Getting involved in a student volunteering scheme gave Marta the opportunity to attend an ACM conference in Hawaii. She absolutely loved the conference… and the place itself, as well!
Marta, you went to Hawaii last year. What was the reason behind your trip? Was it a holiday?
No, it wasn’t a holiday! I went there to attend a conference. In my University days I did volunteer work that involved helping organize the ACM Programming Contest. When I found out they were looking for students to help organize the 33rd International conference on Software Engineering in Honolulu, I decided to apply!
Was going to Hawaii a life-long dream?
No, not really. Don’t get me wrong, I adore travelling, but I’ve always preferred to visit big cities as my true passions are beautiful architecture and sightseeing. That’s why Hawaii didn’t feature on my list of travel “musts”. I expected to enjoy Hawaii, but certainly didn’t expect to fall madly in love with the place. And yet that’s exactly what happened. It feels like a movie set! The ocean is so blue, the water is so warm, and the people are so nice.
Did you have time to play the tourist?
I didn’t really have enough time to visit the place properly, but I did manage to spend some time on the beach. I took a few surfing lessons, and went to a gorgeous place called Hanauma Bay where I did a bit of snorkelling and admired lots of colourful fish! But a substantial chunk of my time was spent at the conference itself carrying out my duties as a volunteer. I also got to spend some time with the other conference attendees. They came from a whole host of countries, such as the USA, Germany, Latvia and Iran, and all had very different cultural backgrounds. As a conference attendee, I was also invited to a Luau Party, a typical Hawaiian party that featured traditional Polynesian dancing.
What did you learn during the conference?
The presentations were extremely interesting. There were two main groups of speakers. One group was composed of PhD students and researchers, whilst the other was composed of practitioners. Some of the sessions I attended were particularly interesting, such as the session that looked at how programmers ask questions online and identified what types of question are most likely to be answered; or the session that focused on using social networks to obtain useful contacts for research work. But the thing that made the greatest impression on me, as it would appear to be something very useful, was a poster about a tool that automatically detects cross-browser differences in web applications.