Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018? Advice for Marginalized Scholars

Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018_ Advice for Women of Color Scholars

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.

1

Because:

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!).

Because:

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.

Because:

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!

2

Because:

I Attended Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning Workshop!

My EUROCALL2018 journey started with attending Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning workshop by Teresa Mackinnon and Niklas Laxström.

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 ❤

DlMKYdmW4AAVbpb

Because:

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:

http://virtuallyconnecting.org/blog/2018/08/05/virtually-connecting-at-eurocall2018/

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because:

I Became Friends with Two Like-Minded EUROCALL First Timers!

Danyang Zhang

She is a CALL enthusiast and doing her PhD on MALL and Vocabulary Learning at the University of Cambridge.

Image_ff9ec46

Jessica Zipf

She is a linguist and doing her PhD on Computational Linguistics at University of Konstanz.

Image_caf5e75

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!

Because:

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:

Because:

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because:

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.)

I replied:

-“Because I am allowed to do whatever I want!”

He said,

-“Yeah, you want to get some sun.”

I said:

-“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:

https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/are-you-allowed-to-dance/

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.

Picture1

Because:

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!

Because:

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:

awp-womens-caucus

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2C9f9vs

  • 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.

Peace ❤

Advertisements

Connecting to Puerto Rico through Augmented and Virtual Realities

This is the story about human connections, about caring, about planting seeds of hope, about changing the world.


Chapter 1: Visa Rejections

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

My UK visa got rejected three times and I could not physically attend EUROCALL2017. I think the world knows about my visa story, but I share the link here again, just in case:

Denied Yet Present at EUROCALL2017: A Memoir


Chapter 2: Helen DeWaard and VC

I got to know Helen DeWaard through Virtually Connecting (VC) through which I could virtually attend the conference.


Chapter 3: Antonio, Alan, and Postcards for Puerto Rico

After the conference, we stayed in touch on Twitter. She mentioned me in a tweet and introduce a a campaign of mailing postcards to Antonio Vantaggiato and his students, devised by Alan Levine, to say unlike Trump about using these hashtags  . You can read more about the details of the campaign here:

El Puente de Puerto Rico: A Bridge of Postcards by Alan Levine


Chapter 4: My Message

I wrote my message and sent it to Antonio and announced it to the world, and encouraged others to join the campaign.


Chapter 5: Connecting to Puerto Rico

Here are the tweets by Antonio and Alan after receiving my message. Antonio’s blogpost made my day:

I got mail from el Puente de Puerto Rico


Chapter 6: Podcast

I’d love to record one live while Alan is in Australia and interview Parisa Mehran, the author of the first postcard to arrive here, which carried the powerful message:

A woman who has to prove her humanity every day.

We want to talk humanity.

And we did and here are the links to the podcasts:

http://blogs.netedu.info/2017/11/15/podcast-puerto-rico-connection/

http://blogs.netedu.info/2017/12/16/prconnection-episode2/


Chapter 7: Elisabeth Fernandes

Elisabeth

Elisabeth is a great friend and I know her through JALT, . I talked to her about the campaign and she suggested that we could introduce it to our Japanese students and make a lesson pan on how to empathize in English.


Chapter 8: How Can I Change the World: Bookmarks for Puerto Rico

We chose bookmarks as an “educational” item on which our students could write encouraging messages in English, and which could then become a keepsake for the Puerto Rican students.

All about me_001

 

Through the use of virtual reality (VR), our students were able to “travel” to Puerto Rico to experience the devastating results of the hurricane. They were also able to explore the campus of the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón through 3D images.

 

Universidad del Sagrado Corazón 360 View


Chapter 9: Reconnecting to Puerto Rico

Here is Antonio present in our classes.

DQSC9qrUQAM_jGEDQSC9qsUEAIIHQL


Chapter 10: We Care About Puerto Rico

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also utilized augmented reality (AR), Blippar, to bring our #care4sagrado message to life.

AR

My English major students also wrote essays about Puerto Rico:

1-1hggbgj-1ncjsqr.png

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/04/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3/

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/12/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3-group-brainstorming/

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/12/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3-group-outlining-collaborative-writing/

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Chapter 11: Humanity

Most of the time I have to deal with micro/macroaggressions and reply to questions that they sound like an interrogation, and people even don’t know my name. “Postcards for Puerto Rico” made a bridge and connected me to people who know my name and they don’t ask me questions. They don’t want me to prove my humanity.

