The Finnish Society for the Study of English (FINSSE) held its eighth biannual conference here in Turku this summer. Having never attended a conference before, I leapt at the opportunity to work as an assistant at the event and get credits for my Master’s internship. I’m glad I did, for The FINSSE-8 conference, “What’s in a Century?”, turned out to be the highlight of my academic year.
The whole experience was very positive. The organising committee welcomed me with open arms; I was given clear instructions as to what was expected of me and in moments of doubt I could simply ask for help. It soon became clear that organising a conference takes hours and hours of planning and preparation. Even I, a mere assistant, sat through several meetings and wrote countless emails. Those in charge certainly had a lot of work on their hands! Funding, venues, catering, timetables, name tags – all the meticulous work done in advance resulted in a successful conference.
During the event I took care of odd jobs here and there: I put up info signs, greeted people at the registration, carried water bottles and whatnot. I dabbled with things that may seem small, but, in the end, helped create a smooth conference experience. I was being useful and I liked it!
Amidst the work and responsibilities there were fun surprises and major perks. For example, during the first conference day we were treated to a small music number. The memory of conference participants, postgrads and professors alike, swirling around and dancing to the tunes of a violin will probably stay with me forever. Most importantly, though, I got a glimpse into the inner circle of English research in Finland: I felt like a little sponge soaking up knowledge and ideas. I had the opportunity to attend some interesting paper sessions and meet people working in fascinating fields of research – the conference even provided me with help for my upcoming MA thesis. The research community felt warm and supportive and people seemed to enjoy the conference. I’m lucky I got to be a part of it.
Text by Lilli Laine