Well, I went to the United States of America to attend a conference. It was a great experience, and I would like to share a few impressions.
I went to the 13th Biennial European Union Studies Association Conference (short: EUSA) in Baltimore, Maryland, a nice city just an hour away from Washington, D.C.. EUSA is quite a big conference which is solely dedicated to European Studies, and everything in that area may presented here, from papers on defence policies to European directives on wine regulation (I’m not kidding here! Check out panel 1J in the program!). Around 500 people were there, and a plethora of panel sessions were on at the same time over the three conference days.
First of all, having to decide on a single panel (out of approximately eleven on at the same time) every time was not easy. Many topics were interesting to me, however, I often attended panels which discussed the European Parliament or representation – topics which are very close to my own research. So I listened to talks on the “The Implications of the European Parliament’s Budgetary for Democracy in the EU” (Asli Baysal, University of Florida) and “The Role of EP Administrators in the EU Policy Process” (Christine Neuhold, Maastricht University), for example, but also to many, many more. All panel sessions were not only highly interesting, but also gave my insight when deciding on what to do next in my own project – after all, EU Studies often suffer from the same problems, e.g. from not being theoretically relevant (enough) outside of the sub-discipline.
I was on panel 10E „Inside the European Parliament and the Commission“, which was chaired and discussed by Wilhelm Lehmann (European Parliament). There were four presentations, including my own. Bjørn Høyland (University of Oslo) and Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics) (the third, but absentee author was Simon Hix, also from the London School of Economics) started the panel with their paper on „Career Paths in Legislative Activities of Members of the European Parliament“ and gave great insights on what the Members of the EP do after their time in parliament is over. The next presentation was given by Jessica Fortin-Rittberger (GESIS) and Berthold Rittberger (University of Munich) and concerned „Electoral Rules or Weak Diffusion of Gender Equality Norms? Explaining National Differences in Women’s Representation in the European Parliament“. They researched what determines why women are much more represented in the European Parliament than in national parliaments. The last presentation, apart from my own, was called „A Man’s World? Gender, Networking and Careers in the European Commission“ and given by Hussein Kassim (and co-written by Sara Conolly, both University of East Anglia). They studied very similar topic as the presentation before, but with a focus on the European Commission.
My own presentation went well, was well attended, and I am glad I got many useful comments on how to proceed with my PhD thesis. Of course, I was excited and nervous when I went on to the speaker’s desk, but everything, from handling the technology to the delivery of the actual speech, went well. I guess one really does grow with the challenge!
Apart from getting comments on my work, I also met many interesting people who I hope to see again in the future. I recognised quite a few names in the program, authors I read during my university studies – seeing them in person was quite the experience, too! Speaking of that, Andrew Moravcsik gave a talk on one of the evenings – and even though I did not agree with quite a few of his points (to cut a long story short: some of his opinions were just too strong for my taste), his speech was compelling.
All in all, EUSA was a great conference, and I hope I will be able to attend again in two years.