Review of Summer School 2007

Review of the Research Methodology Summer School: Processes of Europeanisation,
7-21 July, 2007,
Kraków, Poland.

Hosted by the Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies (CRCEES), UK and the Centre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland

The first CRCEES Summer School was an outstanding success. Both students and staff members who participated in the Summer School found it to be a tremendously rewarding and enjoyable experience. A total of 29 students took part in the Summer School: 18 CRCEES students; 1 CEELBAS student; and 10 students from universities in Central and Eastern Europe. In terms of different nationalities a breakdown of attending students included: 10 from the UK; 10 from Poland; 3 from Romania; 2 from Russia; 1 from Iceland; 1 Australian (born in Poland); 1 from Greece; and 1 from Slovakia.

We were particularly honoured when the Professor Wladysław Miodunka, Vice Rector of the Jagiellonian University took the very rare step of consenting to give the Summer School's main official opening address. The Directors of both organising institutions, Mr Richard Berry (CRCEES, UK) and Professor Zdzisław Mach (Centre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University) also delivered welcoming addresses. Furthermore, in recognition of the success of the Summer School, Professor Miodunka hosted a special dinner for all the UK and Polish teaching staff in one of Kraków's most prestigious restaurants.

The very picturesque Przegorzały Castle which sits on a hill overlooking the city of Kraków and the surrounding countryside provided a stunning setting for the Summer School's opening dinner. It proved to be a very informal affair during which students could relax and enjoy themselves after the formalities of the official welcome speeches and introductory seminars which had taken place earlier in the day.

The Summer School programme was split into two main parts. In Week 1 a programme of seminars relating to the main Summer School theme, Processes of Europeanisation, was delivered by a combination of Polish and UK teaching staff. The main aim of these seminars was to provide a theoretical and methodological background for the more intensive research oriented workshops which were to take place in Week 2. Students were able to discuss key issues and raise questions with the teaching staff during the Week 1 seminars. The workshops in Week 2 were an opportunity to explore in detail themes raised in the previous week's seminars.

Students were split into smaller groups according to their specific research interests. Each group was expected to design, implement and evaluate a methodological/theoretical approach to a pilot study based on a relevant theme. Within each group each member was given a specific research task. Each group gave a short presentation (15-20 minutes) on their project on the last day of the Summer School. Each group member within a given group was involved in the oral presentation which concentrated on assessing the usefulness of the research methodologies/theories employed in achieving the project aims, including strengths and weaknesses of the study, and a brief presentation of the research results.

Both informal and more formal feedback (in the form of student evaluation forms) indicates that all seminars were well-received by the students. The teaching staff were extremely impressed by the high level of enthusiasm and commitment by the students in the preparation of their research projects in Week 2. On more than one occasion staff members found students engaged in pre-breakfast meetings at 8 o'clock in the morning discussing their research projects. Students could be found researching the project in the computer lab or discussing it in a local pub late into the evening. The preparation of the student group projects proved to be an excellent lesson in group work and served as a catalyst for the forging of many close friendships among the students. All the presentations on the final day were well-delivered and were presented on powerpoint and generated a lot of discussion.

The group presentations covered a wide range of topics such as:

  • Europeanisation: empowering regional and local levels;
  • The impact of language on social processes in the European Union;
  • An introduction to energy security in Europe and Russia; and
  • Stereotypes in the European Union.

All the students got on exceptionally well together and there were plenty of opportunities for students and staff to interact in both an academic and social environment. The students were particularly impressed by the range of social activities offered in the Summer School programme (for more pictures). The walking tour of Kraków on the first day of the Summer School was followed by the informal get together in one of Kraków's local pubs, Klub Re, later that evening provided an excellent opportunity for both students and staff to get to know each other and served as excellent 'ice-breaker'.

The students really enjoyed the day trip to Pieniny-Dunajec-Zakopane which included a visit to the 14th century Niedzica Castle, a two and a half hour raft cruise along the Dunajec River through the valleys of the Spisz and Pieniny mountains ranges in southern Poland and ended with dinner in the Polish mountain resort of Zakopane. Another equally unforgettable experience was the 3 hour tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mines which are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. They also enjoyed the trip to the communist-built town of Nowa Huta just to the east of Kraków which provided them with a practical lesson on the nature of class in a communist society and on how everyday lives in Nowa Huta are affected by processes of Europeanisation.

The guided tour of the Galicia Jewish Museum with its exhibition of photographs detailing the Nazi holocaust of the Jews in Poland and the visit to the town of Oświęcim and the Auschwitz State Museum proved to be a very moving experience for all concerned.

The Summer School Closing Ceremony was held in the beautiful rooms of Larischa Palace in the centre of Kraków's historic old town. During this ceremony the students were presented with special certificates confirming their successful completion of the Summer School. The teaching staff were stunned when two of the students on behalf of the other students performed an impromptu 'rap' expressing their deep appreciation to the staff for organising the School so well and saying how much they had really enjoyed it. The Closing Ceremony ended with a food/wine reception after which all the staff and students adjourned to another of Kraków's local pubs, Klub Społem, to continue with a more informal celebration of the end of the Summer School!!

We are pleased that the students have made continued to remain in touch with each other since the end of the Summer School. All of the students from the UK have emphasised the valuable insight into Polish culture which the Summer School has afforded them. For the staff the most rewarding aspect of the School was getting to know our own students even better and well as meeting and getting to know students from other academic institutions. The School's most important achievement, however, was the establishment of valuable new research contacts between the students and more importantly the forging of new friendships across national divides.


First published: 1 August 2007