Between April and June 2023, I had the chance to conduct the RENPET bursary at the ARENA Centre for European Studies at the University of Oslo under the supervision of Dr. Helene Sjursen. As I began the first half of my second year, I was hoping that a stay at ARENA would allow me to establish the theoretical foundations of my research for the rest of my PhD while receiving some useful feedback from peers and more senior academics. My stay there was worth it since it allowed me to achieve these goals while also allowing me to get in contact with other researchers and practitioners residing in Oslo.
The Benefits for My Research
My PhD project tries to breach the traditionally established gap between the national and the international by considering under what conditions the actions that national actors (radical right populist parties) take affect the EU’s most international policy: its external action. While I stayed at ARENA, I was able to develop an elaborate framework for the concept of influence, which is key in my research. I built upon previous conceptualisations by ARENA scholar Guri Rosén to include elements from both the national and international levels while also considering approaches to influence from other disciplines such as lobby research. Coincidentally, I had the chance to listen to one of the leading authors in this field, Andreas Dür, in the first Tuesday Seminar I attended. These seminars proved to be highly beneficial for me since they put me in contact with realities beyond the ones a PhD candidate in the EU’s external action experiences. On the one hand, I was able to learn from peers working in other fields linked to the EU. On the other hand, I had the chance to see how bigger administrative projects, such as the establishment of a new research centre: the Research Centre on the European dimension of Norwegian Law (EurNorLaw). These experiences helped me understand the wider aspects of an academic career.
Oslo and its perks
My research went beyond the walls of the University of Oslo, and I conducted some interviews with other researchers and practitioners living in Oslo. These included researchers from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) which was particularly useful for the “China aspect” of my research as well as a former Norwegian minister. Similarly, I also had the chance to enjoy the city of Oslo itself and visit its fjord, its recently built National Museum, and witness the celebrations of the Norwegian Constitution Day on the 17th of May.
All in all, the RENPET bursary was an excellent opportunity to advance my research, learn from a network of more experienced academics, while discovering other realities and other ways of research. For that, I am grateful to the whole RENPET network that finances the bursary and, particularly, to Helene Sjursen and all the ARENA staff for providing academic guidance during my stay.
More about the author
Unai Gómez-Hernández is a second-year joint PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh and KU Leuven. His research revolves around under what conditions European radical right populist parties influence the EU’s external action vis-à-vis China. His fields of interest involve populism, EU foreign policy, as well as EU-China relations both widely and with a specific focus on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Unai holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science (University of the Basque Country); a bachelor’s degree in International Relations (London School of Economic and Political Science), and a master’s in international relations and diplomacy of the European Union (College of Europe). Before beginning his PhD, he worked in the private and public sector, in the Basque Environmental Cluster as well as in the Delegation of the Basque Country to the EU.