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.

Reflections on Encounters: Kent 2019

By Ellis Spicer

It was a warm day in Canterbury, summer Encounters are often blessed by the weather, so I’ve been told. And it wasn’t just any Encounters, but CHASE DTP Director Denise Decaires Narain’s final stint in her role.

The programme was as varied as it was interesting, giving massive attention to and focus on the student-led sessions such as ‘Researching distressing topics’, decolonising the curriculum, the Diversity in Body and Mind Group and the Feminist Network to name but a few. But interspersed throughout these specialist break out sessions was an awful lot of fun, frivolity and room for thought, such as cohort building activities in Canterbury City Centre and on campus, mindfulness, art and pets as therapy but also skills based endeavours such as ‘how to shut up and write’ or ‘how to tame your supervisor’. There really was ‘something for everyone’ and for the next few weeks we will be illustrating the wide variety of sessions offered in a series of special posts. If anyone is interested in writing a post about an aspect of Encounters feel free to get in touch via

The key strengths of Encounters this year for me was the commitment from the CHASE organising committee to inclusivity in not just words but in their actions. Outlining the use of the quiet room for feelings of being overwhelmed and needing some reflective time and not to work was greatly welcomed by the cohort at large. The previous Encounters at the Barbican had led to some people choosing to work in the silent spaces, and it was great to see a separate room commandeered for this reason. Furthermore, a statement from Denise as CHASE Director pledged commitment to inclusivity in all forms not just in Encounters but as a central point of the CHASE ethos. We as a committee would like to echo her heartfelt sentiments and convey how our blog aims to showcase the diverse range of life experience, backgrounds and preferences within CHASE.

The emphasis on student works in progress and research at the start of each day was truly impressive and allowed us a small insight into other work going on within CHASE. Whilst we have our own fields and expertise, it is fascinating to see the passion with which other students talk about their work. We would encourage any students who haven’t done so yet to volunteer to talk about your research in the next Encounters. Sharing research in these collaborative and interdisciplinary spaces couldn’t be more important, and potentially enables us to formulate contacts away from our fields based on other lines of similarity that unites our individual research.

On a final note, we as a Committee would like to record our thanks to the organisers of Encounters for all their hard work, with particular thanks to Emily Bartlett, Kathryn Gjorgjiev, Steve Colburn, Clare Hunt, Rob Witts and Denise Decaires Narain for their hard work and commitment to such a varied and engaging programme. Our final thanks go to Denise as outgoing Director for the support and enthusiasm she has shown for the work of the Student Committee. The heartfelt messages circulated in our green notebooks as a gift to her shows just how much she will be missed.

Tune in next week where we will have further reflections on Encounters in more specific detail. And as always, if you wish to write a blog post for us on any topic or join our committee, please do get in touch via