First PhD-student in NORWEL visits the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA.

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David Bell is the first NORWEL student going on a short scientific mission to one of our international partners.

While being enrolled in NORWEL, all PhD-students are encouraged to visit one of our partners. As a rule, funding for a short scientific mission has to be applied for at the ERASMUS+ program. If an application is denied it is still possible to apply to NORWEL for a reimbursement of travel expenses. We asked David why he chose the University of Michigan (UM) for his visit and why he joined NORWEL.

Congratulations with the first NORWEL-grant! You are the first who is going on a short scientific mission to one of our partners. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a research fellow at the Department for Social Work at The Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU). I am just starting my final year of my PhD. In my project I am looking into European attitudes towards immigrants, with a particular focus on such attitudes in the realm of social policy and the welfare state. Next January I am off to a research visit at UM, with a grant from NORWEL.

What does it mean to be a part of NORWEL?

To be honest, I did not really have any particular expectations when I heard about the research school for the first time. That changed after a meeting with the contact persons for the school here at NTNU. I quickly became aware that this would be something for me. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt that there were two things that I had missed out on as a PhD candidate. Firstly, the possibility for networking and secondly, the possibility for travelling internationally to present my research. NORWEL helps me to do both.

The Kickoff in Tromsø, NORWEL Symposia, PhD-courses and colloquium groups all provide an opportunity to discuss my work with other PhD-students, be they at the beginning of their journey or more experienced research novices. A stay abroad also gives me the opportunity to gain new insights and new perspectives for my own study.

What are your expectations to your visit to the US and why are you going there, as your own project has an exclusive focus on European attitudes towards immigrants?

First and foremost, I am looking forward to the experience of working in one of the world-leading research environments within social work. I am really looking forward to participate in seminars, workshops and such where I hope to meet other PhD-students and researchers working within the US-American system. I also have high hopes that some of the people I am going to meet will become part of my professional network in the future.

When I am visiting UM in January I will be working with the final part of my dissertation. Therefore, I will profit significantly from discussing the results from my study with colleagues who have another perspective than a European one. The US has a very unique history in terms of immigration and attitudes towards different minorities. Since its very foundation, the US have been a country of immigration. At the same time, the relation between the “majority” population and different groups of immigrants has always been tense. Although we might not think so much about it today, only a hundred years ago the attitudes towards what we today would consider “white” immigrants, for instance from Ireland or Italy were quite hostile. Nowadays there is much debate and hostility towards immigrants from Latin-America and from the southern border to Mexico. And of course, there is the long history of discrimination and racism towards the Afro-American population that is still going on today. I am certain that researchers looking into the history of immigration in the USA can give me a new perspective on my own study which has a European focus. I am also certain that the quality of my dissertation, as well as my research career will profit from this short scientific mission.

Thank you for the interview! All the best from us in NORWEL for your journey and a successful stay at our partners in the USA.

Text: Walter Schönfelder