Conference travel for a new faculty can be a mix of 100 things: fun, energizing, exhausting, tiring, networking, casual, professional, busy, lonely, social, too much, not enough, awkward, and almost any other word you could put in a sentence short of becoming a run on at this point.
You get the idea though. Conference travel as a young (or new) academic can be fraught with things you didn’t expect.
- How to deal with the dewy faced grad students who try and talk to you but have no idea how to form a sentence.
- The feelings that come with hours of exhausting networking (if you’re an introvert like me).
- Networking that can come in almost any form. You’re being scrutinized as a ‘fresh’ member of an area of research and always being watched. (picture Roz from monsters inc.)
- Opportunities that are a surprise and welcome!
- Enjoying some of the perks of being new faculty: no more cramming 4 people into a tiny room, you can enjoy the luxury of a room by yourself or with only one other roommate.
- Being surrounded by people yet feeling alone because you’d rather be with one or two people who are actually your ‘people’ in life.
I’ve been on the road for work. It’s mostly been fulfilling and a valuable use of my time and the universities time. I could not be more content right now as I begin this post in the conference hotel, in the ‘fancy’ robe provided, watching Mad Men, and not talking to anyone. I did spring for a single room this time around because when I booked….well, you know what, I sprung for the room by myself because I deserve it sometimes. I also flew by myself instead of cramming myself into a 16 passenger fleet van with 12 grad students BECAUSE I CAN FOR ONCE.
I planned for some down time on this trip. Instead of filling my schedule the way I fill my fro-yo cup, I made sure my evenings were free and yes: a whole day was free to do what I WANTED. I flew in early for two full days of workshops so I gave myself the day before I presented time to do some fun things. I thankfully had a friend in this city who I went to grad school with and was ever-so-grateful in showing me around, taking me to fun places, delicious restaurants, and giving me the most precious gift of all: her time. I value that more than anything and after the Spring, I’ve come to realize that I do deserve peoples’ time, I am not a bother and if I am, people will let me know.
For perhaps the first time since joining faculty, I mixed business and pleasure, carving out some fun time in order to maintain my sanity. I hit the pavement and put in some miles, making sure I was getting my endorphins flowing and getting plenty of sleep instead of feeling like I had to be social with strangers. I selected sessions and times to attend things at my own pace, knowing that I would want to hit certain things, but not others.
Finally, I took the time professionally to network, chat with other researchers and get my foot in the proverbial door. As I finish this post, it’s more than a month post trip and as I reflect, I still have no regrets about the trip. I explored the host city, got a lot out of the sessions, and grew as a new faculty. I networked well, met new faces, connected with familiar ones, and was thankful for the opportunity.
How do you handle conference travel when you don’t already know everyone?