At UWTSD, we encourage our undergraduates and postgraduates to take every chance to attend academic conferences. In this post, we hear from Justin McLean about his and Troy Wilkinson’s experiences at ‘Defining Space: The Frontier in Ancient History’ in Germany last year.
In September, I attended ‘Defining Space: The Frontier in Ancient History,’ a summer school hosted by the University of Oldenburg, with my fellow Lampeter postgraduate student Troy Wilkinson.
The conference took place on the North Sea island of Juist, just off the picturesque coast of Lower Saxony.
We were fortunate to get there … and not only because it was a privilege to attend such a prestigious event.
Our trip did not have the most auspicious of starts. We travelled to Juist aboard a rocky ferryboat, and arrived in the dark and in the middle of a storm.
Wet, bedraggled and a little bit lost, we managed to trudge our way to a youth hostel before getting some well-earned sleep prior to the conference.
The next day we caught up with the other conference delegates, and it was a pleasure to meet such a thoroughly diverse and international troupe. Our group counted amongst its ranks British undergraduates and American PhD students, with Germans and Russians to boot.
Once underway, the conference featured an equally exciting mix of speakers.
I was fortunate to attend seminars hosted by world-leading professors like Michael Sommer of Oldenburg, Tassilo Schmitt of the University of Bremen and the University of Osnabruck’s Christiane Kunst. I also particularly enjoyed one session featuring Kate Jeremy, University of Oxford.
The topics ranged from theoretical understandings of space and place through to how we might define borders and boundaries in all the strata of human experience, from individual households to great empires. The in-class discussions were all friendly, enjoyable and immensely thought-provoking.
It really was a one-off experience to be stranded on such a strangely beautiful island with a group of likeminded people. We talked (and argued!) on all manner of things. One memorable conversation debated the conference themes and 21st-century geopolitics on a moonlit beach in the early hours of the morning!
We also got a chance to explore Juist. Many of us took walks or cycled around the island, and some of us swam in the North Sea, which was not as cold as one might have thought!
We were lucky to have had excellent guides in the professors who knew the island well and could show us everything it had to offer, even stopping for our very own East Friesian tea ceremony.
Despite the problems we encountered getting there, the conference was thoroughly worth the trip. It was a truly unique and worthwhile experience, and it was an honour to be one two UWTSD students lucky enough to attend.