Peace

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

Photo created by Canva

update: I received 74,192 yen from Takemura Lab, Osaka University, and 40,000 yen from the EUROCALL members. In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (translation fees included) and I was reimbursed the sum of 114,192 yen. I’d like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Takemura and the EUROCALL community for their support.

photo_2017-11-07_19-33-46


Together with Mehrasa, we attended EUROCALL 2015 in Padova, Italy. This is how I became a EUROCALL member and got connected to the community.

We submitted two abstracts to EUROCALL 2017 to present the results of our joint PhD project, titled Osaka University Global English Online, and shared it publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 1

Both of our submissions got accepted and the UK visa journey then started.

First round of visa application

Mehrasa and I applied for the visa on May 25th, 2017, and we both got rejected. We announced the rejection publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 2

It is worth mentioning that we submitted a confirmation of invitation letter from the conference chair, Kate Borthwick, confirming that we have been invited to present our Research and Development papers at the EUROCALL 2017 conference. Our supervisor, Prof. Haruo Takemura, also wrote a letter and guaranteed that all the travel expenses to attend the conference are covered by Osaka University.

Second round of visa application

We applied again on July 11th, 2017, and provided stronger documents. We added the names of some of our British friends in the application form, and one of them wrote a recommendation letter for us. We wrote exactly the same reason for our travel (we did not paraphrase it):

“This conference presentation is part of the requirements for the completion of my PhD course at Osaka University. I will publish two papers in the conference proceedings, one with my name as the first author, then I will be able to defend my PhD.”

Our documents were the same to a large extent except for my marriage certificate and our bank transactions. I had worked part time at a university as an English instructor and I had received about 180,000 yen (1200 GBP) monthly from April 2017. Our scholarship (148,000 yen, 1000 GBP) is fixed, and I wrote in the application form that I had worked part-time and provided a copy of my contract in English.

Mehrasa luckily got the visa, and I got rejected again because:

“While I acknowledge that you have been invited to present a paper at the EUROCALL 2017 conference the evidence you have provided does not explain why it is needed for you to complete your PhD at Osaka University.” 

I announced the second rejection on Facebook.

Facebook 3

Third round of visa application

I applied for the third time on August 2nd, 2017. I submitted an extra letter I received from one of the coordinators of the EUROCALL Special Interest Groups (SIG), Mirjam Hauck, in support of my application for a visa to enter the UK so that I can be elected into my new role, secretary of the EUROCALL Graduate Student SIG, during the meeting on August 24th in Southampton.

I got rejected for the third time, and wrote on my Facebook page that I will be at the EUROCALL 2017 conference in spirit.

Untitled

Here you can find my “Refusal of Entry Clearance” letters.

 

After my first visa rejection, I read a visa story about an Iranian artist, Ehsan Abdollahi (#visaforAbdollahi), who was denied entry to the UK to attend Edinburgh book festival for illogical reasons, very similar to the ones I received regarding my bank statements, but decision has finally been overturned by the UK embassy in Tehran and fortunately he could attend and hold his workshops at the festival. Here, I would like to share his illustration in reaction to his visa refusal with which I strongly identify. It shows an animated Abdollahi in a bottle in reference to his book, A Bottle of Happiness, along with the words painted in colors: “I rubbed out the words ‘No Entry’ and wrote with all my colours: Happiness, Flying, Kindness, Hope, Love.”

f-(2)[1]

Photo source: https://goo.gl/EaLVUw

Feeling disappointed but hopeful, I decided to attend the conference online!


Twitter

I started checking the conference hashtag, #EUROCALL2017, every second, and I could connect to the conference by tweeting, retweeing, and communicating with the twitterers. Periscopes also really helped me keep connecting.

Here is the link to my EUROCALL 2017 Storify, and you can see all the moments of connection, hope, and love: https://storify.com/ParisaMehran/eurocall2017

I also created a list of tech tools based on the EUROCALL abstract book and asked the twitterers to help me complete the list.

