Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology
Erasmus+ staff training funding is not intended for research activities. As a doctoral student, research is your main focus, but keep in mind that most of what you want to do can be framed as development for you as a staff member at LU. Think of your desired mobility as something that strengthens you in your professional role, and include it in your application for Erasmus funding. That is what Billy did – and it worked.
Hello Billy! You are a PhD student at the Department of Cultural Studies. In which subject area?
What is your research topic?
I’m looking at the relationship between international Development organisations and the rural communities they work in, focusing on Kenya. In particular, I’m focusing on projects that are designed to help pastoralists build more resilience to climate change. I’m interested in how these organisations form their interventions and projects; who gets to decide what counts as Development, what ideas drive Development agendas, and whose voices get heard in the decision-making process. Ultimately, I’m interested in finding out what it would take to make the sector more inclusive, bottom-up, and place-based.
You have gone on Erasmus+ exchange twice. Please tell us about the first mobility period!
On my first trip, I job shadowed with a brand and communications agency in London. They were helping a homeless charity to improve their communications. As part of this, they were looking for qualitative insights into the needs, challenges, and communication channels of their service users (London’s homeless communities). So I joined the team, carrying out interviews, analysing the data, and packaging the results as insights for the charity. The project lasted three months and I travelled to London twice – for 3 days each time – to conduct the research during this period.
How had you come into contact with colleagues in London?
During my Masters at Lund University – Applied Cultural Analysis – I consulted for them on another project, offering ethnographic insights. After this, they invited me back to join their following project.
What did you gain from that mobility?
This mobility helped build my portfolio as an applied anthropologist. It also gave me the opportunity to explore a sector that I had never worked with before (homelessness) and build a network overseas.
Then, during 2022, you went on a second mobility period. Please tell us more!
In November 2021, I attended COP26 in Glasgow as an official observer to the climate negotiations. Then I was invited back to a follow-up conference held in Bonn, Germany, where the world’s climate negotiators hashed out the technical details of the global response to climate change. I attended the conference for three days, observing and participating in several rounds of negotiations, providing critical input on issues such as climate change compensation and adaptation support. I also met with human rights activists, national ministers, and other scholars to discuss these issues.
Erasmus+ staff mobility is usually not meant for funding participation in conferences. But you received funding because it could be identified as competence development?
Yes, this was not an academic conference but a round of climate talks attended by climate negotiators. As an official observer, my role was to provide critical input into the negotiations and ensure transparency in the process. As such, this was an opportunity for me to gain experience contributing directly to the world’s highest-level climate change decision-making body. It also helped expand my professional networks and strengthen ties between my home institution and key global stakeholders within climate change.
Really, though, my main reason for going to this conference was to do fieldwork for my research. Knowing that the Erasmus mobility grant does not cover research, I reframed my application to focus on the competence development stuff and downplayed the research side of the trip. And I think this is important for future applicants to think about – you need to be a bit creative with the application. A trip never has one, single objective. By focusing on the trip goals that align to the application, your chances of receiving funding are much greater and so many more opportunities open up.
What were the outcomes, for you, from the conference and the mobility?
I gained a huge amount of experience and depth of understanding of how the decision-making processes work at this level. First-hand experience of the ins-and-outs of the climate change machinery was invaluable in helping me understand what it takes to create a global climate change agreement. I also walked away with a bunch of new contacts that could help me with my research.
What about the economical side of the exchange. Has it worked out well? Were you refunded for all your expenses?
Yes, it all worked very smoothly – surprisingly smoothly, in fact!
What do you think about the application for Erasmus+ funding, was it difficult, time-consuming, and all that one would think?
Not really. It was much easier than I expected. That said, it would have been much harder to navigate without the support of the International Office. They were indispensable in helping me write my application, contacting the right people, preparing for the trip, and so on.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I would just encourage as many people as possible to give it a go. If you would like to travel for any reason, then consider applying for Erasmus Mobility. There’s so much flexibility in the eligibility requirements that your odds are generally pretty good. Plus, you won’t lose anything by inquiring – just drop the International Office an email and take it from there.
Would you have any tips or suggestions for future outgoing PhD students?
This may sound like a strange tip but try not to stay in a hotel! Whenever I travel abroad – be it Erasmus mobility, a conference, or fieldwork – I try to avoid hotels; they mark a clear end to your day and break your contact with your field. You want to immerse yourself in your field and really get to know the people, the area, the field you are travelling to. This may mean staying with your host, a fellow conference attendee, at a homestay, or even a hostel. The strongest connections are often built after the official events have finished.