Throughout my two years of graduate studies, I have learned that having a short-term goal is important for keeping my pace steady and not feeling exhausted from my studies, since becoming a scholar is a lifelong process. My goal for this semester was to participate in academic conferences as a presenter, in order to become more involved in academia. As a result, I was able to present papers in two international graduate student conferences in Asian studies: “Against the Current: Transforming Perspectives and Thought in Asia,” at the 2015 School of Pacific and Asian Studies Graduate Student Conference, hosted by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa; and “Diversifying East Asia: Ideas, Objects, and Identities,” at the McGill East Asian Studies Graduate Symposium 2015. These conferences comprised my first experience giving an academic presentation outside of the classroom.

These two presentations were on my previous research into the development of different types of gymnastics in North and South Korea, which reflect each country’s socio-political system. Since this research is directly related to my current research, which concerns the militarization of the soundscape in South Korea, I wish I could have had an opportunity to gain comments from people to further develop my current research.

If you’re thinking about applying to present at an academic conference, here’s an explanation of my application process. I started by collecting information through online research and asking for recommendations from friends in my program about appropriate conferences to apply to. Next, I prepared my abstracts. Even though I intended to present on a single topic, I needed several different versions of the abstract, tailored to each conference’s focus and the required word could (usually ranging from 250-350 words). To get help with editing my abstracts, I attended several writing workshops offered by the School of Graduate Studies at University of Toronto. I submitted all of the applications online, either via email or a website. After the two conferences gave me an offer, Hawai’i allowed presenters to submit an edited version of their abstract, but McGill did not.

Hawai’i’s conference was held for three days, from March 18 to 20, and featured 40 student presentations. At McGill, 36 presenters participated for two days, from April 17 to 18. It was a great experience to attend these conferences. After my presentation at the conference in Hawai’i, I had an opportunity to talk with faculty members, who gave me very useful comments and suggestions for my study. I also made many new friends in various disciplines. After completing the conference schedule in Hawai’i, I had the opportunity to explore the beautiful beach and historical sites, including Pearl Harbor, with some of the other presenters. After the conference in Montreal, unfortunately, I had to come straight back to Toronto to manage my schoolwork. However, during the conference I did have the chance to network with students and the other presenters, and was even able to get a copy from the presenter of a paper that especially interested me.

It has been almost two years since I entered a new stage of my life to pursue an academic career through a graduate program. It will be a long journey, but I have taken a step forward on that path. I expect that my next destination will be presenting at professional conferences, where I will appear as the author of a journal article. I am excited to see the new opportunities and challenges that are waiting for me. Lastly, I would like thank the Asian Institute at Munk School of Global Affairs for supporting my conference travel and giving me this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts with fellow students.

Chaeyoung Lee is a 2nd year student in the Master’s Program in Ethnomusicology and the Collaborative Program in Asia-Pacific Studies.