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Sociology of Education and Science Laboratory in Kaluga!

The big day has finally come! With suitcases in their hands and trembling hearts in their chests, the team of Sociology of Education and Science Laboratory and a group of sociology students have started their journey to Kaluga Oblast to study rural settlements and life of local adolescents.

HSE provides a lot of opportunities for students who want to take part in various research projects. This year a group of 14 students of second, third and fourth year undergraduates together with some graduates and researchers from Sociology of Education and Science Laboratory are heading to a small village called ´Gorki´ situated right next to a town called Kondrovo. For several years now, our Moscow campus has been implementing a programme called ´Rediscovering Russia´, funding student research expeditions to various regions of Russia on a competitive basis. This year Saint Petersburg is taking part in this initiative as well.

The official name of our expedition is: ‘Adolescents in small Russian towns and in the rural area’.We have chosen this particular region due to the fact that for a period time our laboratory has been collecting data about schools in Kaluga and its surroundings. Together with the project called ‘Teacher for Russia’we have conducted two waves of survey focusing on bullying, attitude towards school and teachers and engagement in studies. Now we are going to enrich our quantitative data with qualitative interpretations. We will be collecting data using such methods as interview and observation.

Our interviews with pupils, teachers and locals will focus on several topics. First of all, we are interested in aggressive and riskbehaviours of adolescents. We will speak about cases of bullying, alcohol and nicotine use. Secondly, a big part of it will be dedicated to schools and especially the causes and consequences of interschool and intraschool segregation. We are interested in the structure of relationships between pupils and schools in small towns and rural areas, and whether the social mechanisms detected in big cities will work here as well.

The third topic that is relevant to our research is social media and online games, due to the fact that some of us are working in the field of social informatics. It is important for us to speak to adolescents about the social networks they use, as well the role online communications has in their life. Analysis of quantitative data revealed a connection between the socioeconomic status of the family and the popularity of online games amongst adolescents. Now our task is to explain this finding using interviews. Besides the topics that we have already mentioned above we are also interested in the social structure in towns and villages, because being aware of the local social context helps a great deal.

We have done a tremendous amount of work before the expedition! First, we got to know Kaluga oblast: studied its economics, transport system, checked out the latest news. To be able to see it all through the prism of sociological knowledge we read and discussed articles, and listened to reports and presentation dedicated to the subject of our future study. Together we created a very detailed guide including questions on all of our research topics. Of course, it is quite impossible to cover the 30 square kilometers of Kaluga oblast on foot within two weeks. Therefore, we have selected particular places where we will look for schools and pupils.

Our sociological summer is about to begin, and we are ready to go! Do not be appalled by the word ‘expedition’ – ours has nothing to do with swamps and tents! We will stay in a village near Kondrovo, residing in wonderful little houses, fully equipped with all the modern conveniences. Every morning a team of young sociologists will head to a new town or village to look for respondents and interview them. Every evening we will discuss our findings with senior colleagues and reflect on our impressions and thoughts in observation diaries. We will be back in two weeks with an experience of a real field expedition, feeling happy to prove ourselves useful both to science and our beloved HSE.

To prevent everyone from thinking that we are being lazy, or from worrying about us too much, we will constantly keep you updated. You can see how the expedition is going in our Laboratory group in VKontakte (https://vk.com/slon_hse).We have also created an Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/kalugasociology/) toshare our excitement and friendly atmosphere.

The official hashtag of our trip is #slonvkaluge.We will keep you updated on our adventures every day. Stay tuned!