The EMJD GEM Annual Conference 2015

Celebrating our new alumni!
Celebrating our new alumni!

So this year’s Annual Conference just ended, it had the same content, format, and goal as last year’s conference, except this time it was held in Brussels. A good thing for us, Brussels-based fellows as we didn’t have to face the hassle of flying out.

Additionally, this year we’ve welcomed our 5th and final batch of GEM PhD fellows, nine of them, completing our little family and giving us a grand total of 47 fellows (out of which twelve have already completed their double doctorates).

A big difference in this year’s conference is that instead of the time devoted to the fellows’ getting-to-know-you activities, instead the GEM Central Executive Office decided that sessions on skills were more important, and this year we had a large media training component. This media training involved a day of theory and a day of interview and press conference simulations, followed by each of us being taped on camera doing a three-minute monologue on our research. It was daunting, to say the least! I particularly appreciated the light hand of our trainer and cameraman versus the snap-snap of the other groups’— we had been split into two as fifty PhDs are a group too unwieldy to handle, though we were told by our trainer that he chose our group because we had the most interesting topics, so that was a nice little compliment to start the day! It was overall a useful exercise and our trainer managed to created a safe space for socially awkward PhD students to talk about our research, which is more difficult than it seems, believe me.

Another big difference is that Jasmin and I, as elected representatives, now had the additional pleasure of being part of the Board of Director meetings. I’m not sure how much of what goes on in the BoD meetings I’m allowed to share outside of the room, but suffice to say that there are things that should probably remain behind closed doors. I don’t want to be overly sensitive to issues of race, but certain outbursts left much to be desired.

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On a happier note, I particularly appreciated our group dinner at Volle Gas! The entire group was seated at a huge table ‘Last Supper style’, and the food was amazing: I had the cheese croquette appetizer, beef carbonnade entrée (the house specialty), and Belgian chocolate cake dessert. It may be surprising to say that our ‘common’ Belgian fare was better than the classy Italian dinner we had in Rome, but I still cannot get over my shaved pineapple dessert last year. Three thin sheets of what seemed to be a pineapple processed through a meat slicer… not my idea of dessert! Volle Gas’ Mousse au chocolat noir parfumée à l’Amaretto though was pure bliss.

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Finally, it seems we have been doing a respectable job as representatives as on the last day of the conference Jasmin and I have been re-elected for, and I quote, “at least another year”. It is gratifying to be appreciated, though this “at least” business is disturbing. Perhaps an imposition of a two-year limit, a la American presidencies, would be warranted. I am assuming that a student representative would be required until each student has graduated, and considering our youngest batch just started, and considering babies are being born at an unprecedented rate, that may take a good while.

Our final activity was an excursion to Bruges, the group was small yet intimate, and we were led by an excellent tour guide, and so that was a lovely way to end the week. Looking forward to what the next year’s conference brings!

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