Navigating Knowledge and Culture: My International Conference Journey in Madrid

The attraction of international conferences extends beyond academic discourse; they present a unique opportunity to explore new cultures, connect with peers, and broaden one’s horizons. From September 4th to 11th, 2023, I embarked on a cherished journey to attend the IIPPE’s 13th Annual Conference on Political Economy at the University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain. This adventure not only allowed me to engage with scholars from around the world but also to explore the rich tapestry of Spanish culture and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of two iconic football cities: Madrid and Barcelona. 

The Conference: 

The heart of my journey was IIPPE’s 13th Annual Conference, held from September 5th to 9th. I was honoured to present our research on ” Political drivers of water insecurity in informal settlements in a secondary city, Bangladesh ” as part of the Inclusive Urban Infrastructure (IUI) project. This collaborative effort involved partners from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, Zimbabwe, and Led by the University of Sussex. The conference was a melting pot of ideas, theories, and perspectives, where scholars discussed topics ranging from politics, economic policy to social justice, making it an intellectually enriching experience. 

During my presentation, I emphasized the critical issue of water access for migrants residing in two informal settlements within the rapidly growing urban town of Mongla, located in the climate-vulnerable coastal region of Bangladesh. Despite its economic prosperity and diverse livelihood opportunities, the town faces a significant challenge as it relies solely on rainwater due to contamination of groundwater and surface-water sources with high levels of saline. At the outset of my presentation, I provided an insightful overview of the daily life of the residents of Mongla Municipality through an animated video produced under the IUI project. 

Following the presentation, a panel comprising representatives from all partner countries facilitated an open question-and-answer session with the audience. This engagement yielded valuable feedback and comments on both the topic and the methodology, which will be instrumental in further enhancing our work. 

In addition to our session, I had the privilege of attending the conference workshop on “Brazil x China Relations and Notes to the Global South.” Moreover, I participated in several intriguing sessions focused on topics such as Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the labour market, Health and Healthcare, as well as Financing and Health. The conference provided a valuable platform for knowledge exchange and networking, and I look forward to future opportunities for collaboration and learning from the scholar around the world. 

Madrid- Exploring the Capital: 

After the conference, I had the opportunity to roam the vibrant streets of Madrid. The city’s rich history is evident in its architecture, from the splendour of the Royal Palace to the stunning Almudena Cathedral. Strolling through the bustling Puerta del Sol and the tranquil Retiro Park provided contrasting but equally enjoyable experiences. 

One highlight of my trip was visiting the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid Football Club. The sheer scale and dignity of the stadium were breath-taking, and the museum inside provided insight into the club’s illustrious history. For a football enthusiast like myself; particularly as a Madridista this was a pilgrimage. 







Barcelona- A Cultural Feast: 

From Madrid, I bounded on a train to Barcelona, a city famous for its unique blend of Catalan culture and modernist architecture. It was my first time to boarded on a high speed (300 KM/Hour) train, and it took only 2.5 hours from Atocha, Madrid to Barcelona-Sants.    

Wandering down the diagonal road divided the city into two parts, I enjoyed the energy of street performers and sampled appetising Spanish cuisine at different restaurents. Barcelona’s architectural marvels, including iconic Sagrada Familia and the Platja de Llevant beach left me mesmerized. 






But my football journey didn’t end in Madrid. I visited the Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona, and walked in the footsteps of football legends. The museum at the stadium celebrated the rich history of the club, and the Camp Nou experience was a must for any football follower. 

Cultural Exploration and Cuisine: 

Both Madrid and Barcelona are known for their cuisine delights. I had authentic paella for my dinner at the very first night in Madrid and relished tapas and churros. In Barcelona, I couldn’t resist trying the local specialty, “Crema Catalana,” a delicious dessert with a crispy caramelized top. 









Spain’s culture is deeply intertwined with its food, music, and dance. Every day of my stay, I explored the roads with little traffic but huge people walking, and metro for the busiest people. Throughout my stay in Spain, I ventured along the less congested streets, which were bustling with pedestrians, and explore the metro network that covered almost each corner of the Capital.  

About the Authors:
Juel Mahmud is working as a Programme Coordinator at International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).