Making the most of Encounters

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

The 15th and 16th November will bring about the next Encounters conference, which we as a Committee hope that you are all registered to attend! It is a fantastic opportunity to get the cohort together and facilitate crucial interdisciplinary networks which go on to gain a life of their own.

But if you’re a new CHASE student, how do you make the most of Encounters? It may seem overwhelming, being new and suddenly being in a room with all of these other funded students and wondering what to say. There’s often so many activities, how do you navigate those? And if you’re not a new student, how can you make sure you’re maximising the benefits you can reap from Encounters?

Volunteer to speak!

The time for this in terms of being on the programme may have passed, but talking about your research in the Encounters showcase is a great way to get your research out there, maybe practice a paper you’re working on to a friendly audience or to give insight to your research process as a whole. By presenting at Encounters, the attendees can see what you’re working on and how it overlaps with theirs. It makes for great break discussions as people will come up to you and start chats about your research and ask you insightful questions. But also you can volunteer to speak in the form of asking a question to a speaker, whether it’s a student or a keynote is a fantastic way to engage.

Don’t always think about choosing sessions relevant to your research!

Encounters is all about bringing the cohort together and seeing your research in a different way. So you don’t have to attend sessions because of your research topic, you can attend for interest, curiosity or even just fun with some of the social activities! There is no pressure to choose certain things or even to justify your choices. You may find the most productive conversations come from slightly outside your discipline, geographical area, methodology or chronological period.

Start new conversations and talk to new people!

Not everyone is a natural networker, but this is a crucial skill that Encounters can help you to nurture. Chat to the person sitting next to you, volunteer for sessions your friends might not be going to if that’s what you’re interested in and if you hear a conversation that sounds interesting going along next to you, feel free to join in! CHASE have been doing a Phriend scheme at Encounters since July, so if you’re signed up to that make the most of it. But even informally, everyone is friendly and happy to chat about their research, experiences and general perspectives.
Don’t panic, it will be fine!

The above may seem a little self-explanatory, but at my first Encounters I was worried so much about talking to new people and making a good impression and networking that I think in places I forgot to be myself. Remember why you love your research and are passionate about it, remember everyone is at different stages and works at their own pace. So try to leave the imposter syndrome at the door and enter Encounters a researcher who is passionate about their work, ready to engage with other students, the programme and the CHASE team.