no doubt to say that moving to a new country is not that easy. Sometimes, you might be as clumsy as taking the wrong bus, or struggle to adapt to totally different weather. However, eventually, an exchange life is not only about absorbing academic knowledge; it is also about stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring the wonderful world outside.

The focus of the semester has expanded far beyond the specialised clinical work psychologists are trained to do, including promotion of mental health and well-being, and prevention of mental health issues on a larger scale and in different contexts. Policy and organisational work have been a major part of the course. We have learned how you can work with different organisations to provide knowledge, increase awareness and implement policies in various settings. Overall, the course has given us a flexible and creative way of thinking that can be used to develop different interventions and projects as well as new friendships and contacts for the future. 

For more information about the programme, read here.