Globalization, National Identity, and the Politics of Belonging

See Scandinavia in a new way by studying culture, society, and politics in Norway’s capital, Oslo. Explore how globalization and immigration are reshaping the politics of identity in Norway.

Program Structure

Class takes place three days per week, and the 6-10 hour per week internship runs concurrently. Students take one four-day comparative trip to another Scandinavian capital city, either Stockholm, Sweden, or Copenhagen, Denmark.

Topics & Themes

Human rights, globalization, national identity, mass migration, peace and justice, gender equality, and the politics of the welfare state.


Oslo, Norway

Terms & Dates

Program on hiatus. New terms TBA.


16 credits

Program Overview

Prosperous and egalitarian, Norway is known for its highly developed welfare state, oil and gas wealth, and global leadership on human rights. Like its European neighbors, however, the Norwegian state is struggling to adapt to a changing population. This program focuses on the myriad effects of mass immigration, and examines outreach to new Norwegians who have come to the country as work migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Students meet with local researchers, community organizers, and government officials shaping policy and effecting change with regard to integration and inclusion. Coursework focuses on national and religious identity, gender equality, and political culture in the context of the increasingly diverse Norwegian welfare state. Students observe these issues at play in their volunteer work at service organizations, NGOs, and political groups. In the vibrant capital city of Oslo, students explore issues of immigration, identity, and belonging. There are numerous field excursions in and around the city center, and students travel to another Scandinavian capital on a multi-day comparative field visit.

Staff and Faculty

Alexander Bielicki

Program Director Alexander Bielicki has nearly always been obsessed with performance, whether it be the performance of a theatrical role or the everyday performance of identity. Accordingly, Alexander’s teaching and research interests revolve around performance: the ways in which we negotiate our identities through speech and action and how we use these identities as aids to navigate the world around us. Alexander views observation as an important actor’s tool, and sees equal use for this tool in understanding the politics of identity. In conjunction with dialogue, he uses it to help students build their skills of empathy while staving off natural tendencies toward sympathy. Alexander is especially fascinated by manifestations of religious and national identity, and approaches these manifestations from various perspectives in his teaching and research: anthropological, sociological, discourse analytical, and culture studies. Alexander is a Ph.D. graduate in Cultural History and History of Religions from the University of Oslo. He holds an M.A. in Nationalism Studies from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary; a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh; and an A.A. in Communications and the Arts from Harrisburg Area Community College. In addition to The New Norway program, Alexander also teaches courses on The Norwegian Welfare State and Peace and Conflict for the International Summer School at the University of Oslo. Also, he regularly teaches Norwegian Society, Cultures and Institutions, a course designed for newcomers to Norway who are hoping to establish permanent residence and/or possibly citizenship in Norway. Alexander has worked with study abroad programs in Europe for a number of years; not just in Norway, but in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland as well. As a former study abroad student himself (in Czech Republic and Slovakia), Alexander believes that a term abroad is the single most important experience a student can have, not only for its enormous potential in shaping worldviews and promoting cross-cultural understanding, but for its influence on how we view our own society at home.


The Scandinavian Welfare States (4 credits)

Context of the development of the Scandinavian welfare states: theories of nation-building and national identity, globalization and multiculturalism, histories of racialization, the rise of the populist /far-right movements, international aid politics, the politics of integration, and gender. How does the form of the state relate to its ability to foster a multicultural society?

Challenges of Globalization and Mass Migration in Scandinavia (4 credits)

The contemporary challenges and opportunities for the Scandinavian welfare states in an age of globalization and mass migration. How are Norway and the other Scandinavian welfare states adapting to the challenges of multiculturalism, European integration and globalization? What factors have made possible the rise of populist / far-right parties in Scandinavia and what has been their impact on politics and society more generally?

Scandinavian Art, Film, and Literature (4 credits)

In Scandinavian Art, Film, and Literature, students gain insight into the ways in which national identity, national minorities, immigration, politics and the welfare state are taken up by novelists, filmmakers and artists. Students begin their study of Norwegian national identity by reading fairytales collected by Norwegian folklorists Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Møe, as well as literary criticism by Nina Witoszek, a prominent Polish-Norwegian cultural historian. Short stories by two Sami women authors invite students to reflect on the exclusionary nature of nation-building processes, while Knut Hamsun’s 1890 psychologically-driven novel Hunger gives students a window into turn-of-the-century Oslo and the effects of rapid urbanization. Students explore debates surrounding twentieth century Norwegian history through a reading of Jo Nesbø’s detective novel The Redbreast, predominantly set in the center of Oslo. In addition, The Redbreast provides an inroad to understanding the role and prominence of Scandinavian crime fiction and the secular problem of evil introduced in such novels. Finally, Danish author Peter Høeg’s 1993 novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow helps students understand the place of Greenlanders in modern Denmark. In addition to works of literature, films from Norway, Sweden and Denmark offer students further insight into course topics. Assigned films address issues like national identity, political culture, and debates over immigration and multiculturalism in Scandinavia, and represent both mainstream releases and documentary films, including several written and directed by filmmakers with immigrant backgrounds. Lectures and tours are also held at key institutions of the visual arts like the National Gallery of Norway, Oslo City Hall, and other prominent exhibition spaces. Local experts lead tours of art institutions, and selected lectures on Norwegian literature are delivered by faculty in Scandinavian literature at the University of Oslo.

