English Graduate Students Kaitlin and Emily recently were able to experience a true milestone in their academic career: their first conference. The two spoke on different panels at the University of Rhode Island 2011 Graduate Conference: [Pre]Occupations: Working, Siezing, Delling. Emily presented her paper “A Crisis of Identity: Hybridity in Nervous Conditions and District 9” on the panel centered on Post-Colonial Consciousness: Hybridity, Desire, and Nationalism, and Kaitlin presented her paper, “Defamiliarizing the Stereotype in Andrew X. Pham’s Catifsh and Mandala” for the panel where she was placed. “I felt more comfortable about going to the conference after doing our mini-conferences for African Literature last semester with Prof. Palecanda. The conference was much smaller than I had planned, so it wasn’t overwhelming at all,” says Kaitlin when asked if it was daunting to go to her first conference. “The label “conference” sounds much scarier than it is. I didn’t realize how prepared I was just from doing presentations in front of classes in the past, and that was all this really was.”
Graduate Student Emily shares that she felt slightly more nervous, but got over that initial fear: “I was pretty nervous to begin with. All I could do was practice my presentation, and, since I was using technology (Power Point and video) I could only hope that my visual media would work smoothly– there is always the chance that something won’t work correctly! I did get to sit in on Kaitlin’s presentation (she was in the first round), and she did great, so that helped my nerves a bit. ” Both also agreed that the atmosphere was more than welcoming of new students within the conference with Kaitlin saying “it felt like school except everyone was in business attire.” Both also explained that, although there were many questions on the panel, the audience was appreciative and respectful of the presenters.
The conference also allowed the two to grow as scholars and view the presentations on others’ papers. Both went to each other’s panels, but Kaitlin explains an experience when on her own panel: “A person who was part of my panel spoke about how Israel came to be formed as a result of the Holocaust and the various movements that took place in Jews’ attempts to create a new nation and identity after the Holocaust. I found this to be really interesting, and it was a history lesson for me being that I know more about Judaism and the Holocaust than I do about Zionism.”
As for advice to other students, both focused on being prepared but also unafraid of giving submissions. Emily explains her own experience: I was really suprised at the range of presentation topics that fit in to the conference topic, so I guess I would say do not feel like your paper has to fit a conference’s guidelines spot-on. At least with this conference, it seems like they were very open to different interpretations and subjects on the theme of [pre]occupations. My only other advice would be that if you are accepted to a conference and have the means to attend, do it! It is worth it, and you will be thankful for the experience.”
In the end, both would like to thank Dean Shaw of the School of Arts and Humanities for the funding to go to the conference at URI in the first place, and will be sure to keep an eye on calls for papers in the future.
For any students looking towards upcoming conferences, information can be found on this blog or at http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/category/all.