Notes on a Conference: RHUL Geographers at the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Midterm Conference 2017

As a first-time conference go-er, I was admittedly pretty nervous when I jumped on the train to Cardiff. Holding my prompt cards in one hand and my phone in the other, I found myself running through Paddington station at 9am with my (two!) backpacks, voice-recording my slightly-out-of-breath self reciting my presentation in preparation for the conference. This was not the picture of serenity I had hoped I would embody, but it did (and still does) make for quite an amusing listening experience.

In hindsight, I wish I’d have been able to relax a little more. Because the first thing to say about the RGS PG Midterm conference, is that it is very friendly; and very supportive. People had said this to me before, but I somehow didn’t quite believe it… it was a conference after all. The dreaded thing that, at some point, all PhD students have to start to go to. Can conferences really be… enjoyable?

In a word, yes!

This year’s conference at Cardiff had strong representation from Royal Holloway, with seven delegates; six of whom were presenting papers. Wednesday kicked off with registration, research group receptions (EGRG, SCGRG and GHWBRG) and a wine reception in the beautiful Main Building, followed by a wonderful and inspiring keynote from Dan Raven Ellison: guerrilla Geographer, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and coordinator of the Greater London National Park City Initiative. After meeting a few of the delegates and receiving our lanyards, we were ready for the start of the sessions the next day.

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Main Building, Cardiff University

In what is ultimately a friendly, relaxed postgraduate environment, the conference is a great way to get those early presenting jitters out of the way, but also to network with fellow Ph
The next two days saw parallel sessions on wonderfully diverse themes such as migration, citizenship, rural geographies, community, neoliberalism, social policy, historical geography, transport geography, climate and energy, ethnography, foodscapes, urban geography, gender, identity, resistance, riot, and resilience in the Global South. This was accompanied by a range of workshops on mobile methods, statistics, proofreading, publishing in geography and engagement and impact.

So, in the midst of all of this brain-stimulation and exciting dialogue, here are a couple of tips for conference first-timers:

1. Be bold at the buffet table: don’t forget to grab enough welshcakes and/or sandwiches to sustain you throughout the day
2. Be brave: Ask questions, talk to people! Even if you’re naturally introverted, everyone will be so lovely that once you break the ice you’ll feel absolutely fine – think of it as ‘having a nice chat’ rather than ‘networking’ if (like me) that word makes your palms sweaty…
3. Get enough sleep: Cannot emphasise this one enough – you’ll need your brain to be well rested each night if possible!
4. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself: its a wonderful chance to gather new ideas, meet interesting people and be part of a vibrant academic community; remember to enjoy it!

Of all the students and staff we spoke to, there seemed to be a general agreement that the conference was an incredibly positive – and crucially, supportive – experience. A mixture of students at a variety of progression levels meant that it felt very inclusive and gave us the chance to share our research ideas and our more general experiences of the highs and lows of PhD life. It was invaluable to see such a range of ideas, presenting styles and interests being represented. And on top of that it is great to see that, although PhDs can sometimes feel a little solitary, you are not alone! And that geography – in all its forms – is thriving.

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RHUL’s cohort, saying an emotional farewell to Cardiff: Katy, Adam, Mina, Alex, Simon, Nicola and Nick

Finally, a huge thank you to the organising committee who did such a wonderful job in creating such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, and putting together a wonderful  programme of seminars and talks. So thank you to Lucy Baker, Melissa Dickinson, Charlotte Ford, Kieran O’Mahony and Jen Owen; as well as the academic staff who chaired the sessions and welcomed us to the department.

List of Royal Holloway’s contributors:

In ‘Migration and Citizenship’ block, chaired by Prof. Mark Jayne
Citizens All? Citizens Some! Conceptualising Citizenship of Rural Migrant Workers in China – Simon Malyon

In ‘Labour Geography’ block, chaired by Dr Ian Jones
Changing Geographies of Work: Digital Labour – Adam Badger
Art/Work: Ignacio Uriarte’s Art and the Experience of Boredom in Administrative Labour – Katy Lawn

In ‘Geopolitics’ block, chaired by Dr Andrew Kythreotis:
How have technological legacies shaped socio-cultural & political attitudes to digital engagement? A comparative model of the United Kingdom and Estonia – Alex Hardy
How to Backup your Files Nation-State in a Digital Era: The Estonian Data Embassy – Nick Robinson

In ‘Gender’ block, chaired by Dr Sarah Evans
Consideration of the generational and spatial impacts on the attitude towards female genital mutilation (FGM) across Somali communities in Britain – Mina Nakai

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