The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Student Profiles

Sean Gill

Project title: Transitions to adulthood: young Poles' experiences of migration  and life in Northumberland

Supervisors: Professor Alison Stenning & Professor Peter Hopkins (of Newcastle University) and Jane Walker (of Northumberland County Council)

Cluster Affiliation: Geographies of Social Change

During my undergraduate studies I worked at a hotel in Otterburn, rural Northumberland. It was here that I became interested in the lives of Polish migrants who lived and worked within the village. In 2004, eight post-socialist countries joined the European Union enabling their populations to legally move to the UK. Substantial numbers of Poles now live across Britain, becoming the most widely spread of all migrant groups. The 2011 census found 625,000 Poles living in Britain. While many regions have a long experience of integrating new arrivals into the community, for others, including rural areas, this may have been an entirely new experience.

Many accounts of migration from eastern Europe to the UK have been negative, focusing on the number of people arriving and the potential impact this movement might have on resources such as education and health, especially in those regions without the experience or infrastructure to manage. Increasingly, research focusing on this new migration (including questions of family, belonging, livelihood strategies, gender roles, migration networks and cultures, transnationalism, integration and return migration) has developed a clearer and more nuanced picture, but still very little attention has been paid to the perspectives of the young people who migrated with parents and carers.

Through an exploration of the lives and aspirations of young Poles (aged 16-25) growing up in the towns and villages of Northumberland, my research focuses on young Polish migrants’ transitions to adulthood and the geographies of these transitions, exploring how their experiences of migration and life in the UK shape the nature and geography of these transitions. Experiences of parenting, education, work, family, housing, friendship and leisure can all shape transitions to adulthood. I will explore the young Poles’ aspirations and feelings about their future education and work lives, and the geographies of these. Transitions to adulthood are always complicated and complex; the experiences for migrant youth is ever more complicated, connected to a very particular set of experiences and geographies that my research seeks to explore.

As a result, my project aims to explore the transitions to adulthood of young Poles in Northumberland and how these shape, and are shaped by, both experiences of migration and life in Northumberland. My research objectives are:

  • to investigate the everyday geographies and senses of belonging of young Poles’ in Northumberland
  • to explore the role and influence of young Poles’ family, social and support networks
  • to explore young Poles’ choices, aspirations and feelings about their future education and work lives

Email Sean for further information.