Alyssa Neville’s Sociological Research in Poland

Alyssa Neville is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University studying Russian and Criminology. She was a recipient of the Polish Studies Initiative (PSI) 2016 summer scholarship. Read about her experience in Poland below.

“Over the summer I traveled to Warsaw, Łodz and Krakow, Poland on the Research Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Studies Program. During this program I conducted a research project with the help of a multitude of dedicated professors, who are affiliated with OSU and the Polish Academy of Sciences, and completed three sociology courses.

In the course of the past three months, I have not only learned basic statistical skills that are useful for both research and other professional applications, but I have also increased my knowledge of Eastern Europe and Poland from a sociological point of view. Moreover, this experience provided a unique opportunity for guided research with professors who have experience in both teaching and conducting research. I went into this program with unsure feelings about completing a research project and surprisingly found that I thoroughly enjoyed the procedure. The process was expedited through the help of my professors in order to complete all of the necessary components in Poland, but it was a beneficial introduction into the world of research. Although it requires a lot of time and energy, it was tremendously satisfying to get positive results regarding my hypothesis, as well as to find interesting exceptions and anomalies that will hopefully be explained one day. Not only did I find that I enjoyed working with statistical data, but I now feel more confident in using statistical programs, such as STATA.

Using my newly acquired skills, I conducted a research experiment on POLPAN data, which is a survey administrated to Polish citizens every five years from 1988 until 2013. My project asked the question, “Are political biographies from the post socialist era in Poland influencing the Pole’s attitudes toward democracy?” In exploring this question with panel survey data, I also traced the social and political context by presenting how the political culture in Poland developed over the last twenty-five years in order to provided a glimpse of how individuals and social groups develop their ideals about democracy over their lifetimes.

Additionally, through this experience I gained confidence in my ability to navigate new countries, cultures and situations. I made meaningful relationships with Ohio State students and other students studying at the Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, as well as professional contacts and connections with my instructors in Warsaw. Furthermore, I travelled to both Łodz and Krakow during the program and to Prague in the Czech Republic after the program. Throughout these experiences I developed a sense of confidence in my ability to navigate social situations in which English was not the main language and international travel on a large scale.

Although this program had three in-country advisors there was a multitude of opportunities in which I could travel and experience situations on my own. I was essentially responsible for not only navigating the city transit system in order to get from class to my in-country residence, as well as providing most of my meals. This was an exceptionally challenging experience since I did not speak much Polish, but was even trickier when travelling to Prague where I knew no Czech. Ultimately, it was an extremely beneficial experience because it increased my self-confidence in my own ability to think critically and remain calm in stressful and complicated situations.

Overall, this was a well-rounded experience that provided practical experiences, which can be used in both the real and academic world, as well as unforgettable friends and memories that will have a lasting effect on me.”

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