The entire reason for going to Thailand was to present my original, empirical research on war correspondents. This was a study I conducted by myself and presented in front of a group of about 25. That doesn't sound like much of an audience I realize, but as far as research conference audiences go, this was pretty good!
My paper was published in conference proceedings along with 29 other articles. The publication has an editorial board of 16 scholars and communication practitioners, and all research is peer-reviewed. My paper was presented along with scholars from places such as Jin Nan University in China, Istanbul University in Turkey, University of Alabama, University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Michigan State University.
You might wonder: how did Denae afford to travel to Thailand as a graduate student? Did the University of Tennessee pay for her trip? No. But the great thing about UTK is that they DO care about research and do what they can to support graduate students. My school helps with a contribution of $250 for international conferences that are peer-reviewed and involve a full presentation and my college will contribute $250 if the same criteria is met as well. I'm especially thankful to James for gifting me air miles for an air ticket. He is supportive of my career aspirations and I feel so very fortunate for his generosity. Students can also tap into resources from the Graduate Student Senate for peer-reviewed conference presentations but that is a separate application process.
It takes more than 20 hours in an airplane to get to Thailand from Knoxville, Tennessee. Who knew that you cannot actually fly into Thailand from the U.S. (unless maybe you're on a private jet)? We flew through Seoul, Korea and then on to Phuket where the JMComm conference was this year. Last year it was held in Singapore.
International conferences are special for a few reasons. First, I am fascinated to learn about how other countries approach scientific research and also how scholars interpret findings and results. Another major bonus of presenting at international conferences is the international connections participants can make. Even though it is likely you won't necessarily see many of the participants again, it is bizarre how someone usually knows someone in your research community even if they live in another country. After my presentation someone immediately came up to me and asked about two faculty members in my college that I know well. I wasn't surprised that the University of Tennessee is known world-wide but I was taken off guard for just a second that it is known on a close-knit scale by many.
JMComm 2013 is my second international research presentation (the first was JMComm 2012) and this year I feel like I truly appreciated the experience. Last year I was incredibly nervous and constantly reminded myself to speak slowly and clearly as English is not everyone's first language at international conferences. This year I thought less about the research I was presenting and more about the other presented studies. I wasn't afraid to speak up at lunch and ask questions of other scholars and I gathered new ideas on how to approach research that I'm conducting.
The plane ride was long but it was worth it. I've always wanted to visit Thailand - I still cannot believe it was specifically to present mass communication research as a graduate student!