I’ve now put up some of my photos from Stockholm last week on flickr, the set is here for anyone who wants a look. As I said, a lovely city, a bit pricey but I managed to be reasonably low-budget about it (for example booking accommodation through this place rather than using any of the hotels recommended by the conference organisers). I had won some funding to attend the conference, but it didn’t cover all my costs (plus I had to take a week’s annual leave from work), so to be honest I felt fine about taking a bit of time out rather than spending all day every day in the conference. My main sightseeing was on Monday morning before the conference started (when I explored Gamla Stan, the old town – mostly just wandering round, though I did take a look inside the Cathedral), and then on Wednesday morning as there weren’t too many sessions interesting or relevant for me. That was when I took a short boat trip out to the nearby island of Djurgarden and mostly wandered about and sat and watched the world go by, and mused about academia, clinical practice, PhD, my poor aching blistered throbbing foot and other random sundry topics. It was good to sit and chill.
The conference was also good to catch up with people I’ve met before and make new links. I think conferences are a bit weird, to be honest. It’s part of academic culture to go there and get yourself and your research “out there” in order to make potential links with other people working in the same or related fields, and also to discover what other people are doing. It feels different to reading stuff in journals, as through the questions at the end of the presentations you can engage with as well as challenge people who are doing research and making claims about their particular interests. But I also often feel rather an outsider at these things. Partly because I don’t have an academic job right now, partly because I am researching countries which are less well researched than others (the majority of participants at this and pretty much every conference in my field are Russianists), and partly because I don’t think I’m quite earnest enough! I think that’s one of the reasons why, if I go into academia at all, I want it to be related to clinical practice – I do like the research side of things, and think I’m good at it, but want to keep my feet on the ground as well. Sometimes some of the conversations I was listening to (and participating in) felt a bit Pseud’s Corner. At one point in the opening ceremony, having listened to a lecture on Gorbachev and then (surreally) listened to a choir of Swedish uni students dressed up as the Red Army singing Soviet army songs (which made several of us wonder if we’d wandered into a Eurovision convention by mistake, not to mention wondering how the participants from former Soviet countries felt about it all), I found myself imagining my colleagues at work next week asking me what it was like, and wondering what I could tell them about it that wouldn’t make them think I’m a freak!
I think the session that has engaged me most was the final one I attended, which was a panel discussion. The actual discussion was really disappointing, I wasn’t actually very impressed at all (3 of the 6 panellists were big-name researchers, very well known in their field), but a few of the questions afterwards really hit the spot and has got me thinking more about the ethics of research, the issues around me as a foreigner researching foreigners and foreign systems and the whole cultural imperialism thing, and where I want to place myself in this whole academic planet (it really does feel like another planet sometimes). The thing about being a nurse is that people understand what you do, by and large think it’s an admirable thing to do and feel it’s a worthy and justifiable use of public money (which it is!). But for me anyway it’s not enough – I don’t want to lose it, but I want more opportunities to use my research and get it out there so that it didn’t just end up being 4 years of self-indulgence.
Speaking of which, I’m starting to get self-indulgent now, so I shall stop. All I know is the next couple of months I need to keep my head down and finish the thesis, and we’ll just have to see what happens.