The excitement still went on due to my first trip to the USA to attend the 14th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling at Penn State University. After a long flight that involved a change of planes and a panic attack, I arrived at the cutest little airport I have seen so far and was suddenly called “ma’am” by the polite people everywhere. A strange experience, but I was really impressed by the wide space everywhere and of course the nice people (although I had some difficulties with the accent in the beginning). To finally meet the international ACT-R community in person was at least as overwhelming as the experience in Bochum before! In addition to the scientific part, I had some time to discover hidden treasures of the city, like the Arboretum or the Palmer Museum of Art. When I looked out of the plane window during my departure, I already started to miss the spacious surroundings and the cosy buildings, and promised myself to come back some day.
A further highlight in 2016 consisted in the chance to refresh old memories by visiting Bochum, my former place of residence for four vivid, instructive and also challenging years. The occasion was another international conference, the 9th International Cognitive Load Theory Conference that especially addressed research related to the Cognitive Load Theory, a main focus of my PhD research. Since lots of “big names” in the field were present at the event, above all John Sweller himself, it was quite overwhelming!
The 2nd International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Granada was the first international conference that I attended since starting my PhD, and this experience particularly increased my confidence in presenting my results at an international stage to a broader audience. Moreover, the conference attendance really fostered the development of my scientific network, particularly during the social events. Such was even more the case within a speed mentoring session, which had been organized by the related society for “Women in Cognitive Science” and took place right before the conference started. All social events were really impressive, since the organizers had put a lot of effort into providing us unforgettable experiences. The welcome reception included a typical flamenco show that was truly amazing, another event comprised an exclusive guided tour through the Alhambra, which usually has a long waiting list for tourists, and the conference dinner took place in the beautiful Alhambra Gardens. In addition to getting familiar with the beauty of these places, during all events I could chat with interesting and important people in my field, discuss my research and get helpful advice that supported me in proceeding within my PhD project.
When contributing to a conference, one possibility besides submitting an individual talk or poster is to organize an entire session, mostly called “symposium” or “work group” or something similar. On the occasion of the 58th Conference of Experimental Psychologists in Heidelberg, I decided to organize my first symposium that covered the topic of “Extending experimental cognitive research with ACT-R”. In addition to my own talk, I had invited former colleagues from Berlin and a colleague from Heidelberg. I also received very kind and encouraging support by Professor Verena Nitsch, who had provided a fascinating guest lecture at CrossWorlds just a few month before.