Norwegian Language OR Independent Study Project (4 credits)

If students opt to take a Norwegian language course, they will be required to take a placement test during the first week of The New Norway. The test will determine the level (1-4) of Norwegian into which they are placed. Language coursework at the University is engaging but challenging; it is taught entirely in Norwegian and evaluation by department faculty is based on a final oral and written examination. The program director also evaluates students’ language proficiency and improvement at the end of the semester. The Independent Study Project (ISP) is an opportunity for students to deeply engage with an issue of interest in Scandinavian society. If students opt to complete an ISP, they will have access to the various libraries associated with the University of Oslo; it is also recommended that students write their ISPs using resources available at their internship site. Many ISPs include ethnographic research as primary source material. Here is a short list of ISPs completed by recent New Norway participants: “A Comparison of Special Education Resources in the United States and Norway: Autism Case Study” “Crime & The Implications of Punishment: An investigation of Norway’s penal system, a uniquely rehabilitative model, and the realities behind an alternative approach to crime control amid an increasingly multicultural nation” “Government Funded Acculturation” “Health Care Benefits and Socioeconomic Disparities in Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcomes in the U.S. and Norway” “Shattered Nation: Memorialization and Norwegian National Identity after 22 July 2011” “A Valued Second Chance: An Analysis of the Inner Workings Behind Norway’s Prosperous Correctional Model” “Anti-Discrimination for People, Anti-Discrimination for Animals: A Study on Why Norway Still Has Breed-Specific Bans”

Complete Syllabus


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Internships in the New Norway program are structured differently than the majority of HECUA programs. This program is full-time, five days a week, with classes scheduled for three days a week (Monday, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm) and approximately 6 hours weekly in an internship. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

Mangfold i Arbeidslivet (MiA)/Diversity in Working Life

Website: MiA is a foundation working to promote diversity, understanding and tolerance through the workplace across Norway. Students assisted with workshops, conferences, undertaking interviews and preparing reports. This placement provided opportunities to gain a tremendous insight into integration challenges and developments in Norway.

BYMIF (the Oslo Center for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors)

This organization offers housing, financial aid, tutoring, meals and support for unaccompanied asylum seeker and refugee minors. Our students run English language classes, offer tutoring, go on occasional field trips and just spend time with these young people over the foosball table and around the dinner table.


Website: UTROP is Norway’s first multicultural newspaper and the student here worked as a journalist intern preparing both opinion pieces and a longer research piece for publication. The longer research article involved conducting interviews and data collection, including an interview with the Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim. Through this placement the student was able to actively participate in current debates on identity and belonging in Norway.

Nordic Black Theatre

Website: A multicultural performance space that provides a stage and support for writers, musicians, actors and others who primarily come from abroad or have a foreign background. Past students have contributed in writers’ workshops, designed lighting for performances, worked at the door and in the cafe. No matter what students do here, it is a fantastic, creative environment.

Program Costs

Fee Breakdown: Cost includes group transportation to field sites, planned group excursions, lodging, meals, local transportation, medical insurance, and administrative costs. Students live in single rooms in a suite in a student village, and receive a meal stipend for the semester. A note on costs: The program costs listed below are what HECUA charges for participation in its programs. The final amount that a student pays might be higher and can vary from college to college. Many colleges assess additional fees or charge their own tuition for off-campus programs. Some colleges also have specific financial aid rules for off-campus programs. Therefore, all students should check with the off-campus-study office and the financial aid office of their home institution to confirm their final cost for a HECUA program. A full and comprehensive fee breakdown can be found on the Program Costs page.

Member schools

Program is on hiatus for Fall 2020.

Non-Member schools

Program is on hiatus for Fall 2020.


HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: the Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Click here to view all scholarships.

Good to know

Language All seminars, lectures and readings are in English. The program is based in Oslo, Norway, a compact, increasingly multicultural city nestled between the Oslo fjord and mountains, and is associated with the University of Oslo, International Summer School (ISS). Classes are held on campus three days a week (usually Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays). Optional Norwegian language study offers deeper insight into Norwegian culture. Those with prior Norwegian language study who choose to continue will be placed in a Norwegian class by exam. Students who opt out of language study will conduct an independent research project over the course of the semester. Housing Housing is located in a student village near the campus which is a shared living space with Norwegian and other international students. HECUA students buy and cook their food with a provided monthly food stipend.


Students intern for four to six hours each week with a local organization, placing them on the front lines of political, social, and cultural debates in contemporary Norway.

Field visits

A field trip to Stockholm, Sweden or Copenhagen, Denmark (alternating years) illuminates the similarities and differences among two Scandinavian states, particularly in their responses to globalization, migration, and multiculturalism.


Students in the program are required to register for a residence permit before they leave the U.S. HECUA will help guide students through the residence permit application process. For more information about the residence permit application process, contact HECUA student services.

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