April 2016 newsletter – A visitor’s view of the Annual Conference

Dear Sir,

This year I had the opportunity to attend and present at the Annual Meeting of the Royal Economics Society at the University of Sussex. As a 4th year PhD student from Clemson University in South Carolina I received many comments of shock and curiosity — how did I learn about the Royal Economics Society? Why did I fly all the way to the United Kingdom just for this conference?

I learned about the RES from a former, international graduate student from Clemson University who knew I enjoyed development economics and the works of Dr. Esther Duflo. She sent me a link to apply and I thought, "why not?" I had always wanted to meet Dr. Duflo and I would take any excuse to visit my family in London.

It was not until after Christmas that I woke up to an email from the RES informing me that my paper had been accepted to present. I remember reading the email multiple times, sure I had misread it, and even sending the email to my mother to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. To me, presenting at the Annual Meeting of the RES was just as big as presenting at the Annual Meeting of the AEA. This is the equivalent in the UK, right? If not, please don’t burst my bubble just yet.

My experiences at the Annual Meeting were above and beyond any expectations I could have anticipated. The location was incredible. I had never been to Brighton and loved every part of the city. The hotel was peaceful, the location was gorgeous, and every person I met was friendly. I have attended conferences in Cancun, New Orleans, and Las Vegas and this location topped all previous conferences.

Dr. Duflo’s presentation was spectacular — she engaged the audience with personal anecdotes, humor, and immense knowledge on randomized controlled trials. I left her presentation with a list of papers to look up and goals for future research.

Learning about Brexit was interesting and exciting, especially being an outsider with little knowledge on current economic issues in Britain — I struggle handling the US’s present political campaign issues so it was nice to take a break from our headlines to learn about what is going on in Britain.

There were many other sessions, both plenary sessions and general sessions, with interesting presentations and exciting research topics. I could tell that the people presenting at the meeting are producing innovative research and will impact the economics community significantly in the future. I have presented my research multiple times at conferences similar to this, but I have never presented my research to a group of people who knew the literature so well and actually provided beneficial feedback. I have learned to never expect any research altering suggestions in a 20-minute presentation but I left with a short to-do list and names of researchers who do similar research to mine. I hope to connect with at least one of the other presenters in my session to bounce research ideas off of and even potentially work on a project together in the future.

The social activities associated with the meeting were great ways to meet students and professors from the UK and learn about some of the differences in our programs and research agendas. I made a few new Facebook friends and learned all about the UK job market. Not realizing that there was a completely different website from the AEA JOE I appreciate that Dr. Franz Buscha took the time to show me the website now, rather than missing out on the opportunity to apply next fall.

I enjoyed touring the Royal Pavilion and learning more about Britain’s history. Seeing the gorgeous Grand Hotel was an added bonus. To visit such a historical venue made the trip even more exciting.

I wish I could be critical about the Annual Meeting but overall I had a wonderful time. I made many new connections, I received positive and helpful feedback on my research, and I was able to travel to a new and exciting place. I appreciate people approaching me and accepting me into their groups, as I always feel out of place when initially in a new environment. I hope to keep these relationships strong over the next year. I look forward to seeing old friends at next year’s meeting and am patiently waiting for some of my new British contacts to introduce me to Prince Harry.

Thank you all for providing me with this wonderful opportunity.

Amanda Kerr
Clemson University
South Carolina

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