This July I flew out to sunny Stockholm for a IJCAI conference. The inscrutable acronym standing for an International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. My motivation was the fact I am studying Computer Science, thus, naturally, some of my academic interests centre around the field of AI. I wanted to participate in the conference so as to meet other researchers and students in the field as well as learn about the latest research, innovations, technology and the future road ahead. Luckily, it was the Go Abroad Fund and people behind it, who enabled my travels to the foreign land of Sweden.
Because It was my first time for me to go to an international conference abroad, I was not exactly sure what to expect and felt slightly apprehensive but there really was no need for that, especially due to the fact we had a pre-departure session which covered many eventualities.
The backdrop for most of the activities and events was Stockholmsmässan Convention Centre, a place that regularly hosts an assortment of international events. I had been curious If I were in a good enough shape to attend everything, for the programme was jam-packed with both formal and informal events. As it turned out, Swedes organised things smoothly and, most importantly, everyone was welcomed and taken care for – the atmosphere was exciting and it felt great to be part of the AI revolution. My main focus was on the workshops I signed up for – the ones that I attended where, in contrast to key speaker conferences, rather smallish, hence it was easy to talk, before and after, with other attendees, learn about research, the universities they represented, and even organize some outings in the free time and make interpersonal connections.
Stockholm, as a city, felt to me very cosmopolitan and majority of Swedes spoke good to excellent English, which helped quite a lot. With the city’s excellent transportation, it was super-easy for me to visit a few key landmarks. I was excited to see The Vasa ship, the only preserved war ship that sunk just minutes into its maiden voyage. I also visited the Skansen, an open-air Museum, an unusual concept presenting life in Sweden prior to the Industrial Era, which was pretty informative. Although there was no Nobel Prize Winner at The Nobel Centre, to meet and greet me, it was a truly inspiring place to visit – a place where I learnt about the brightest minds who walked the earth.
Overall, I found the conference, the people, and the city of Stockholm an invaluably enriching experience – an experience which opened new pages in my personal book of life. Admittedly, it was St. Augustine who supposedly said that “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. I believe he was right.