Annika’s Conference Experience

Annika enjoys exploring new places and settings, such as the Dikes of Courage conference.

After our recap-posts of the two conference days, all of the panels, our team’s presentations in more detail, and two interviews with Teresa Botelho and Jeanne Theoharis, it is time to get personal. The Dikes of Courage conference was a special experience on many levels. Steffi and I asked each other the same four questions in short interviews, to give you a better understanding of our personal experience of the Dikes of Courage conference. Steffi’s answers can be found here.

Steffi: What was your favorite part or aspect of the conference?

Annika: The conference in general was a very rewarding experience. I left with a long reading list and an even more extensive list in my head of topics to think about and ideas to ponder on. Especially the panels that discussed topics I had never heard of before, were the ones I liked best. For example Susana Costa’s talk on the Scurlock photostudio or Francis Gourrier’s presentation on the husbands of Civil Rights Movement activists. My favorite aspect of the conference was, therefore, definitely learning about all of these new topics and possibly doing more research on some of them in the future.

How was it to be part of the documentation team?

Attending the conference as part of the doc team was fun, because we could really get immersed in the whole conference-experience, without a pending presentation in the back of our heads. It was a comfortable spot to be in, especially since it was our first conference. I very much enjoy writing and interviewing people, so this blog was a great possibility for me to get involved. I do plan on presenting at the next conference I am attending, though, simply because watching everyone present, and seeing the audience react in a very interested and engaged manner, made me more confident going forward in my academic career, and convinced me to take the next step and present my own research.

What is your main takeaway from the conference?

My main takeaway is that there are so many interesting topics out there, that can be explored within the field of American studies. And that I should try to find a topic like that; one that makes me excited about doing research. Often, I restrict the topics I write about to the ones discussed or suggested in class. Witnessing all of the interesting and innovative presentations at the Dikes of Courage conference made me more excited for research and for the remaining time of my degree. American studies cover amazing topics, if you only know where to look!

Any tips for other students attending a conference for the first time?

Communication is key! Try to talk to as many people as you can. As first-time conference-goers we were really lucky, because the Dikes of Courage conference was so small. I kept seeing the same people in almost every panel. And everyone, even senior scholars, seemed very approachable. I had some lovely conversations over coffee and pasteis de nata in between the presentations.
My second suggestion is to simply gather courage and sign up for a conference. You do not even have to present. Just choose a conference you are interested in and listen to other scholars present their ideas and research. I can promise you, it will be a rewarding experience and maybe even lead you being one of the panellists one day.

I am very glad that my first conference-experience went so well. And even though the documentation-part was a lot of fun, I am looking forward to being on the presenting side of a conference next time. Dikes of Courage made me even more motivated and excited, going into the remaining three semesters of my Master’s degree, and for that I am very grateful.

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