I’ll be continuing with the critical aspect of this series in a bit. However, last week I came back from the best conference I’ve been to to date. Sure, it had some oversights but there was a lot of really good stuff that happened and so I wanted to highlight it. This was the 3rd Eastern Mediterranean ELT Conference in Northern Cyprus.
First and foremost, as always, the best thing about this conference was the people. There were really some very talented people at the conference both in the way of big name ELTers and people who weren’t so well-known. Almost everyone was very friendly and sociable and willing to share. I think this is what ultimately made the conference a big success. Being an almost unprecedented 3-day event, it was really important to be surrounded by good people.
One reason for everyone getting along so well was, I think, the absolutely wonderful social programs that the conference organized for all participants (that’s right, anyone and everyone attending was invited!). Every night there was some kind of event. The first night we were bused to the ancient city of Salamis and then taken to a reception hall for drinks, food, music, and a folk dance troupe.
The second night it was a tour into the old city of Famagusta. The third night was by far the best. We finished up the conference at 2pm, were given a tour of the campus, then taken to Nicosia’s old town, to an old castle near Girne, and, finally, to the famous Bellapais Monastery. We were then invited to a wonderful meal directly across the street from the monastery and once again drinks were on the house and we had entertainment in the form of music and a belly dancer.
All the events were absolutely wonderful, gave us a taste of the culture and a chance to bond. All of it was also absolutely free (although I’m sure the hefty conference fee covered some of it). Another point to make is that it’s very difficult to get around Cyprus as public transport is lacking to say the least. Usually, if you actually want to tour the country yourself, you need to rent a car at a 100 US a day. However, everything was organized and provided absolutely free by the conference. It was really an amazing time.
The other main thing that I really liked about this particular conference was that they split up concurrent sessions into presentations and workshops (many of which were given by local Turkish Cypriots or Turks). This really helped participants know what they were getting into. And let me tell you, the workshops were great. I have been to 9 conferences now this year and every single workshop here was fantastic, better than anything else I’ve been to at any other conference. The presenters knew how to involve the participants and had some great practical ideas that everyone could use. I would like to thank everybody whose workshop I attended for doing a great job and, of course, those who attended mine as well
Now there were some oversights as well and I don’t want to give the impression that everything was perfect. Accommodation was really expensive and no alternatives were provided, although for the quality of the hotel I’d say prices were comparable or cheaper to anything you’d find in Europe, just comparing to Turkey things seem really pricey. I ended up just camping out in a forest behind the hotel to save on expenses.
Probably the biggest issue was that there were no breaks between presentations or workshops. When one ended, the next was immediately supposed to begin, which made things incredibly difficult for presenters as they had to leave one presentation early and then rush to theirs only to have to wait outside the door because the presenter wasn’t finished yet, not to mention having no time to set up. Then there was the added difficulty of everyone coming in late because everything started and ended at the same time.
Those were the two biggest issues and I hope that they will be corrected next year, but I don’t think they dampen a job well done. The conference organizers did a fantastic job making everything work and making everyone feel at home. I made a lot of good friends at this conference and I hope that in the future we shall be able to meet again. The picture at the top was another great idea the organizers had. They took it and then sold copies to anyone who wanted one on the last night. What a cool idea and great way to remember the conference by.
Until next year…
You can check out my other pics from the conference here.