This week’s guest post is by current IEDP student Lisha Almeida. Lisha is from Mumbai, and before coming to IEDP she was a Teach for India fellow and worked in teacher training.

With the Philly weather still being unseasonably chilly this past month, we were all ready for Mexico’s warm, warm welcome. As Arianna mentioned in her previous post, the Comparative and International Education Society held its 62nd annual conference in Mexico City this March, and 24 out of the 29 students from our class attended! What’s even more exciting is that over 20 people presented research too, in the form of posters, papers or on panels. Talk about an overachieving bunch! The opportunity to be in the same space as so many awe-inspiring education professionals and to hear about their work in detail is unparalleled, and I’m beyond glad that so many of us got to experience that together.

Here are some of the highlights from our week-long trip to Ciudad de México :

Sessions

Sessions, sessions and more sessions! One of the most overwhelming parts of a conference like CIES is just the absolute magnitude of it all. The conference was 4 days long, and from 8 am to 6 pm, and each day had at least 200 sessions to pick from, with approximately 20 sessions per slot. My personal mottos through the madness were ‘divide and conquer’ and ‘less is more’. If my friends and I found sessions we were all interested in, we each chose one to go to and then exchanged notes after. This way, even though we weren’t physically present at the session, we managed to get the Cliff notes version anyway and didn’t feel like we’d really missed out.

With regard to ‘less is more’, I say this only because there’s only so much you can absorb in one day. While being at a conference is all about maximizing the experience, you also want to make sure you have enough brain space to actually learn things, and a part of that is making strategic choices about your time.

In the midst of all the papers and panels, we made time to go see our rockstar cohort members presenting their research and while I may be biased, I have to say that everybody was phenomenal.

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A snapshot of some of our students presenting

Networking & Receptions

In between attending sessions, people made time to walk around and visit the various tables set up by organizations and universities where you could meet representatives, talk about their work and just generally schmooze (this was my favorite word through all of CIES). If you’re like me and you can’t make conversation beyond “I’m good, how are you?”, try to tag team. Going up to tables as a pair really takes the pressure off of making conversation by yourself!

Most evenings after the conference ended, there were receptions galore, either thrown by Special Interest Groups (SIGs), universities (we had one too!) and other organizations. We went to these receptions for free food and drinks (jk..but not really?) but stay for the great conversations and people that you meet. Receptions are a stress-free time to meet other professionals in the field and great for some one-on-one time too.

Sight Seeing!

What’s that they say about all work and no play?

We couldn’t fly all the way to Mexico and not see any part of this huge and gorgeous city. From streets lined with bright purple flowers, taco stands at every corner and some reference to Frida Kahlo everywhere you go, this city has so much to offer, and I definitely need to go back at least once more to see it all.

My personal highlight was La Casa Azul, or what’s more commonly called the Frida Kahlo museum. Despite having to wait in line for two hours in the sun, the experience was totally worth it, and it makes for a great backdrop for pictures too!

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Outside La Casa Azul

Our cohort members took complete advantage of the 2 days we gave ourselves to see the city and explored museums, ruins and of course all the restaurants. I think the only way to stay sane through the whole conference and to catch a break from this whirlwind of a semester was to make time to explore with friends and eat as many quesadillas as possible.

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As I get ready for graduation in a less than a month, I’m so grateful to have attended the conference, to have met all the wonderful and inspiring people that attended and to have had this opportunity to build stronger connections with the wonderful people in my cohort, and I’d rank it in my top 3 memories from grad school. Hasta la vista, Mexico!