1. Finish your paper before you arrive: on the plane if necessary, but before the meeting begins. Otherwise, until you do finish, you will never be able to focus on the meeting, other people’s papers, or meeting new people.
2. Separate from your friends: go to different sessions and meet after for coffee to share your different experiences. By taking this group approach, you will meet more new people and can take in more of the meeting.
3. Push your envelope: do not go to just what has already caught your attention, but stretch your inclinations and interests by going to sessions, films, entertainment etc. that are unfamiliar to you. This is a marvelous chance to become exposed to new and different ideas, material, books and scholars; none better, in fact, since this is the biggest annual gathering in our field.
4. Take this opportunity to meet some of the people whose works you have been studying. Years ago, the late Kenny Goldstein and Archie Green used to make it their business to introduce new graduate students and first-time attendees at this conference to all and sundry. Since they are no longer here with us, you must be brave and introduce yourself OR ask one of your professors or an established acquaintance to introduce you to whomever you wish to meet. You can always ask a member of the Society’s Executive Board (who are identified by ribbons on their name tags) to do the honors – any one of them would be happy to.
5. Take note of the ways in which AFS seeks to enable participation from all scholars in the field, from the most junior to the revered senior scholars. As newcomers here, you are WELCOME…the Society WANTS you here and WANTS you to participate. That’s why so many graduate students are giving papers and why the Society gives scholarships to ensure that a number of students can attend. And do note the number of prizes awarded to students…we were all once where you are and folklorists, working as they do with so much tradition, actually remember how much recognition by our senior colleagues meant. And a little “stroking” from the other side never hurts either – we all love to hear that someone actually read something we wrote and that it was of significance to them!
6. Above all, remember that if aliens were to land on Planet Earth this week, practically the best place they could make First Contact would be at our annual meeting, where there will be hundreds of outgoing people interested in hearing about them, their journey, and their traditions. So even though you may feel like aliens at the outset, there will be a flock of professional listeners and tellers at our meeting ready to share with you. ENJOY.
Carole H. Carpenter
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada