Skip to main content

I did it: first time at the NET Conference

04 Feb 2020 | Iina Ryhtä Iina Ryhtä from the University of Turku in Finland shares her experience of presenting at her first conference as a Master's student.

It was February, and we were having a meeting with my colleagues about the abstracts we were going to send into different conferences. After the abstracts had been submitted, in April I could not believe my eyes when I had an email that said my oral presentation had been accepted to one of the largest and most prominent conferences within health education. First I felt confused (“What, did they send the email to the right person?”), then amazed (after I double-checked the email was really for me), even little bit scared (“Gosh, I can’t even speak proper English to have a presentation in UK”) and then excited (“This is so cool!”).

For a student, taking part in a conference can be quite expensive, especially if you have to travel to get there. I was lucky because my thesis was done as a part of the ‘competent educators together’ project, and I had an opportunity to have financial support to take part in the conference. I also got a lot of emotional support from my colleagues, who encouraged me to take part as well from all my friends and family who were more convinced about me managing this, than myself. Despite all this, it was really hard to make the decision about attending the conference.

It feels little bit silly afterwards and I am almost ashamed of the thoughts I have for not taking advantage of this great opportunity. But I still decided to write about this, because I thought that I am not the only one feeling nervous and excited doing something for the first time. I am always encouraging other people to do things that gets you out of your comfort zone, because usually we can learn the most about these situations. Still, I found it hard to follow my own advice.

NET 2019 poster

I am so happy I got this opportunity to take part in the NET conference as a master student. Despite all the insecurity, lack of self-confidence and feeling so stressed, I am alive (big surprise there) and feeling better than fine. The conference was so inspirational and I got more than I was expecting. I got to meet lovely people from different countries, from the different educational fields, had some great discussions and learnt new things. I saw many oral and poster presentations, which gave me a lot to think about the topics themselves as well as how I can improve my presentations in the future.

But still, I think that the most important thing I got from the conference, was the feeling of being capable of doing something that originally felt scary. As a student, at the beginning of a future career, it is sometimes hard to have faith in oneself. When you are surrounded by educators and researchers, who have been working in this field perhaps over tens of years, you feel easily a little unsure about your own skills and competence. Why would they want to hear what I have to say? What if I say or ask something stupid that I should know already?

I am happy to inform you that these kinds of fears are most likely nonsense and only creations of your own mind. The people, who are listening to you have been in the same position that you are now. You cannot be an expert right away and everyone has to start from somewhere. So try to get rid of these kind of thoughts, and instead, think of all the possibilities that these kinds of events have to offer.  You never know, what might happen, if you have the courage to challenge yourself.


Iina Ryhtä is a newly graduated MHSc working as a university teacher and international affairs secretary in the Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku and dreaming on PhD-studies in the future.


The deadline for abstract submissions is 21 February, submit your paper for NET 2020 here.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

Keep up to date - Sign up to Advance HE communications

Our monthly newsletter contains the latest news from Advance HE, updates from around the sector, links to articles sharing knowledge and best practice and information on our services and upcoming events. Don't miss out, sign up to our newsletter now.

Sign up to our enewsletter