Being a first year MA student, there are still many firsts that I’m experiencing in the academy. One of those was IWCA, which was my first international conference. Incidentally, it was also the first snowfall of the year. The new snow and old friends made for an incredible environment full of love, learning, and laughter.
I didn’t know what to expect for my first presentation at an international conference, but what I learned was that everyone was so immediately intimate, ready to participate, and ready to listen. I presented a round table with three of my colleagues about how, as peer tutors, we do emotional labor in every single session, emotional labor that we aren’t necessarily prepared or trained for. We talked through scenarios that most tutors grapple with like disengaged students, students worried about grades, students dealing with grief, and students whose anger towards school becomes channeled at us. We discussed how we dealt with those students and how we wished we would have dealt with them knowing what we know now. Ultimately, my colleagues and I decided to create a workshop that administrators can use to train tutors on emotional labor, especially in online sessions, where we don’t have the affordance of face to face intimacy.
A part of the conference that I wasn’t prepared for was the deconstruction of an over enthusiastic mindset I had. I went into the conference thinking I would attend every single session on every single day, attend all the Special Interest Groups, and still have time to relax in a beautiful city with my friends from all across the country. What I quickly learned was that conferences are not designed that way. I learned that the sessions I was most interested in weren’t the same sessions that my friends were interested in. I went alone to the sessions that were most important to me and I made new friends. And most importantly, I spent dinners pouring over what my friends learned in their sessions and growing emotionally and intellectually with them.
Written by Raquel Wright-Márquez