Tech Tools from EUROCALL 2017


Virtually Connecting

Following the tweets, I noticed that I could connect virtually through Virtually Connecting (VC). I singed up for the two virtual conversations: the first one at 2 a.m. and the second one at 7 p.m. in Japan. VC connected me to the two of the keynote speakers, Steven Thorne and Shannon Sauro, and I got to know other CALL scholars. One of the virtual buddies I met online was Simon Ensor. You can read his blog post, This Stream Is Not Online at Present, where he asks:

“How many people do not have access to learning, to conferences as a result of visa restrictions, financial barriers, family constraints, statutory constraints etc, etc?   This was exemplified by Parisa Mehran who was accepted to present this year, but was unable to attend due to visa rejections.”

giphy

Here are the screenshots I took during the virtual sessions, and I am happy to announce that I was just invited to join the VC team to set up virtual sessions as a virtual buddy:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Skype

I was able to attend my sessions via Skype with the help of the EUROCALL organizers and my friends who set up everything before my presentations. Here I share some of the schreenshots. You can see excitement in my face!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are some screenshots of the sessions Mehrasa helped me attend after our presentations:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Mobile Guide for EUROCALL 2017

I installed the app of the conference, virtually “checked in”, and stayed in touch with the attendees there as well.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Shannon Sauro’s Keynote Speech 

I know Shannon from EUROCALL 2015, and since then I stayed in touch with her through Facebook and Twitter. She contacted me on Twitter and said that she wanted to mention my story in her keynote and the challenges I had faced in trying to come to the conference. I asked Mehrasa to get online on Skype to be able to listen to Shannon. Then, I saw Shannon’s tweet sharing the livestream link for her keynote “Looking to Fandom in a Time of Change”.

viber image

Shannon started with talking about the Trump travel ban and recounting the story of a researcher, Shahlah Adi, who could not attend the CALICO 2017 conference because of the ban, and then my story. I was in tears and touched by her powerful talk. I filmed my screen and you can watch the video here.

21106785_10213720024941012_749131474147302755_n

Photo taken by Mehrasa

Here are the screenshots of the tweets after Shannon shared my story:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Louise Ohashi (Associate Professor, Meiji University, Japan) is a close friend and I know her through JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching). After Shannon’s keynote, she made an appeal (click here to watch the video Mehrasa took while Louise was talking) to the EUROCALL community to support me, and she collected about 350 (GBP) to cover my visa application fees.

In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (1000 GBP). Each round cost 21,000 yen (150 GBP) and for the third round I paid 30,000 yen (215 GBP) extra to use priority service. The cost of translating my documents was also about 40,000 yen (280 GBP).

After Shannon’s talk and when Mehrasa shared some photos, I received these massages on Facebook from CALL scholars:

Steve McCarty (Professor, Kansai University, Osaka Jogakuin, and the Japanese government (JICA), Japan):

“Parisa, that’s the global community of scholars in action, sharing common academic standards and ethics. Maybe at a suitable time I could contribute a paragraph to your blog or wherever on the ironies of demonizing Iran.”

Kalyan Chattopadhyay (Associate Professor, Bankim Sardar College, Calcutta University, India):

“Your story has become epiphanic of pain and anguish of thousands of academics who were treated whimsically. So you have a fandom and I’m proud to be your fan.”

Ali Bostanci (Lecturer, Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University, Turkey):

“Dear Parisa, I have attended the EuroCALL conference in Southampton (only for a short time on Friday afternoon) and participated in Shannon Sauro’s Plenary Speech in which she talked about the details of how your visa application has been rejected 3 times. Until recently you were in my friend list at least this is how I remember it. Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that many people were disappointed to learn about what happened to you in this process. I really hope that you this frustration will somehow turn into an opportunity for you.  I really do! One thing for sure is that you are very popular now among CALL researchers 🙂 I wish you best of luck in everything.” (Ali sent me this message privately and I asked for permission to publish it here).


Despite being denied, this was the story of my presence at EUROCALL 2017. Words fail me to thank all those who cared about my story, supported me along the way, and helped me cross the borders and be there.

During this journey, I learned and practiced how to take action by sharing stories as stories have the power to change the world. I am now impatiently waiting to receive my conference pack and a lovely T-shirt, and I am planning to wear it at EUROCALL 2018 online or hopefully on site 🙂

T-shirt

Photo taken by Mehrasa at the Elizabeth House Hotel, Southampton, UK

Keep calm, stay positive, take action, and share your story!