Good grief! I appear to be in Florida!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I’m a bit of a raging introvert. (Not “raging” in the sense that I will stand in a corner and glare at people in parties… I mean that I’m very, very much an introvert…) So the general idea of visiting a park in the middle of a tropical summer surrounded by crowds and crowds of obnoxious, shouty, jostling, no-respect-for-my-personal-space-bubble people is just the complete opposite of appealing.

Which is of course why I’m currently in Orlando, home of Disneyland, Seaworld, Universal Studios, Wet’n’wild and Harry Potter world…..

Given the choice of places to visit, it’s definitely not at the top of my list. So the question needs to be asked; Why am I here?

Sometimes in your PhD opportunities get thrown at you out of left field. Three of those were lobbed at my head a few months ago, all of which were unbelievably exciting and definitely unexpected. Unfortunately, things need to be paid for by some form of currency and with the travel plans being made for an American Summer (read EXPENSIVE FLIGHTS) and the limited funds in my PhD budget, I’ve ended up only being able to take one of them.

But hey, 1 out of 3 isn’t exactly terrible is it?

So I’m here at the 10th International Phycological Congress and against all odds and my general dislike of crowds, I’m actually having a good time. Now I know you’re probably thinking “Dude. You’re in a foreign country on a trip you didn’t have to pay for at a conference a lot of people would probably kill to be at…” (Well you might not be thinking that last part… not all of you are Phycologists…. most of you are normal). But I don’t normally enjoy myself at conferences. Talking myself up to people I’ve never met is a decidedly uncomfortable experience for me. Putting myself out there in the form of my research is not something that makes me feel in any way secure. There’s always that nagging worry that someone’s going to be presenting the exact same thing as you or that you’re going to get completely shot down the dreaded minute the symposia chair turns to the audience and says “Any questions?”

I like to believe that’s normal, especially for a student with very little experience in the scary land of scientific conferences. Talking to some of the other students giving talks or presenting posters like I am, it seems like it’s a common theme. I think it’s one of those things that will just get easier the more I do it.

And despite all of my neuroses, presenting my poster actually went really well. (Regardless of the fact that it turns out someone is working on the exact same thing as I am on a much larger scale…. commence the publishing scuffle! – more on that later) And in spite of my general dislike for crowds of strangers, I’ve really enjoyed listening to some of the talks – like the one by Dr Lynn Rothschild on extremophiles and the search for life in the universe. Unbelievably cool.

I’m interested to know though – have you ever found yourself in this sort of situation? If so, what sort of things did you find helpful? I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds conferences abjectly terrifying. Let me know in the comments!

Anyway, I’m off for now. I’ve written up copious notes on Lynn Rothschild’s talk so I’ll hopefully be able to share it with you in an, unfortunately, much less eloquent way. Stay tuned!

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