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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Like a prom dress

I'm off tomorrow to a conference. Although it's hard to imagine that it could surpass that October conference (it certainly can't beat its location), this one is always a ton of fun and I'm really looking forward to it.

This particular conference was the first that I attended as a graduate student, and it was nothing like what I had expected. I had expected to be ill at ease the entire time: no one to talk to at the receptions, peppered with impossible questions after my paper, and generally disregarded as all the real scholars hung out with the other real scholars. I was also irrationally afraid that my advisor--who wasn't going that year, but who knew many of the attendees--was going to hear about whatever horribly embarrassing thing I wound up doing.

Instead, I met some of the most passionate, enthusiastic, and unjaded scholars I've yet to encounter--people generous of their time, eager to see each other, sure, but also eager to meet anyone new working on their subject. At the very first reception one long-time member of the organization wandered over with her glass of wine and said, "So, how ARE you?" with such ease that I was convinced she had me mistaken for someone she actually knew. The entire conference was like that: lots of papers, lots of enthusiastic discussion of those papers, but an almost equal amount of socializing, silliness, singing, and drinking. It was, in many ways, like the very best parts of grad school.

It was also the first intimation that I'd had that academia might be something other than the competitive and hierarchical place it seemed to me from my years at INRU. These scholars were not, in many cases, at the most impressive institutions--and those who were at name-brand schools weren't condescending to those who weren't--but they had good lives. They'd written books I'd read and admired. They took everyone seriously, even lowly grad student me. I left the conference feeling loved--and feeling equally certain that I had to go back.

And I have, every year.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:22 AM |


Blogger Dr. Mon commented at 12:29 PM~  

Very cool. Enjoy yourself! I'm still searching for "that" conference I'll actually enjoy year after year.

Anonymous What Now? commented at 1:16 PM~  

How wonderful that sounds -- academia at its best! Like Mon, I'm still searching for that conference that I'll ejoy every year. There is a wonderful small conference that I've gone to twice, but it's outside my discipline, so I can only go when I've got a project that I can twist convincingly to fit the conference's discipline. But I do so every chance I get!

Blogger Prof. Me commented at 9:38 PM~  

You're very lucky to have a conference in your field that is so fulfilling. I view going to conferences as a chore -- I have not enjoyed a single one in my discipline. They're overcrowded, filled with negativity, and unwelcoming to graduate students. I'm glad to hear that not all conferences are like that!

Blogger Sfrajett commented at 11:33 AM~  

Why can't academia be like this more often? It's the best part.

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