An Inside Look at Research Abroad: Q&A with Kayla, Saint Olaf College

Kayla is currently a Research Assistant for the Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Organ Removal project. She works alongside her mentor and DIS Faculty Member, Polina Smiragina. Polina is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney and a Visiting Scholar at Stockholm University.

Kayla and Polina examine organ donation policies and the demand for illegal organ transplants in Denmark and Sweden.

For Kayla’s 3-credit Research Assistantship, she collects data through interviews, observations, and documentary research. She will also present her research at the End of Semester Showcase on December 10.

We checked in with Kayla about why she decided to do research at DIS and how her experience, so far, has impacted her time abroad:

DIS: Why did you decide to pursue research this semester?

Kayla B: It’s rare to find a study abroad program that allows you to do research, so I was excited when I found out about the DIS research opportunities. I enjoy the work and it’s a great experience – working so closely with the professors on projects you might not have had the chance to work on otherwise.

DIS: Could you tell us a little bit about your research project?

KB: We are aiming to look at the impact that Swedish and Danish regulations have on trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal (THBOR). Since there isn’t a lot of information on the topic, we have been trying to step back in time and look at the progression of ethics, health discussions, and laws on the topic to try to understand when THBOR started to become problematized and recognized as a crime. 

DIS: How does being abroad play into doing research?

KB: It really forces you to make your own deadlines and be independent but also work on effectively communicating with your mentor and other group members since you have limited time per week. I think it has been nice to be able to connect it with other topics I’m studying, for example, I related my research topic to my medical ethics class. I had to do a presentation and it was nice to be an ‘expert’ in the topic.

DIS: What is it like working with Polina?

KB: Polina is great! She has been so supportive and helpful. She makes sure that we get the information we need and makes sure we get the experience of setting up interviews with professionals.

DIS: How does this research compare to research at your home university?

KB: If I were back at my home university, I would probably be doing more research within a lab or through one of my classes. It has been nice being involved in more social science type research because it’s not something I would have been able to do – or even thought to do. It has been pushing me to use my research skills in different ways. Sometimes I even work with information that can get uncomfortable which I think is helping me grow significantly as a student.

Kayla and Polina creating a timeline of human trafficking cases across the world.

DIS: What advice would you give students considering doing research?

KB: I think if you’re considering it, you should apply whether or not you think you are ‘qualified’ because it’s a great learning experience. If you’ve done research or are thinking about it, it doesn’t hurt to try. You’ll learn valuable skills like time management, independence, communication, and how to present your work most effectively. I think the biggest thing is to take it seriously because it is a class, and a great learning opportunity. 

You’ll learn valuable skills like time management, independence, communication, and how to present your work most effectively.

>> Learn more about research opportunities at DIS Stockholm

>> Learn more about research opportunities at DIS Copenhagen

>> Find out more about Kayla’s research project

>> Check out Kayla’s Student Blog

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