In August I spent a week attending the 15th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (ICLC) which took place in Nishinomiya, Japan, a small city in between Osaka and Kobe, two of Japan’s biggest metropolises.
This was my first time at an international linguistics conference so I was quite excited to meet researchers from all across the world, including some of the ‘big names’ in the field and the actual people behind those names, discuss aspects of their current work and present some of my own PhD research to the community. My PhD project, which is concerned with the structure of speakers’ grammatical knowledge stored in their mental networks, is closely connected to some of the core questions that ‘cognitive linguists’ are interested in, e.g. how speakers’ cognitive abilities enable them to produce and comprehend meaningful words and utterances.
The journey to Japan and back was a little more complicated than I had expected because I had booked flights via Hong Kong, where some of the biggest protests of the ongoing political crisis happened just on the days around my flight dates. On the way to Japan, I was lucky to catch my connection in Hong Kong since 50% of flights were cancelled. For the way back, I spontaneously re-booked my flights and went via Seoul instead to avoid Hong Kong Airport, which at the time was still partially occupied by the protesters.
In contrast to the adventurous journey, the conference itself went very smoothly and I felt warmly welcomed by the diverse and inclusive scientific community in my subject area. Even experienced academics can feel a little nervous before giving a conference talk, so one can imagine the eager but tense anticipation with which I as a newbie was looking forward to my own presentation. I think it went well overall, and the feedback I received after my talk has given me some really useful ideas about how I could extend my research in the future and improve my techniques of presenting it to other researchers. During the five days of the conference, I also attended various talks on a range of different topics, many of which related to my own interests and have given me inspirations for future projects.
In the evenings after the conference, we dived into Osaka’s rich nightlife, merging with the swarming crowds in its neon-lit food and entertainment alleys, tasting local culinary specialties, watching some brilliant fireworks and singing our way through the last five decades of popular music within the (fortunately sound-proof) walls of our private karaoke box. For me, the cultural experience complemented the academic one by broadening my horizon and allowing me to have such a rich and memorable trip abroad.