Today was the first day I’ve actually been able to sit back and attend sessions all day and it was wonderful. I’m also really enjoying interacting with the faculty in my program off university property – everything is so much more informal.
I’m the type of person that finds a whole lot of socializing really draining, so during the breaks I usually try to go for a walk or find an out-of-the-way place to chill for a bit. I find if I pace myself like that, I can handle a whole day around people without getting overwhelmed.
Some people find chit chat really stimulating – the more, the better. I’m not one of them. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking to people, and really enjoy pulling apart ideas in conversations. I find people really interesting and look forward to seeing them. I even enjoy presenting in front to people, and can do so with relatively little anxiety. But I have learned that too much of a good thing is … well, too much.
If you are like me in this respect, you have probably learned your own techniques for balancing social time with ‘down’ time. I know some folks, especially young academics trying to integrate into the cliques of other academics at conferences can feel pressured to be ‘on’ all the time. The truth is there are probably more people, sometimes referred to as introverts, inside academe than in the general population. Ignoring your needs at conferences can make you start dreading them altogether, which would be a shame.
Today was the University Affairs BBQ for grad students. It came after I had been in back to back sessions all day. But before I headed over I took about fifteen minutes and just sat down in a bench quietly watching folks go about their business. It’s all I needed, and then was able to go to the BBQ and thoroughly enjoy myself, talking with some great grad students, and putting faces to the names of people I’ve seen in e-mails, but never met. I had a blast – but without that break beforehand it wouldn’t have been as much fun. I certainly wouldn’t have been up to the reception I attended right afterwards, or the showing of Denys Arcand’s Decline of the American Empire shown in 35 mm film followed by a Q&A with Arcand – which was fabulous by the way.
Conferences really are one of the best things about academe. By understanding what you need to pace yourself through the social and logistical demands of several days of intense activity you can leave a conference being glad you came, hopefully with a few new ideas and contacts to boot.