When going abroad for a scholarly conference, there are many things that can be gleaned from this amazing experience that feeds into one’s life, education and career. Whatever your reasons for thinking about travel to a faraway place for a conference, I assure you that you will return with much more than you initially considered. In this Conference Abroad Series, I will be sharing my experiences in hopes that you will seriously consider the advantages of traveling abroad at some point during your college career.
First, let me tell you a little bit about myself to give you some background into why I decided to go to Manchester, UK through an opportunity to participate in several ways at an Art History conference. I came to UM-Flint to finish my art degree. However, as many transfer students know, universities require a certain number of credit hours to be taken ‘in residence’ at their school. Jumping through those hoops included taking more art history, something I had not enjoyed at other schools I had attended. From my course experience, I thought it was simply boring memorization. That is, until I took my first course at UM-Flint from Dr. Sarah Lippert. I had never taken a course like this before, full of information in regards to history, philosophy, politics, economics, science and much more, all as they relate to putting art in context for understanding the why-when-where-how of their creation and display. My eyes opened, and very wide, I might add. Her courses made me think much differently about art. They enabled me to communicate about it on levels I had never even considered before through writing and public speaking. As it turned out, it was not enough for me to simply complete my art degree, a BFA in Printmaking and Drawing, so I added a second degree in Art History and Criticism. I could not stop there. I am currently enrolled in the Arts Administration program to further my interest in museums, galleries and other spaces, and to learn ways to help other artists achieve their professional goals through entrepreneurship and working with arts organizations and events. All of this came about because of my eye-opening experience in the first art history class I took here. It changed me.
So why did I decide to go to this conference? What difference would it make? Honestly, I almost decided not to go, but then I had a change of heart….my passport beckoned me to have a stamp from somewhere off this continent. So yes, that was a benefit, albeit a small one in the scheme of things. When it came down to it, I wanted to learn.
Going to this conference meant that I would be participating in a variety of roles. The ideas that swirled in my head were about what I intended to learn about conducting a conference, as assistant to the director, about whether it would feel different participating as Chair to one of the sessions introducing professional scholars, and then presenting a paper along with them as a graduate student. I thought about the places we would visit and what I hoped to see that would enhance my own academic program and at the same time inform the research that I am presenting to you in this blog. Little did I know.
In this series of blog posts I will go more in depth, but let me just say that going abroad for a conference is much more than the ideas that swirled in my head as I watched the calendar until it was time to pack and head to the airport. It gave me so much more than I anticipated, and yes, it is much different than attending a conference locally or domestically. It’s better in so many ways that I will be telling you about. Until then, I urge you to check out every opportunity to go abroad while you are attending UM-Flint. Don’t let the finances scare you. There are a myriad of programs and opportunities available to fund your trip. Talk with faculty and visit the link and get started! Education Abroad Office at University of Michigan-Flint.
“Let’s Do This,” my view while sitting on the plane, getting ready to leave Flint, Michigan to fly to Manchester, UK.