Attending a conference as a student can be challenging, especially if they have not attended lots of them. It took me a number of conferences and workshops (I appreciate these opportunities) to start feeling at home in these events. I am Koko Muroya, a student volunteer for my first ICFP. Thankfully I had a great experience as a part of the ICFP community, which spans from theoretical researchers to actual developers.
I decided to use this blog post to share my thoughts about making myself at home in a conference, especially in communication with other researchers. I have to admit that my main motivation to read other blog posts here was to get ideas for writing my post, and I guess the same thing would happen for other (potential) ICFP student volunteers who are likely to be novice attendees.
It is always amazing to see researchers actively involved in chats, or even in-depth discussions, in every break of a conference. I am finally getting used to that, but why did I feel difficulty taking part of it? The language barrier was one thing. Another thing was the question “what are you up to?” – it was a bit frightening when I did not have any words ready in my mind. The question is not just about me as a person (a research student in University of Birmingham, originally from Japan, etc.), but about me as a researcher or my work itself. It would be easier if I had my talk early in the conference, so people at least noticed you. In the event of ICFP and co-located FSCD, I had two talks and both were in post-workshops. So I tried two approaches to tackle the question, which I think were successful. One is to advertise my coming talks. Trying to summarise talks actually was a good practice of the talks themselves. The other one is to mention my supervisor(s), because they are more likely to be familiar to the conference’s community (I think this is one of many occasions when a student thanks their supervisor ;-) ).
A conference (and, of course, its social events!) is a good place for chance encounters, but I found there are also certain interactions that you can make. As a part of audience, you can not only ask a question, but also show interests or even just positive impressions (I personally found these impressions really encouraging). I realised I should have tried harder to speak to questioners for my talk, if there seemed more information to be exchanged. I also learned that people are generally open to naive questions, however experienced/established they are, so I should not hesitate to ask.
The ICFP community was quite big, but I felt very welcomed. This whole post may be just a snapshot of me still improving as a conference-attendee, but I hope it can help someone overwhelmed by a bunch of researchers :-)