Delving into Dissertation Research: A PSI Summer Experience

*We are republishing this post from autumn 2017 on an older blog that CSEES maintained on its website.

Nikki Freeman is a PhD student at OSU in the Department of History.

Woman standing under a large red sign spelling "Warszawa"

Nikki Freeman in Warsaw, Poland


Receiving a research grant from the Polish Studies Initiative allowed me to spend six weeks in Poland conducting research for my dissertation, “A Time to Rebuild: The Education and Rehabilitation of Jewish Children in Postwar Germany and Poland, 1945 – 1953.” My research explores how the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee worked alongside the Central Committee of Jews in Poland on behalf of Jewish children to reconstruct Jewish life after the Holocaust. In Warsaw, I studied archival documents that detailed the creation of children’s homes, schools, and summer camps. I also gained access to important Polish-language secondary literature at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In addition to conducting research for my dissertation, I took a short weekend trip to Gdańsk where I visited the brand new Museum of the Second World War. I am so excited to share these experiences with OSU students as I prepare to teach my own courses on the Holocaust and the Second World War. Thanks to the Polish Studies Initiative, I was given the opportunity to start research that is absolutely essential to my dissertation and in November, I plan to return to Poland for a longterm research trip.

A red brick building with large glass front.

POLIN Museum

A Summer in Warsaw at the Institute of Aviation

We are republishing this post from autumn 2017 on an older blog that CSEES maintained on its website.

By Jason Scheele

This summer I worked in at the Institute of Aviation in Warsaw, Poland. During my time at the Institute of Aviation, I worked on modeling the forces on a helicopter blade during flight using a series of computer programs called Computational Fluid Dynamics. The work I completed this summer granted me an in depth look at the programs used in the aerospace industry today. I also gained first-hand experience solving real-world problems from start to finish, which will benefit me for the rest of my career in aerospace engineering.

Luckily, I lived close to the center of Warsaw, only having to travel 20 minutes on the tram. Nearly every day after work, I traveled downtown to explore Warsaw and experience the Polish culture. I very quickly fell in love with the city of Warsaw because of its amazing public transportation system, cleanliness and of course the delicious traditional food that could be found all over the city. I found the Polish people to be extremely friendly and I was quite relived that nearly everyone spoke English, especially if they were under 30.

I also traveled to the Polish cities of Krakow and Lublin. I enjoyed the lively nature of Krakow and had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. I believe that everyone should travel to Auschwitz once in their lifetime because the absolute magnitude of the death camp cannot be portrayed through any media, only by going there personally. Lublin, on a brighter note, was an amazing small town in the southeast of Poland and seemed to be a great place to raise a family or attend a university.

Outside of Poland, I also traveled to Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, Budapest and Lviv, Ukraine.

I am extremely grateful to the Center for Slavic and East European Studies at the Ohio State University and especially the Polish Studies Initiative for the amazing opportunities that it provided to me, traveling through Europe this summer truly gave me a much broader prospective of the world, all of the different cultures, languages, and individuals that live here. It was a truly amazing summer thanks to the PSI.

Lauren Sayers: Studying Justice in Poland

Lauren Sayers is an undergraduate student at OSU studying criminology and criminal justice. The Polish Studies Initiative (PSI) awarded her a scholarship to study abroad in Warsaw, Poland in the summer of 2016. Read about her experience below. Find out more about PSI here.

“For the summer semester, I traveled to Warsaw, Poland and took a Statistics course and a course about Social Change in Central & Eastern Europe, while working on a research paper through the Summer School in Social Sciences (OSU) that I have titled “Justice for All? Economic Disadvantage and Trust in Poland’s Judicial System”. The program also took my peers and I to the beautiful cities of Lodz and Krakow. This photo is of a church that I stumbled upon in Warsaw; to me, all of the city’s architecture seems like something out of a fairy tale. The Summer School (also through the Polish Academy of Sciences) was an amazing experience, presenting an academic challenge and opportunities to learn from scholars of many different countries (ex: Macedonia, Ukraine, Romania, Poland); the food was delicious, and the buildings and gardens were exquisite.”

A large, white catherdral



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.”