Research ups & downs (but mostly ups)

Yesterday I met the researcher at the Université Québec à Montréal (UQAM) I had contacted last fall. His name is Robert Vallerand, and he has been studying motivation, passion, and other constructs related to positive psychology and social behaviors for about 30 years. I ran across some of his articles when working on my literature review for my study. He very generously agreed to collaborate and share his expertise with me. You can read more about his research lab here.

Bob’s assistant, Ariane, also has been very gracious, even getting me keys for office space and wifi access. Today, I got to sit in on a lab meeting for Bob’s research team. I was greeted via email this morning with the following meeting reminder: “Bonjour à tous, Un petit rappel pour le lab meeting aujourd’hui à 11h30. À tantôt!” I think I like appointment reminders better when they’re in French. 

The team members, consisting of a couple of undergrad students and about four grad students, plus Bob and Ariane, shared their research projects, all of which relate to passion. We had fruitful discussions of how harmonious and obsessive passion connect with meaning in life (my topic), and it was a great experience to exchange ideas. Bob encouraged me to look into presenting my research at the next European Network for Positive Psychology conference, which will be in Angers, France, in 2016. (This was before he knew I was there last month, or that we are contemplating how to get there with students in 2016, so I was blown away by the connection!)

Anyway, the people here have been wonderful – part of the “ups” of doing research in another country. My timing, however, is part of the “downs” as there is a student strike now at UQAM. Needless to say, this makes finding research participants a challenge. Not all sections of this large university (~40,000 students) are striking, and I don’t know the details (Google them), but many students are participating, including most psychology students. Therefore, I cannot go into a couple of classes and get my surveys done efficiently.

The research team helped me brainstorm about alternatives, and today I was successful in getting 22 student surveys at a food court on campus! (My goal at each site is 30, though this likely will not be possible in Haiti…I’ll worry about that next month.) I’d like to have some adults outside the 18-22 age range too, so tomorrow I will go to Place des Arts and Complexes Desjardins, a cultural and shopping area, complete with more food courts. It pushes me outside my comfort zone to approach people in French to ask them about completing my surveys, but I figure the worst they can do is say “no” (and think I’m a bit strange).

After my research day was done, I walked about 1.5 miles to the more “French” part of the city, hoping to be reminded of Paris un petit peu. Mais non…pas aujourd’hui. I did find a Starbucks and Gap though (please read the sarcasm in that statement). The French language is more prevalent here than I expected, but the French influence in other ways is not as present as I had hoped. Still, I’m so glad to be here and am learning a lot. It’s such a good experience to go to new cultures as many lessons await.


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