Travel Diaries: SPAIN, a business trip.

Santander, SpainI was filling out a declaration form and I was so excited about the fact that for the first time the purpose of my trip was ‘business.’  I ended up skipping my introductory macroeconomics class to present my research paper at the World Economy Meeting in Santander, Spain.  Ironic, eh?  (I have actually taken upper-level economics courses, but I needed to take specifically ECON 209 as a prerequisite for a grad school course).  As for the World Economy Meeting, it was my first time presenting at an international academic conference.  It was also my first time in Spain.  Read on to find out what I have learned, how I would enhance my experience at any future academic conference, and the culture shocks that I have experienced.

What I have learned:

  • They only speak Spanish in Santander.  Considering that I know English, Russian, French, and Ukrainian, but not Spanish, I had to resort to communicating with nods and hand gestures (around the city).  At the conference there was a mix of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people.  The keynote presentations had simultaneous translations, but paper presentations were either in English or in Spanish, depending on the room.  I was most interested in long-term economic development but most of those presentations were in Spanish, so I spent the majority of my time in the English-speaking room listening about foreign direct investment.
  • It is fairly easy to start a conversation about:
  1. A person’s research.
  2. Why they are at the conference (I realized that not only those in academia attend these conferences but also businesspeople).
  3. Whether they like the city if they are a foreigner.
  4. Places they have visited if they are a foreigner.
  5. Places they recommend to visit if they are local.
  • It is nice to make friends and to actually keep in touch with them after the conference.
  • All presenters used power points.  I had to make mine the night before my presentation after discovering this.
  • People present the latest research and some of their ideas and discoveries are very exciting!

How I would enhance my experience at any future academic conference:

  • I would try to connect with people more.  While I met a lot of interesting individuals, there are only two that I have kept in touch with after the conference.
  • I would read some of the papers that interest me before going to the conference.  Having read the whole paper, I would be more equipped to ask meaningful questions after the presentations.  If there is a particular individual that I would like to get to know better, it would be helpful to have read their paper as well.

Culture shocks:

  • I went out to eat a lot.  Most places have deals where you can get an appetizer, main course, dessert and wine for a certain price.  So the first time I tried this, I was expecting for the waiter to bring me a glass of wine.  Instead, he brought me a whole bottle!   This whole bottle of wine thing happened every time.  (No, I did not drink it all!)
  • People in Santander eat late.  It took me two days to realize that restaurants only start serving dinner after eight pm.  The amazingly delicious gala dinner, which was part of the conference, was from 9:30 pm to 12:00 am (or even later).  I left at midnight before they started serving coffee because if I were to have coffee at that time, I would not have been able to fall asleep for a few more hours and I had my presentation first thing the next morning.

I am by no means an expert in academic conferences or vacationing in Spain, but if you are planning on going to either, I hope you found my blog somewhat helpful!

If you are interested in reading about my trip to Vancouver, click here.

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