Students who would like to go to a conference might apply for reimbursement of the conferences fee. They need to send their request to Chiara Robbiano, in which they specify how attending this conference fits in living out their Liberal Arts and Sciences vision at UCU.

Jana Dimitrova reflects on her visit to the EMPI conference [Ninth Multidisciplinary Meeting on Indigenous Peoples - Territories in Dispute: Epistemologies, Resistances, Spiritualities and Rights (30th of May - 1st of June, 2018)]. 

Dear Chiara,

Firstly I'd like to thank you again for helping me with funding for the conference! I will truly never forget it, it was an amazing experience.

The EMPI conference presents an experience unlike any other; it extended beyond the academic frame and enabled my own personal development. This conference has enriched my knowledge on the Mapuche people in Chile and Argentina, traditional ecological knowledge, spiritual and political ecology and many more things. It did not only present a great pleasure to attend, but also an emotional experience. The conference presented a vulnerable testimony of the Indigenous leaders of South America. Personal experiences and intimate, genuine feelings that were present with every presentation are what made this conference invaluable.

The format of the conference being multilingual allowed for the confrontation of differences and learning how to deal with different worlds. Being used to this English-speaking academic world, the dominance of the Spanish language in the conference made me feel like the minority in the situation, however changing the roles proved productive. Empathizing was made easier as I did feel disregarded; a feeling which is familiar to Indigenous populations. Being one of the few European participants as opposed to the majority of Latin American participants, I could feel the division between us. Being confronted with this division I could feel the apathy towards the ´West´, feelings of that nature and intensity are rare for standard academic environments and this is why this counted towards a more real experience.

The conference being set in Middelburg and the topic mainly concerning Latin American Indigenous populations led to an extent of confusion among the participants. The question of “How can we help?” was often repeated in the question rounds, seeking for a point of interaction between the Latin American and the European world. It then became clear that the help should come in the form of listening and compassion. Just as one participant stated, “we have to be human again”, listening is already a form of action. 

I am deeply grateful to have been given the funds and the opportunity to attend the EMPI conference in Middelburg. I honestly claim that I will not forget this experience. I encourage anyone who wishes to blur academic knowledge and emotional experience to attend the future EMPI conferences.

Best wishes,
Jana Dimitrova

An enthusiastic mail from a UCU student who attended the annual neuroscience symposium at Cambridge University with the focus “Neural Networks in Health and Disease” (September 2017)

Dear Chiara,

Last weekend I returned from the symposium I attended at Cambridge. It took me a while to write this email since I needed to get back on track, plus I wanted to organize my thoughts beforehand [i.e. I had to let my excitement wind down, so that I could  write something that was not the word fantastic over and over].

To start out, I can only say that the entire experience was amazing. It was such a wonderful thing to be able to hear all those scientists talk about their most current research. Of course, some talks were too removed from my current level of knowledge for me to fully understand them. Nonetheless, it was a great exercise to constantly try to at least get their global message. (It was also a bit of a relief to hear other attendees say that they found them difficult too, if the topic was very new to them).

However, I still found most talks accessible, and I really cannot describe how stimulating it was to learn about brain networks in a research domain different than the one I am used to. This really tickled my curiosity and made me want to be able to start 5 other theses (or wish that I had more hours in a day to read all those amazing papers).

I also loved talking to graduate students at the poster session. It made their research quite accessible and allowed me to grasp concepts I had previously struggled with (as the students were often very enthusiastic about explaining their projects). This part was a lot of fun!

To me, the highlight of the symposium, was to be able to a talk with  a couple of researchers whose work I adore. They were super approachable and we spoke for over an hour. They even gave me some advice on what steps to take in the future in order to pursue a PhD. It was nice to be reminded that those whom I look up to are also human (which I tend to forget when reading their work).

I also managed to end up having a dinner with a bunch of PhD students who shared their experiences with me. This gave me a little more of information on what to expect for my future, which was quite comforting.

Again, I am super grateful for this little scholarship (not sure if I can call It that). This was a deeply valuable experience to me.

Many, many thanks!