Six | My Week Off

Week 6: June 18 – June 24

After the hectic past month of late hours and Saturday work days, we’ve decided to take this week off. It works out perfectly because my parents are still in town, so I will be able to spend time with them. For this week’s blog, I’m going to talk about how I obtained a Belgium internship.

When people give advice to young adults about looking for employment and life after college, they always mention connections. With this current experience, I cannot emphasize how important connections are. I’ve met my employers in Romania five years ago when I was at a conference there. We hit it off well and I asked for their contact information. I made sure that I maintained the connection periodically with simple email inquiries on their current work and projects. I’m assuming that when my boss was thinking about her next big project (the one that I’m working on right now) she thought about me, when she received another inquiry, and how it would be a great addition to her team. In the past two years, I have also been working on my portfolio website and polishing my resume. So, when my employer replied to me, asking for me resume, I was able to send those off to her right away.

In terms of the logistics of working abroad. As a US citizen, I am allowed to stay in Schengen countries for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. And because my internship was an unpaid internship, I simply went to Belgium under a tourist visa.

Working abroad isn’t impossible. It does require more pre-planning and more online searching for that country’s laws and requirements, but as cheesy as it sounds, it will be worth it. Not only are you gaining a working experience, you will learn about a new culture, adapt to the new environment, and broaden your world perspective. Visiting a foreign country and actually living in one, are two very different experiences.

My mother and I travelled to the city of Ghent this week.

Five | The Conference

Week 5: June 11 – June 17, 2017

We have finally arrived at the most important week of my internship. Over 110 participants will be arriving in Belgium to participate in our 3-day conference. Also, my parents will be coming as well (but they’re mostly here for the conference).

Monday

Both of my bosses were out of the office today running errands for final preparation work so I decided to work from home. I spent the morning finalizing our website (http://www.ddtconference.org), adding participant’s biographies and proof-reading our program. Then at 16:00 (I’ve converted to the European way of time-telling) I headed to the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Antwerp, where our exhibition is located, for a debriefing meeting about the conference. The second and third day of the conference will be held within the exhibition. We discussed mostly logistics with the museum staff on what to expect, what we need, and the layout of the conference.

Tuesday

Today was an errand day for me. I biked around the city of Antwerp making trips to the print shop, art supplies store, and the museum. Then I spent the entire afternoon making personalized name badges for each of our participants. It was a VERY eventful day.

Wednesday

I spent another day running errands for the conference–I won’t bore you with the details. In the afternoon, I took a tram to the office to meet my bosses to drive to Brussels. Tonight, we are hosting a Pre-Conference dinner for participants that arrived a day early. The restaurant that we were supposed to eat at back out on their offer so we had to scramble for a new location. In the end, we had a friend cater for us in the partner-hotel’s breakfast lounge. It was great meeting all the participants that I have been emailing back and forth in real life, as well as many top experts in the field of Futures Studies. I have a feeling that the next 3 days will be a lot of fun.

Thursday

The conference has begun! The first day is at a professional meeting centre in Brussels. Here we will be hosting our keynote speaker, our panelists, as well as breakout sessions where individuals can present their findings or ideas. From this point onwards, I am mostly focusing on the creative portion of the conference. Running around with my camera, I try to capture as much of the buzzing energy as I possibly can. We were extremely understaffed. When many professionals who have had experience planning big conferences, they couldn’t believe that we were only a team of 3. Therefore, I was often interrupted by participants asking questions about the conference when I really should be focusing on my video work. After what seemed like eternity, we loaded everyone onto a bus and drove to our next city, Antwerp. At night, I was finally able to catch up with my parents over dinner (I haven’t seen them in 6 months).

Friday

The advantage of hosting the second and third day of the conference in Antwerp was that the organizers lived here. I felt a lot more relaxed waking up in my own bed, biking to the museum, and grabbing a coffee on the way. However, this feeling did not last long, as I was plunged into chaos once I arrived at the museum. It was easier to document the event at the museum because, having our exhibition here, I was already familiar with the layout and the personnels. I was even given an access badge to enter the museum’s office areas which was extremely helpful. We had to
start the event late because too many of our participants wandered off into our exhibition. They were extremely intrigued by the work that we did and wanted to learn more about it right away. The rest of the day ran very smoothly and many of us decided to have dinner together. At the dinner, I was really able to connect with the participants for (hopefully) future collaborations.

Saturday

The final day of the conference. The third day of the program consists of only 7 presentations. This is because today was sectioned off as an open space time where participants can explore the exhibition, speak with the artists, or ttend workshops. I caught many of the participants and regular museum-goers taking pictures of my artwork. It was the perfect opportunity for me to get feedback on my work. This past week, it felt like time slowed down and dragged on for a long time. However, at the farewell party, the entire conference felt like a blur and there were still so many participants that I wanted to connect with. We (my bosses and I) got a lot of positive feedback on this new approach to a conference by combining it with the exhibition and creating a hybrid. But I’m still very much looking forward to having the next few days off.

Four | Prepping for a Futures Conference

Week 4: June 4 – June 10, 2017

As soon as I arrived at the office 4 weeks ago, we started the final planning stage of the ‘Design – Develop – Transform Conference’, which has been in the works for half a year now. About a month ago, our registration list had about 65 people signed up. However, in the last 4 weeks that I have been here, our registration list rose rapidly to 110 people. This week, being the final week before the 3-day conference, it is crunch mode at the office.

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Leaving the office near midnight is becoming a regularity…

I’ve been working mostly on office administration work, corresponding with participants and presenters about their travel plans, housing situation, as well as fine tuning the program and constantly updating the DDT website. The conference is going to take place in two cities–Brussels on the first day at a big meeting centre, and Antwerp on the second day within the museum that our exhibition is at.

The participants consist of 24 nations from 5 continents. It is a very international and diverse conference and I can’t wait to meet people from all over the world gathering to discuss Futures Studies. Many of the presenters that are attending the conference are top in the fields of Futures Studies, and whom I’ve been hearing a lot about. It also means, however, that the expectations for a great conference is extremely high. So the pressure definitely on!

Three | Visiting My Art Work

Week 3: May 28 – June 3, 2017

A few months ago, I was commissioned by Professor Mei-Mei Song from Tamkang University in Taiwan to produce four art works for an exhibition in Belgium. This exhibition is being co-curated by my supervisor and we are also in the process of planning a 3-day conference that incorporates the exhibition itself. The exhibition is called ‘A Temporary Futures Institute‘. It is a group exhibition gathering 4 futurists and 9 artists to produce works on Futures Studies. For those that are unfamiliar with the discipline: Futures Studies is the study of possible, probable, and preferred futures and the world views and myths that underlie them.

I was asked to create four posters/advertisements from the year 2037, based in a possible future twenty years from now. I translated Professor Song’s work/ideas in the discipline into a physical art form. However, I had to create all four posters from overseas on Dickinson’s campus and was unable to attend the opening ceremony in April. This week, I was finally able to see my own work in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Antwerp and document the piece. It was a gratifying experience because I was also able to converse with the museum-goers and to drive discussion on what they think of my work. I will definitely be re-visiting the museum over the course of the summer to try to talk with as much visitors as possible.