I finally made it to EUROCALL! This year’s conference, EUROCALL2018, was held in Jyväskylä, Finland. Check this video if you are not sure how to pronounce Jyväskylä. I had a good time at EUROCALL2018 and here are the details why.
The Nightmare of Visa Application Ended Happily!
My UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 physically (here is the link to the story: https://parisamehran.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/denied-yet-present-at-eurocall-2017-a-memoir/). If you have a powerful passport, I invite you to read my blogpost (please click here) on the nightmare of conference visa applications, which are very complicated for scholars who are from the Global South (yes, I dislike the term “developing countries” because outside Iran I realized that people are from the so-called “developed countries”, however, their behaviors are truly under-developed!).
I Educated Myself on How to Survive at Academic Conferences!
One of my Twitter friends introduced me to Raewyn Connell’s series, titled Survive and Thrive at an Academic Conference: A Guide for Beginners, in Five Outbursts and a Couch, about a week before the conference.
Finally, someone has said: “Academic conferences can be hard to decode, even alienating“, “cliques form, and ignore or exclude outsiders”, “you can have toxic experiences: harassment, bullying, or other aggression”, and I could not stop reading this paragraph:
‘Border protection’ by governments often excludes leftists, Muslims, and intellectuals from societies in conflict. I was at one conference in a rich white-majority country where a keynote speaker arrived, was seized by immigration police at the airport, and immediately deported – strange to tell, a woman of colour. Heroically she managed to give the keynote address by Skype.
After finishing reading the series, I googled and found more resources on this topic and the following part from a blogpost, titled Advice for Attending Academic Conferences (For Scholars on the Margins), is close to my heart:
We must be honest about the additional concerns and burdens of conferences and interacting with other scholars in general—the external burdens of microaggressions, harassment, stereotyping, disrespect and the internal burdens of self-doubt, mental health problems, and fear — for scholars on the margins.
I Decided to Apply the Lessons I Learned the Hard Way!
In 2014, I obtained the Japanese Government Scholarship and am now doing my PhD in Japan. I realized in the first few days of living in Japan that there are certain stereotypes about the Middle East, especially about Iran my homeland. Attending conferences has gradually become alienating and I always feel the tension in the air as all the micro/macroaggressions that I am experiencing on a daily basis have made me acutely aware of the inequities imposed by the intersection of race, gender, and physical appearance (please check this blog where I record my ouch moments: https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/). Therefore, the question of “how should I look” is recently always with me!
I Attended Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning Workshop!
You can find my notes at the following tweet:
That was a great start, because if you know Teresa, you can imagine how welcoming her session was ❤
I Was the Virtually Connecting On-Site Buddy!
Last year, Virtually Connecting connected me to EUROCALL2017 and this year I was the on-site buddy! Check this link to watch the recordings:
I Became Friends with Two Like-Minded EUROCALL First Timers!
She is a CALL enthusiast and doing her PhD on MALL and Vocabulary Learning at the University of Cambridge.
She is a linguist and doing her PhD on Computational Linguistics at University of Konstanz.
We had deep conversations about feeling marginalized at academia and explored EUROCALL2018 together, especially the parties which are the hardest parts of conferences to attend!
My Voice Got Heard and I Won the Best PhD Student Poster Award!
I stood beside my poster the whole day and I presented it to more than 50 people because I believe my story is the story of many scholars who are from the Global South and should be heard.
Here is the link to the poster:
My Allies Were Around!
On-site allies (in alphabetical order):
- Sahar Alzahrani
- Kate Borthwick
- Mark Donnellan
- Mirjam Hauck
- Kym Jolley
- Teresa Mackinnon
- Louise Ohashi
- Shannon Sauro
- Michelle Stannard
- Richmond Stroupe
- Victoria Willingale
- Sarah Winspear
- Mari Yamauchi
Online allies (in alphabetical order):
- Maha Bali
- Martina Emke
- Simon Ensor
- Helen DeWaard
I Dispelled Stereotypes!
At the dinner party, one of Japan-based colleagues approached me and asked:
-“Are you allowed to dance?”
I just said, “yeah” because he was drunk.
When he saw me the next day, he came to me and said:
-“Oh, you took it off!” (pointing to my head. He meant my headscarf.)
-“Because I am allowed to do whatever I want!”
-“Yeah, you want to get some sun.”
-“No, because I am proving my humanity!”
He laughed, did not say anything, and left.
Here is the link to the blogpost of this story:
For the record, here is a photo of me from EUROCALL2015 held in Padova, Italy.
BTW, have you ever changed your physical appearance to be treated fairly at conferences? If yes, please leave a comment.
I Received the Nicest Comment Ever!
Talking to Shannon Sauro about my challenges, she said this at the end of our conversion:
You are an activist!
It Was My Birthday!
August 25th is my birthday and I received the best birthday present ever: The EUROCALL2018 Poster Award 🙂
In conclusion, I would like to share my experiences which might be used as advice for marginalized scholars. The things I wish I had known before becoming a conference goer:
- I do not add people that I meet at conferences on Facebook.
- I sometimes follow people on Twitter or LinkedIn. Recently, I have decided to not follow the big names. If I have the chance to get to know them, which means they are approachable, I’ll definitely follow them on social media but still do not add them on Facebook.
- I do not say hi to everyone (this is so hard because greeting is a huge part of my culture and I need to remind myself all the time not to say hi!).
- I do keep smiling! 🙂
- I do not take the initiative to socialize with people, especially at the so-called “networking” events. If people want to communicate, they come to me.
- I spend most of my time with first timers. Most of the time they are willing to communicate even when they do not belong to minority groups.
- I find marginalized fellow scholars and socialize with them.
- I do not take photos with keynote speakers, big names, or people I do not know.
- I watch inspiring speeches by women before the conferences. This is my favorite: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/07/oprah-winfrey-nmaahc-exhibit-opens-sot.cnn
- I hold my head high, feel proud of who I am, and I walk into a room, just as cool as you please! 😉
I am sure I’ll update this list as I get more experience. Please leave a comment if you would like to add to the list.