Post Academic

The Semi-Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Packing for MLA

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on December 2, 2010
Tags: , ,

I had to get in on what Caroline’s been writing about regarding traveling, so we’ll get back to the “Interviews You Don’t Want to Have” series later.  Rest assured, the best — or would that be worst? — is yet to come.  But packing is part of what makes the whole MLA experience so nervewracking.  Below, I’m getting into the pros and cons and insane thinking that goes into preparing to travel to MLA.

"Luggage belt Bangkok" by Hajime NAKANO (Creative Commons license)

Check-in and Carry on?: It’s never happened to me, but I’m always in fear of losing check-in luggage for the first time, which I always presume would be at the worst time.  I think having your suit shipped off somewhere else the one time you need it in any given year would probably qualify as being a worst time.  So what about a back-up plan, taking some kind of formal outfit on board with you, just in case?  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?  Except it’s a pain to lug half of your earthly possessions with you across the country.  And now, who knows what luggage you have to pay for and what’s gratis on any particular airline?

In my mind, it’s a coin flip.  If you don’t mind carrying more luggage and risk having your junk — literally and figuratively — handled, why not be prepared for the worst case scenario?  If you prefer traveling relatively light and don’t sweat the unlikely possibility that everything will go wrong, just check your baggage in.  In case something does happen, it’s not like you’re flying into the wilderness, since you can pick up an emergency suit or tie or dress shoes.  After all, there’s probably more or less the same Macy’s stuff wherever you go.

What (not) to wear or bring to MLA, below the fold…

Laptop and Gear: The thing is, it’s not like you aren’t already carrying on a bunch of gear with you into the cabin.  If you think about it, how exactly can you bring on board a duffel that’s big enough to hold a secondary suit and a packed-to-the-gills computer bag?  To play devil’s advocate, might I suggest that you don’t bring your computer with you?  The real reason to leave your computer at home is not because it’s another semi-heavy piece of equipment to weigh you down, but, rather, it’s because I think your laptop becomes a crutch that keeps you from ever feeling prepared for your interview.  It’s easy to fuss down to the last minute, tweaking the finer points of your sample syllabi, typing up answers to questions you won’t be asked, and searching for way too much information that verges on overload.  And anyway, you can use your cellphone to text and access your email these days.

I know, I’ve never done this myself, but maybe it might be better to go into an interview with a fresh and flexible mindset, instead of cramming a bunch of material into your overworked brain that you probably won’t be able to utilize anyway.  Why not try and enjoy the conference, being in a fun city, and hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in ages?  Then again, maybe you should bring your computer with you, since the conference is really never that much fun, the weather is probably too cold to go sightseeing (though that won’t be the case with L.A. this year), and your peeps might be blowing you off to prep for their interviews.

Books: Talk about crutches — the worst idea is bringing books with you to MLA, especially in the age of weight restrictions on your luggage.  Seriously, there’s really no pros to carrying any of your library with you.  I know from experience: there’s nothing you can read at the last minute that will help you in an interview situation.  It’s not like an interview is the same thing as your qualifying exams.  And even if it were, do you think you’re going to be lucky enough to randomly select and skim just the right book you never took the time to read anyway?  Stacking a bunch of books on your little hotel desk and nightstand is only going to stress you out and make you think about what you don’t know instead of what you do know.  If you want ’em to take up luggage space, wait ’til your return flight, after you pick up the discount volumes on the last day at the book fair.

2 Responses to 'The Semi-Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Packing for MLA'

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  1. Anthea said,

    Very good tips. I particularly like the section on books..Good advice even if you’re attending a conference just to give a paper. I usually don’t end up reading them but the fact that they are there makes me think that I’ve not done enough work.

  2. I agree. I think these are all good tips, but taking books with you is one of the most tempting mistakes there is!

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