Courtesy of Louisa Weldy

The Michael J. Harum Memorial Award for Students of Slavic Languages enabled Louisa Weldy '23 to travel to Poland for her Polish immigration history research.

February 9, 2023

Students Lead Independent, International Projects Through Travel Grants

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This summer, Cornellians will venture across continents as they pursue a wide variety of international projects funded by the Department of Asian Studies and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

“We not only aim at giving our students scholarly knowledge and understanding of the region, but we are also committed to creating opportunities for in-country learning,” wrote Chiara Formichi, director of undergraduate studies for Asian studies, in an email to The Sun about travel grants. “Our grants are quite capacious, allowing students to travel for research, service learning and study in any country across Asia.”

Cornell’s traditional study abroad programs are typically associated with a pre-designed curriculum and require students to pay Cornell tuition. On the other hand, Einaudi Center’s grants provide students with a greater degree of autonomy in developing ideas that they are passionate about. From international collaboration to site or archive visits, the personal interests of students are addressed with greater specificity. 

Louisa Weldy ’23 explored Polish immigration history for her research project. Her paper, “The Impacts of Brexit on Polish Migration Trends” was awarded funding through the Michael J. Harum Memorial Award for Students of Slavic Languages. 

“The biggest implication Brexit has had on migration is freedom of movement,” Weldy said, citing the findings of her research project. “When [Poland] was a part of the EU, movement from country to country was easier for people, whether that was for education or careers. Non-Brits, especially Poles, have faced cases of harassment after the [Brexit] vote.”

According to Weldy, who is interested in labor and migration as an ILR student, the flexibility of the grant allowed her to pursue a project that had both academic and personal significance to her. 

“My family lived [in the United Kingdom] for eight years, and my mom immigrated there from Poland,” she said, having studied Polish immigration fluctuations in the UK. “I would go all the time when I was a kid, and it was interesting to see how much has changed.”

Weldy used the award to travel to the Museum of Emigration in the city of Gdynia, which was central in developing the conclusions in her research project. 

“I found it really helpful to see [Poland’s] history of migration, and see how that might be similar to movements now post-Brexit,” Weldy said. 

Weldy’s project exemplifies a goal of the travel grants — encouraging students to execute more complex international projects. 

“These students are exceptional, self-driven undergraduates who want to add to their coursework knowledge by designing their own research projects and collecting evidence during their European trip,” wrote Patricia Young, program manager of Einaudi’s Institute of European Studies, in a statement to The Sun.

The Institute of European Studies offers undergraduate funding through the Michael J. Harum Memorial Award, the Susan Tarrow Fellowship and the Frederic Conger Wood Fellowship. 

Julia Pienkowska ’23, recipient of the Frederic Conger Wood Research Fellowship, spent her grant taking courses at Jagiellonian University and conducting research in Krakow, Poland for her project “Catholicism and the Rise of Populism in Poland.”

“I had written a paper on the rise of populism in modern Poland in a class on post-socialist societies,” Pienkowska said. “I found the topic interesting and wanted to study it further.”

Pienkowska, who is Polish-American, said she used the grant to lead an independent study diving deeper into her paper and learn about contemporary issues in her parent’s country.

“I learned a lot speaking to my instructors, tour guides and locals,” she said, having visited cultural sites in Krakow and Zakopane.

“Pick a topic you’re truly interested in and start working on your project ahead of time,” Pienkowska advised students interested in applying to Einaudi grants. 

Weldy, who learned about the opportunity from Prof. Ewa Bachminska, romance studies, said it is important to connect with professors. 

“A recommendation letter from such a faculty member who is familiar with the student’s research plan is also part of the application,” Patricia Young wrote. “We recommend forging a research-related relationship with a professor as early as possible, so that they can be able to help and to comment on the student’s abilities and feasibility of the project.”

Some opportunities, such as the Einaudi’s Southeast Asia Program Engaged Travel Grant, require well-developed project plans. 

“We always encourage students to reach out to their faculty and the DUS [Director of Undergraduate Studies] to discuss their ideas before submitting their proposals,” Formichi wrote about the Asian Studies grant. 

The deadline for for both awards is March 31. 

Beyond independent research funding, Einaudi Center also offers Global Summer Internships, which have been open to students since 2015. All interns receive funding totaling at least $3,000 for airfare, transportation, and living expenses. 

“These internships help our students to build international relationships, broaden their perspectives and understand their own work through the lens of a large and interconnected world,” wrote Kristin M. Ramsay, manager of undergraduate international experiences, in a statement to the Sun.

Both Weldy and Pienkowska expressed their hope for students to take advantage of such opportunities to develop new ideas and embark on an adventure. 

As Weldy said, “I would consider what interests you, as the grants are very flexible, and you really can pursue anything you want.”

Correction, Feb. 10, 12:34 p.m.: A previous version of this article did not clarify the difference between the Department of Asian Studies travel grants and the Einaudi Center’s travel grants. This article has been corrected to make a distinction between the two types of grants.