From UC Santa Barbara Dept of Geography - Old British Army recruitment ad.

Sometimes I wonder why grad schools don’t advertise like those old WWII recruitment posters – “See the world.” One of the best parts of writing and submitting papers to conferences is the chance that yours will get chosen and you get to travel to somewhere else in the world to present it to others. There are many benefits to this.

  1. You get to see the world with someone else footing the bill. Okay, this is only partly true – conferences are designed to take up your entire day every day you’re there, so it’s unlikely you’ll actually get to see much of the country or city the conference is in. However, your airfare, hotel and food for the conference is usually covered. Which means, if you can cover the cost of a couple of extra days of food and hotel (and activities), try and take some extra time to see Europe, Asia, USA, Canada, or wherever you’re going.
  2. You get a chance to network with other people interested in your work and testing out similar hypotheses. Conferences are a great way to see what people are doing and realize that all those names on the zillion papers you’ve read belong to real people. To discuss their work with them and see if you are working on anything similar, and if so, if there are chances of collaboration to happen. You want people to remember you (in a good way) because eventually (or so I’m told) you’ll graduate and be looking for a job. You never know who will remember you and who will have a job opening.
  3. You get to practice your presentation skills. It’s one thing giving presentations in group meetings or classes, it’s another to be out in the “real world” giving them. And it’s very different presenting to people you don’t know, who all appear to have more schooling, publications, etc than you. But this is the perfect place to practice what you’ve been learning and dazzle the crowd – okay, getting through it without throwing up is a good start. Also, you’ll be amazed how many people were able to get so far in life and yet have 1) no people skills and 2) no presentation skills. So, even if you think you’re horrible, don’t worry, there are people worse.
  4. You get to add another line to your CV. You may have a paper or poster. Maybe you’ll make contacts and be able to help organize a future conference. All of these look good and help pad out your CV. Don’t let these opportunities go to a waste.

So far, I’ve been to three different states, one province, and a European country. This year, I hope to add another province and another European country. Wish me luck. 🙂


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