I knew it! All this time I’d been waiting….attending….observing….being creepy….and now it’s happened. My friends and academia are in a “relationship” and my friends are my conference buddies and vice versa. It was only a matter of time really. The longer you spend in a field, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the more people you’re bound to run in over and over again until out of sheer force of introvert awkwardness, you start a conversation.
My good friend from undergrad and I took similar yet different paths through life and low and behold, she’s on faculty too. In her first year, her university sent her to the same conference that a lot of my colleagues and I are attending. Instead of riding in the collective van, she and I rode down together to have a fun and networking-laden conference. It was a great time, but let’s not forget, it’s still four solid days of socializing non-stop with each other and all of the folks at the conference. Being the good adults that we are, we made it clear it was ok to be quiet.
Overall, it’s been really nice seeing and getting to know folks in my profession over the last year. Not only do I have a better handle on what’s going on in our profession, but I have a better idea of some of the players at the table. These things give me a better idea as to what kind of research folks are doing and what kind of research I want to be doing. I haven’t got my mind wrapped around all of the things yet, but as the two major conferences for my field are now wrapped up, it’s time to marinate on some of those things and begin to formulate a plan for my professional road.
Conferences are a great way to connect with old friends, meet new ones, share meals at amazing places you can’t find where you live, and network for days. It’s always cool to run into people from your old alma mater(s) and catch up about what’s happening in and outside of work time. It’s fun for me now to banter with grad students (especially the ones that thing they’re REALLY smart) and you can spot them a mile away, which is sort of adorable in an “aawwww, there’s a baby fawn” kind of way.
One of my undergraduate researchers attended to present her work as well, it was her last hurrah with me and she’s off to grad school in a few weeks. It was really nice to see her, spend some time with her, and stand back and have a “super proud” advising moment as she talked the talk with faculty about her research. **sniff, sniff**
Conferences can be as good as you make them. The end. Attend the sessions, figure out what interests you, and go forth and conference!