Hsu Offers Conference-Going Advice

By Selene Hsu '15Design Editor

I just came back from a weekend conference in Dublin, Ireland and I have a lot to share about conferences in general!

I went to the Interdependence Conference, hosted by the nonprofit group CivWorld and its founder, Dr. Benjamin Barber, a world-renowned political scientist. The political conference aims to bring people from all over the world to discuss ways in which we are interdependent on each other and how we can best bridge the gap between people and countries. This is a pretty small conference with about 100 participants and 20 youth delegates. Two of the youth delegates were from Scripps, so that's a big deal!

This was my first conference ever so I'll just share a few nuggets of wisdom. This is what I learned:

1. How do you get invited to a conference?

I got my foot-through-the-door from my friend and fellow Scrippsie, Zoe Jacobs '15, who is an intern for CivWorld and helped put together the Interdependence Conference. Without her, I do not think I would have been able to go to the conference on my own. I asked other delegates on how they were invited and basically, we all got in because we knew someone in the organization already, whether it was through a professor or their next-door neighbor. Networking is key to learning about conference opportunities! 

2. Receiving Funding from Scripps

I was lucky to have CivWorld cover my housing and meals in Dublin, but I had to cover the air fare and transportation myself, which were the most expensive parts. I looked for funding at Scripps and ended up getting $100 from SAS. Later, I am going to check the Motley for additional funding.

From my understanding, SAS caps all funding to students at $100, so keep that in mind when planning for conferences. Although it is better than nothing, it barely covered the Super Shuttle ride to LAX from Claremont... So when preparing for a conference, make sure you know your budget! Don't count on receiving a significant amount of money from Scripps!  Although there are limited funds available, Scripps is eager to help and they want to see you succeed! Just be persistent!

3. Once you get to the conference... what do you do?

A conference is basically a place where people convene to talk about specific topics. Many are experts in their field, but sometimes you get people who are curious and are added to the general discussion. You are expected to attend as many lectures as you can and participate in conversations through questions.

There are sometimes cocktail receptions and galas with musical guests and entertainment, like the ones I attended in Dublin. Be careful! They'll serve a lot of wine and food and it is very tempting to get hideously drunk. You are under a lot of scrutiny at these events and it really reflects very poorly if you forget your manners! Believe me, I witnessed a few adults make fools of themselves there and it's quite shocking!

4. Networking

The Interdependence Conference hosted the mayor of Dublin and Belfast, scholars in art and politics, and business men and women. These speakers are really eager to help anyone who asks, especially if you express interest in their field. NETWORK LIKE CRAZY at conferences! Honestly, this is the sole purpose why people our age attend events like these!

Note: Zoe was personally offered a job by the mayor of Belfast! NETWORK!

5. Never say "No" (within reason, of course)

Bonding with your peers is as important as networking with distinguished speakers! There were about 10 youth delegates from around the world and an additional 10 from Trinity College, Dublin. Every night, we had the opportunity to go out to pubs and events to hang out. No matter how tired you are, DON'T SAY NO.

In the four days I was there, I probably slept a total of 10 solid hours. The point is, you can sleep when you get home. When you are abroad or attending a conference, you need to maximize all the time you have available!

Many of the youth delegates in this conference just finished earning their Master's degree in their field and are very knowledgeable in giving advice about what to do after finishing undergraduate studies. Just because your peers are young, do not rule them out!

6. Be a good sport

You are not the only one there trying to network. Many might even find you a valuable resource! In any case, be gracious and accommodating to others. Networking is a give-and-take of favors and information, so make sure to reciprocate peoples' generous gestures the best way you can!

Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of all types of conferences (medical, biology, psychology, etc.), but these are the most basic pieces of advice I can give on the subject. I really encourage everyone to jump on opportunities like these. You really never know unless you put yourself out there!

Good luck and I hope this helps!