Don’t be scared – volunteer at an academic conference

You get the message in your inbox titled: Conference assistants needed. What do you do?

Last September I got a similar message asking for students interested in working at the From data to evidence (d2e) conference. You would get to work at an international event and even receive some credits in exchange. I said to myself: Why not!

One of the great things about volunteering at a conference is that you immerse yourself in a wealth of ideas and information. In the best case you might even get a surge of inspiration for your BA or MA thesis.

You might think you have all the sources you need in the library. However, the big difference is that instead of reading the name of a scholar on a book cover, you read it on a name tag; and that’s way more exciting. You might even have the honour of, as a conference assistant on duty, to actually hand the name tag to a celebrity level professor like Tony McEnery, Jane Winters, Mark Davies or Päivi Pahta, who all attended the d2e conference as plenary speakers.

City of Helsinki reception. Photo by Tanja Säily.

City of Helsinki reception. Photo by Jukka Suomela.

Participating in a conference allows you to get a grasp of what is actually happening in your field of study at the present moment. You find out what practicing researchers are currently working on, so you can really shine bright in lectures, essays and assignments with your up-to-date info.

Aside from presentations, demos and plenary sessions there are also other social events and coffee breaks. As conference assistants, we were invited to the reception hosted by the City of Helsinki as well as the reception hosted by the University of Helsinki; both of which very generously expressed their hospitality in the form of food and drink.

anna-pieniIf I haven’t convinced you yet, another reason to work at a conference is that you get to meet and bond with fellow students outside the class room. You can stress out about assignments together or just talk about life in general.

So the next time you receive an invitation to work as a conference assistant, I really encourage you to say yes.

Written by Anna Suutarla, Student of English philology and research assistant at the University of Helsinki, currently in search of a good topic for the MA thesis.

More about the d2e conference: