Sigma Tau Delta International Convention Observations (Nate Cochran)

Nate Cochran

On the morning of Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 I set out on an adventure with seven classmates to the great city of Portland. The purpose of this adventure was attendance at the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. After a 6 hour drive, three hour flight, hour-long lightrail ride, and several hours of waiting in airports, we finally had arrived.

Prior to our travel, I was appointed the primary photographer for the CSC chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, and specifically for this trip. As such, I attempted to spend time equally with everyone in our group. For the most part this was not difficult, as we met up nightly for various reasons. This provided me with a significant learning experience in the field of photography. Each day I eagerly looked through all my pictures to come up with a few pictures to email home to Dr. Evertson, who was listening to (and retelling) our story via Facebook and Twitter. Because of this experience, I am looking forward to continuing to provide pictures of local Sigma Tau Delta events to our club.

Our first day entirely consisted of travel, getting our bearings within the city, registration for the convention, and sleep. The second day, however, was when things got fun. First thing in the morning, I and most of my colleagues attended a panel in which our very own Hannah Clark was the moderator. Following this, we all went our separate ways. I took the opportunity to take a walking tour of the city.

Though it certainly was not the intended reason for the trip, I feel like my most significant learning experiences came from exploring the streets of downtown Portland. I spent several hours exploring on my own, as well as with Jacob Smiley, Sara Labor, Hannah Clark, Heather Collen, Lindsey Ferguson, Nikki Highfill, Tiffani Roelle, as well as our advisor, Lee Miller. Throughout this time I had the chance to clear my life of all the stresses of home, and to simply take in the city life. As someone who has grown up in rural Nebraska, I was able to take in a variety of new experiences – bacon covered doughnuts, frozen yogurt priced by the ounce, food trucks selling anything you could imagine, shops selling every possible product, plus amazing landscapes and people to make the subject of my photography.

Of course, I did enjoy the convention atmosphere, too. It was very humbling to be in the audience with the likes of Ursela K. LeGuin and Anne Fadiman speaking. I was very impressed to see that these world-renown authors are in many ways just like me, and I had a wonderful time socializing with many people who have very similar interests to my own. I think that Jacob summed it up best to me after getting off the elevator at our hotel. We had just ridden up twelve floors with two other young men who obviously were friends. One of them made an extremely obscure literature joke, and we all chuckled. “It’s pretty awesome,” Jacob told me after we began walking towards our room, “that we all know why each other are here.” I couldn’t agree more. I have never felt so at-home among complete strangers as during this convention.

A similar experience occurred at the beginning of day three. I attended a panel about Doctor Who and literature’s influence on the show’s writing. I certainly was not surprised when Sara and Hannah walked into the room, but I was completely taken aback when several audience members began an informal conversation with the panel’s presenters over various Doctor Who plot elements and characters.  I think the greatest story I gained from the entire trip came from this panel: The presentation ended about 15 minutes before the scheduled time. An audience member joked that we should watch an episode in our free time. Without missing a beat, the presenter whose computer was projecting the presentation on the back wall minimized powerpoint and hit the play button on his already-running iTunes with an episode ready to go.

I also enjoyed the experience of getting to know my classmates in a less formal setting. I dare say that we began the trip as colleagues and ended it as friends. At least once per day we met up to discuss our various experiences and to plan for the rest of the convention together. We went to several restaurants, a doughnut shop, and the Portland waterfront as a group. Each time provided me the opportunity of getting to learn about my colleagues as people rather than classmates.

Overall, this trip was a great experience. I had the opportunity to make plenty of new friends – some surprisingly close to home – and to be around more English nerds than I ever imagined possible. I loved every minute of the trip, and I absolutely can’t wait to travel to Savannah, Georgia for the 2014 convention!

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