UMAP 2009 Day 1

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I’m in Trento, Italy for the second conference of my academic career: UMAP (User Modelling And Personalisation) 2009. The first was back in November at DIGITEL 2008, in Banff, Canada, but someone convinced me not to take my laptop and typing a blog entry on my phone was too much hard work!!

Conferences are an important part of the research world, as they are where academics present their work to their peers and receive feedback. Therefore as PhD students it is important that we go to conferences to get experience of them. It’s really part of our training as researchers.

I really hate travelling. It used to be the actual act of flying: after a bad exerience as a kid, for many years the thought of planes made me feel sick. But I’m over that. Now I just dislike all the planning and worrying that something might go wrong. Fortunately, though, today’s journey went really smoothly. I got a lift to the airport (thanks dad!), went straight through security as I’d already checked in and printed my boarding pass online and got on the plane last, through choice as I hate queuing.

Once I’d landed at Verona-Brescia airport, I dashed off the plane and escaped outside without any hassle as all my luggage was carry-on. Outside there were coaches to both Brescia and Verona, so I grabbed an €11 ticket to Verona and was first on the bus. The coach took me straight to Verona Porta Nuova train station, where I navigated the computerised ticket machine to buy a ticket, therefore avoiding having to speak Italian! The machine was great as it had English language and told me what time the next train to Trento was.

Even though my Italian friend Ilaria told me to avoid the second class ‘regional’ trains, they were the only ones running this evening, so I had to get one. They were fine though; no worse than a slightly old UK train and probably more comfortable. Also, the price was only €5.40 for the hour and twenty minute journey from Verona to Trento, which cannot be scoffed at. A similar length journey in the UK (Southampton to London) costs over £50 these days!

The train journey was fine, though I began to feel sleepy and was worried I might fall asleep and miss my station. Luckily I stayed awake and then found my way from the station to my hotel with the help of some hastily printed Google Maps (thanks Alex 🙂 After I checked in I watched a little American TV (Worst Week – really good) dubbed into Italian (not so good), then went out to discover the town.

I took a walk down to the Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), which is where the conference is being hosted, so that I could memorise the route ahead of tomorrow. The direct route is straight through the shopping area of town and just past one of the main squares. There were a lot of people out in town, but I’m not sure if that is typical of a Sunday evening or if the celebrations that are happening this week in Trento have begun already. There was lots of music, people eating in and around the centre and people selling paintings on the street! Seems like a fun place to be.

I found the FBK, so I know where I’m going tomorrow. It has a kebab van outside! Afterwards I walked back toward the hotel to get some dinner. No, not a kebab! I stopped a restaurant by the hotel and had my first pizza of my visit to Italy. I won’t bore you any longer, and will update you tomorrow after the first day of workshops and tutorials.

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