If at some point in your academic career someone asks you to attend a conference and present your work, your response should always be, “Yes! Where do I sign up?”
I recently had this opportunity when I was asked to present my capstone project at a conference in Abu Dhabi. So I, along with three Emerson professors, traveled all the way from Boston to the United Arab Emirates, where I participated in the Cross-Cultural Communication Conference at Zayed University.
If you’re wondering why I flew 20+ hours, traveled over 6,000 miles, and worked endlessly in preparation just to give a brief, 15 minute presentation, then keep reading to learn why I think this experience is worthwhile.
Do it for the connections
Participating in a conference gives you the opportunity to meet researchers and professionals with similar interests. Establishing contacts helps to expand your network while making also increasing your recognition in the field. These connections have the potential to lead to job offers or valuable friendships, both which are resources for you at any stage in your career.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to learn from fascinating people about different communication applications. Professors from Australia, Hungary and South Africa discussed the topic of marketing and culture, while professionals from Japan and Kuwait talked about intercultural competency, and attendees from New Zealand and Egypt gave insights on the limitations of technology in communication. We also befriended a professor from Slovenia who invited us to her friend’s house in the middle of Liwa’s desert.
Do it for the pictures
Never underestimate the power of visiting new location; it opens your eyes and enriches your mind. While some conferences may be held in your hometown or a location you’ve been to before, there are those that bring you to new destinations and with them, new discoveries. As human beings, we tend to stay inside our comfort zones, but as we take chances in our lives and conquer the unfamiliar, we begin to build our self-confidence, especially when it comes to traveling to foreign countries and adapting to different cultures.
If it had not been for the Cross-Cultural Communication Conference, I probably never would have visited Abu Dhabi. This opportunity allowed me to discover a new culture and learn a great deal about the Middle East. Even though I struggled to communicate with others because of the language barrier, which made it difficult to figure out the public transportation system, the experience opened my eyes and mind to a different way of life.
Do it for professional growth
Conferences provide an avenue for professional development and growth. My experience at the Cross-Cultural Communication Conference allowed me to practice my presentation skills and further develop the expertise I needed to communicate my research in a clear and meaningful way. Learning how to answer specific questions and present to a diverse audience can also help you with other career endeavors, especially in today’s competitive job market. By participating in conferences, you are showing potential employers that you are committed to enhancing your skills and overall professional development.
Besides presenting your own research, conferences give you the opportunity to attend diverse panels and learn about cutting-edge programs and research. This can provide you with invaluable information that you can apply to your own research and/or your education.
Do it for “the feeling”
Once you’ve presented your research and results, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. Not only have you traveled miles away from home and conquered your fears, but you’ve also successfully presented your work before a well-established group of individuals. This is something to be incredibly proud of.
If my experience in Abu Dhabi tells you anything, it’s that you should never hesitate to participate in a conference and present your work. To learn about future conference opportunities like this one, talk to your professors—they are a great resource for your professional development! Also, Graduate Student Association (GSA) is a valuable asset, as they can help fund your trip with a Professional Development Grant.
I hope my experience will encourage you to seek out conference opportunities and present your own work. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did it!
Ana Matilde Cappellin is currently a graduate student in Emerson’s MA of Strategic Marketing Communications. She is enthusiastic about life, advanced kite surfer (even in the winter), recreational piano player, slow marathon runner, has a keen sense of humor and never settles with expected results. She graduated in Caracas, Venezuela from the Universidad Metropolitana in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology. She currently is the President of the Graduate Students Association and an Executive Member of the International Graduate Student Organization. She hopes to graduate in the Spring Semester of 2019.
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