There are very few people, who are lucky enough to attend an ACL conference as an undergraduate student. In fact, at the conference too, I met very few of them. That’s why I wanted to write this blog about “what is it like to an ACL conference”, NAACL’19 in my case. This blog is only about my experience and not about the things I learned at NAACL (maybe will write about it in the other post).
A few weeks back I had an opportunity of my life (at least what I would like to call it ) to attend NAACL and present two posters in the SemEval workshop. For some unfamiliar with ACL conferences, there are 3 big conferences in NLP which are ACL, EMNLP and NAACL (few more but these are the top ones).
And not surprisingly attending one for the first time is an OVERWHELMING experience. You go there on the first day and you walk past Dr. Chis Manning, Sebastian Rudder, Rada Mihalcea, Abigail See, Emily Bender and you name any top people working in the NLP community is there somewhere. But what surprising is that all are openly available for a chat and that’s what made my experience invaluable.
I had an opportunity to talk to a few of them and ask them about their work and take advise from them. On the first day itself, I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet Sebastian Rudder and ask him about how the masters and Ph.D. program works in Europe compared to the US. Next day was even better. I got the chance to speak to Dr. Rada Mihalcea ( I was so hesitant about talking to her but glad I had enough courage ) just for anyone unfamiliar she is the Director of Michigan AI Lab and was one of the Keynote speakers in the NAACL’19 as well. Talking to her made me think more about my motivation to do research or masters or even Ph.D. somewhere down the line. Which was worth traveling this far from India. And I got to meet and thank Abigail See for her amazing NLP lectures for CS224n.
Not only you get to meet the top researchers but also meet other masters or Ph.D. students from top universities. In fact, the best piece of advice that I got was “To find time for a hobby apart from work. It will keep you humble and help you in life” was from an amazing Ph.D. student.
And that’s not all, you get to hang out with some really cool people, explore the city (Minneapolis) and have dinner with them. Be friends with them, hoping that you’ll meet again at some NLP conference. I really wish I had pictures to share how awesome it was. But here is the picture to bridge we went to.
What it does to you is that after the end of the conference you are filled with motivation to work on something worthwhile, to come back again next year and relive the experience. Hope to be back at ACL 2020 :)