One of the only perks of working in the science field are free trips to conferences. This year I applied for a travel award through our department and received $300 to travel to any conference of my choosing. Since the husband and I are in the same field, we got to travel down to Monterey together and didn’t spend anything on our travel or accommodations. The travel award covered my flight, rental car, and gas for the weekend and our lab pays for the registration fees as well as on-site housing and meals.
It was so nice and warm on Sunday that even though we were inside for most of the morning at talks, it still felt like a vacation away from the busy city life and gloom that we’re in the midst of right now. One of my favorite things about this conference is that they give you free time during the day to explore the area (or nap like we did one day) so we took advantage of a free afternoon off on Monday. My grandparents live in the area and we met up with them in Carmel for lunch and to catch up. It’s always great seeing them and I love that we got to travel for free down to their area. After lunch we headed to Point Lobos natural reserve and walked around for a while. As I was looking out at sea I spotted a whale breaching & was super stoked that we got to catch one along their migration to Mexico. Monterey used to be a big whaling town, and there was an old whaling cottage that was turned into a museum within the state park. One of the descendants from a daughter of the first Chinese immigrants to come to the area was there and told us all about her family’s experience and the rich history of Chinese immigrants in the area.
During the conference we attended morning and evening sessions, and got to take advantage of free social hours where beer and wine are served. It was really fun to see some big name professors there and to work up the courage to chat with them about science and non-science topics. There was a poster session held on Monday night for students and post-doctoral fellows, which were judged by a few professors. Later that night the awards were announced and to my surprise I won one! I got a sweet $400 prize too, which was completely unexpected and totally made my trip. We’re still figuring out what to do with the cash (savings, loans, etc.) but I know for sure I will be using some of it to get a much needed haircut.
After each night session we would usually walk down to the beach and have a bonfire. It was so pretty and really nice to unwind and relax after the conference talks. I got to meet a lot of new people and hear about their experiences post-grad school, the route they took to get where they are, and how successful they’ve been in their respective areas. Plus, we also had a lot of funny drunk moments to break up the science talk 😉
Even though we don’t get paid much and can’t go on expensive trips like some of our friends, I still love our grad school life & the perks that come with it. I mean really, who doesn’t want to see their boss get hammered at a bonfire on a beach in California?