SPSP in Europe! A Fortnight in Wroclaw, Poland
Angela Johnson (UC Merced), Danica Kulibert (Tulane University), Michael Sweigart (George Mason University), Silvana D'Ottone (Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile), and I (Eugene Ofosu, McGill University) represented SPSP at the European Association of Social Psychology's (EASP) Summer School. The summer school had a diverse cohort from different European nations as well as from India, Chile, Japan, the United States, and Canada. The school ran from July 24 to Aug. 6, 2022, at the University of SWPS, in Wroclaw, Poland.
The summer school included five workshops: identity and politics, meanings in life, moral judgment and behaviour, social cognition, and intergroup relations. Each SPSP representative was assigned to one of the workshops, with workshops made of 13 students and two instructors. I was part of the intergroup relationship workshop.
I was interested in the EASP summer school for a variety of reasons. First, the school was an opportunity to learn and share theoretical ideas with like-minded scholars while being mentored by experts. Secondly, I was keen to expand my academic network. Lastly, the summer school in Europe would implant me within Wroclaw—and by extension, a broader European setting and community, providing ample opportunities to broaden my perspectives and understanding of cultures both as an individual and a social psychologist in training outside of a North American context.
After the welcome ceremony and reception on July 24 at the Concordia Design, the cohort got the opportunity to network with fellow attendees and instructors from the different workshops. The summer school followed a regimented schedule. with workshops from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays. Structured social and volunteering opportunities occurred after 5 PM and on weekends.
More structured social activities occurred during the first week of school. First, there was the walking tour of the city. The fourth largest city in Poland, Wroclaw boasts many historical facts and is renowned for its picturesque town square. The international cohort then engaged in some sports in the intimate Grabiszynski Park. Further exploring the landscapes of Poland, we visited the live pottery museum in Boleslawiec. Polish ceramics are celebrated for their beauty and durability. We saw how enchanting everyday ceramics are made and built to withstand extreme temperatures. As a de-stressor from our regimented days and as a bonding activity, we questioningly painted ceramic cows. We were udderly confused as to why we specifically painted cows and not cups, saucers, or even foxes. This became a running joke of the summer school.
We continued our excursion by venturing deeper into the pastoral region of lower Silesia, at the base of the Kaczawskie Mountains. In this quaint village, we had a cohort joint meal at Villa Great—a 12th-century architectural farmhouse. The cohort also toured the Japanese Garden and watched the Wroclaw Multimedia Fountain. We were treated to a water fountain show accompanied by lights and an orchestra. We commemorated this awe-inducing experience by taking an EASP Summer School 2022 cohort portrait.
There were also opportunities for volunteerism. The cohort had meetings with Ukrainians who have been displaced because of the ongoing war with Russia. During these meetings, PhD students discussed a diverse range of topics as a cross-cultural learning experience. The Summer School also included a formal talk where Ukrainian academics spoke to the impact of the war on their well-being and research. On a somber note, they highlighted how younger academics—mostly PhD students—are being conscripted to join the army, and the grave implications of such conscription.
Developing an actionable research proposal was one of the goals for PhD students participating in the program. Each workshop, therefore, split up into research groups of 3 to 5. On the last day of the school, there was a showcase where research groups from the five workshops presented their proposals. This showcase allowed the cohort to learn about what others had been working on for the two weeks of summer school.
After the closing ceremony, the cohort and instructors gathered at the cabana Za-zoo ("behind-the-zoo") overlooking the Odra River for a farewell party. Not only did we dance until the closing of Za-zoo as it rained, but we afterwards explored the nightlife of Wroclaw.
Representing SPSP at EASP's 2022 Summer School not only enabled social and professional connections, but it also exposed me to different experimental designs, and pedagogical philosophies. The fondest memories are the informal ones: if it was hearing seasoned instructors talk about the anxiety and imposter syndrome they experienced in graduate school, how my fellow German, Japanese, and French peers learned and still understand colonisation and structural oppression (the Holocaust, the war of Chinese people's resistance against Japanese aggression, the Algerian War respectively) over perogies, or the shared collegial "summer camp" feeling, returning from the town square at 2 AM and knowing we had to meaningfully contribute to workshop discussions in the morning, these memories are ladened with a sense of community.
I consider it an honor and an unforgettable perspective-broadening experience representing SPSP and learning from a well-rounded cohort and instructors.