Monday, August 10, 2015

Jessica Lile is originally from Indianola, Iowa and currently a senior at the University of Iowa. She plans to graduate this spring with a major in international studies and minors in Arabic, global health, and writing. Jessica spent 6 weeks this summer conducting research in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on a Stanley Award for International Research for her project titled, "Tobacco, Media, and Adolescent Smoking." In the future, she hopes to take her experience further and pursue a graduate degree in occupational and environmental health with the University of Iowa College of Public Health. 


In front of Peles Castle

At the Electric Castle music festival

By Jessica Lile

The time I spent in Romania this summer was absolutely fantastic. From the people I met to the experiences I had, to the research I conducted, I would change nothing. 

From June 1 to July 17, I was in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, gathering data on my research project entitled, ‘Tobacco, Media, and Adolescent Smoking.’

In Romania, smoking has a high rate of social acceptance and is common across the country. Although the Romanian government has made efforts to reduce smoking through legislation and education, smoking rates among adults aged 15 and older have remained at around 30% (Loubeau, 2013), which is almost double the rate seen in the US.

For my research, I examined exposure of adolescents to pro- and anti-tobacco information in Cluj-Napoca, Romania as well as the locations of places where tobacco products could be purchased in relation to their schools.

This experience taught me a lot about all the aspects of research, from coming up with an idea and a plan, to developing methodology, to data collection and writing a report.

I plan to take all that I have learned throughout this process and apply it to future academic projects including graduate school in Public Health.

Upon my arrival in Romania, I met with my mentor, Alexandra Brinzaniuc, to discuss my project, my goals, and how I wanted to go about data collection. Under her guidance, I refined my original proposal to have a more concrete objective and created an observation guide to help standardize data collection in the field.

While I was looking for some measurable data such as the number of stores around schools that sold tobacco and their distances from each school, I was also interested in recording other observations and data that was less well-defined.

Alexandra and I also developed a plan for data collection and analysis, and with the assistance of an intern at the Cluj School of Public Health, I was able to collect all of my data, draw field maps of the areas around schools, and record information about advertisements and age restriction signs printed in Romanian.

While in Cluj-Napoca, I was also able to start with some preliminary analysis of my data and come up with an outline and timeline for a finished paper.

Working out of the office of the Cluj School of Public Health was a great experience because it allowed me to meet local, like-minded people who knew a lot more about the research process than I did. I learned and accomplished a lot both personally and academically while having tons of fun at the same time.

While in Romania, I was able to visit historic sites like medieval castles and forts - things we just do not have in the US.

The city of Cluj-Napoca has a beautiful downtown district and was named the European Youth Capital of 2015, so there were always events throughout the city every weekend and most week days. Additionally, the atmosphere of Cluj was very lively but relaxed. 

A good example of this was taking a stroll through the large city park near the downtown district with a pond, vendors, live music, and people hanging out in hammocks almost every day. Cluj is also a very good city for college students because it is cheap, safe, and friendly.

This experience has been amazing and it would not have been possible without the help of the Stanley Grant and the guidance of both Dr. Christopher Squier and Alexandra.

I learned so much while coming up with interesting information. It fits into my educational goals because I am interested in Global/Public Health and this gave me real-world knowledge about the inner-workings of research and other aspects in this field.

 In my final year as an undergraduate student, I plan to apply to the University of Iowa College of Public Health to pursue my Masters in Occupational and Environmental Health. Conducting research in Romania this summer solidified this goal for me and gave me a greater understanding of Public Health as a whole.

In the future, I hope to work in Public Health to improve environmental health at both a local and a global level. I am interested in making cities healthier and safer as well as preserving and improving environmental conditions in both urban and rural areas. 

Find out more information about the Stanley Graduate and Undergraduate Awards for International Research, funded in part by the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization.