10,500 miles travelled; 1000 laughs; 42 social psychology doctoral students; 7 days; 7 teachers; 3 streams; 1 awesome location. Combined with a whole lot of work and a whole lot of fun, this all adds up to an amazing experience.
Last week (early February 2014), I attended the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists’ (SASP) Summer School in the Blue Mountains, Australia. This was an exhausting – and amazing – week.
The European Association for Social Psychologists (EASP) has a bilateral agreement with SASP, providing scholarships for just 5 doctoral students in psychology at European Universities to attend each summer school. Signifying the diverse nature of Europe, students from five different countries were chosen: me, English and studying at Oxford; Maja Kutlaca, Serbian and studying at Groningen; Arin Ayanin, Lebanese and studying at St Andrews; Malgorzata Mikolajczak, Polish and studying at Warsaw; and Thekla Morgenroth, German and studying at Exeter.
The Summer School this year was held at the Hideaway Retreat in Wentworth Falls, a small town in the Australian Blue Mountains. To say that this place was beautiful is perhaps an understatement. Located in the mountains, we had stunning views across them, with the changing light and weather coming together to create a seemingly endless series of different views. Sometimes it seemed that every time I sat and looked over the view while having breakfast or reading, I was looking at a different scene. I can certainly understand why people love the Blue Mountains.
The Hideaway Retreat was wonderful, with beautiful views from the bedrooms, a pool, and a wonderful collection of hens and very vocal roosters. The staff were wonderfully helpful, with the family’s young children being a particular cute-factor. Perhaps the real hidden star of the location, however, was the elusive big white dog Tundra: an energetically friendly and beautiful dog that would come out occasionally to be petted.
When we applied to the school, we applied to one of three streams that we would work in for the week. I was in the ‘Social Identity and Collective Action’ stream, taught by the fantastic duo of Andrew Livingstone and Emma Thomas. For the first few days, we spent most of our time in groups discussing critically work on social identity theory and collective action, providing – at least for me – a number of insights into this work and consolodiating my understanding of it immeasurably.
In the latter part of the week we were split into smaller groups, where I worked with Zoe Walter, Helena Radke, and Piyarat Thampitak on a project looking at externally imposed identities. In this we formulated a research project that we hope to run where we aim to explore how an externally imposed devalued identity that is different to an individual self-categorization affects an individual’s psychological well-being and identity. In particular, we aim to examine how power shapes the formation of identities: how does power affect whether people internalize or reject an imposed identity?”
This was a great experience, and working with three such intelligent people on this led – again – to me having a much better understanding of current gaps in the social identity and collective action literature, as well as providing some very important and general principles about research design and formulation of research ideas.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. Perhaps just as importantly was the opportunity to make real and lasting friendships with other young social psychologists – a task in which I think I succeeded. It was an inspiring experience to be with a collection of such bright minds, and I think I have made some real friendships. We had a lot of fun – often facilitated by drinks and the game of ‘Werewolf’ (‘Mafia’) – a game which social psychologists seem to love. I can’t think why.
Overall, this was a fantastic week: if any of the other attendees are reading this: thank you!