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Part 2: A young researcher in the local community

In the past months, Communication and Information Sciences (CIW) students from the University of Groningen (RUG) have been conducting research on social cohesion and communication in Groningen's Schilderswijk. They did not do this alone: ​​the research was set up together with residents, the municipality of Groningen, social work, students and teachers. In this blog series we highlight the story about the research in the Schilderswijk from different angles. This time: What does it mean to be a student ambassador for such a project? Bianca Andrei talks about her experiences.

By: Kim Dumoré & Bianca Andrei

Campagne poster SSST!
Campagne poster SSST!

At the beginning of September, about a hundred students of Communication and Information Sciences started the Questionnaire and Interview Design course. They made a survey for this course to map the underlying experiences with regard to nuisance in the Schilderswijk. Student Bianca Andrei also started the course at the beginning of this academic year. Bianca came from Romania to study here together with other international students and has little contact with local residents. Participating in a practical study like this was an excellent opportunity for her to discover Groningen in a different way. She signed up as a student ambassador and represented the group of students during meetings with residents and the municipality, among other things.

The students looked at questionnaires from an academic perspective and how their formulation and design can influence the outcome. “Do you generally like living in this neighborhood?” elicits a different answer than “Do you ever experience dissatisfaction in this neighborhood?”, while both are about living experiences in the neighborhood. The students also looked at scales and the structure of answer options. Later, these students went door to door to distribute the survey to ultimately process the results.

But what exactly does this survey have to do with the Schilderswijk? The municipality is curious about the effectiveness of a communication campaign that started in August in the neighborhood to combat noise pollution. Want to know more about this campaign and the history of this project? Read the previous blog about this project by Vincent Hazelhoff of the Science Shop Language, Culture and Communication.

Getting started as a student ambassador

At the start of the project, Vincent made contact with teacher Yfke Ongena, who saw a great opportunity for students to apply their skills in practice through this project. “The teacher set the tone at the start of the course with her enthusiasm for combining classroom knowledge with real-life experiences,” says Bianca, “I was looking forward to participating in a large-scale, social initiative ."

Bianca decided that she would like to be more involved in this project. “The project is not only about measuring the effects of this communication campaign,” she explains, “it is also about identifying the underlying human relationships and interactions in the neighborhood.” And so she became a student ambassador together with fellow students Jone Hamburg and Cato Bootsma. They attended the meetings, contributed ideas and later designed the flyers that the students used when they went door to door.

During the first meeting with the research council, Bianca got to know the other stakeholders: local residents, municipal representatives and the project coordinators of the university's Science Shop. Before the project, she was afraid that she would not understand the discussions because she does not speak Dutch herself. Fortunately, her concerns were addressed during the first consultation. “Both Yfke and Vincent, the supervisor from the Science Shops, played a crucial role by providing translations, which allowed me to actively participate in the discussions,” says Bianca, “My fear of a possible language barrier turned out to be unnecessary and I quickly felt connected to the project.”

Door to door

The students have now conducted extensive research in the neighborhood. “Several families with children welcomed us warmly,” says Bianca, “and the children were always happy to see international students, curious about us and what we were doing.” Due to the personal aspect of the door-to-door approach, the interactions grew into meaningful conversations. According to Bianca, this enriched the research results and promoted a dynamic connection between students and residents.

Not all residents were waiting for groups of students at the door. Some groups found it difficult to obtain sufficient answers. While one resident warmly embraces interaction, another prefers other forms of involvement. “For me it emphasizes the importance of flexibility and adaptability when carrying out such practical research in a neighborhood,” says Bianca.

Feedback to the residents

The students have now spoken to around 600 residents and the results have been processed. On February 13, the students will present their results to those involved. “I would like to collaborate more with residents in research projects in the future,” says Bianca, “in this project I have experienced the power of an involved community and seen what is involved when theory and practice meet.”

Last modified:12 February 2024 5.20 p.m.
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