The 'Holifrence': Turning work into play
Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite part of doing a PhD is attending conferences. Don’t get me wrong, the word ‘conference’ gives me mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement rolled into one. However, the word ‘holifrence’ (see definition below) fills me with nothing but boundless joy.
I love travelling - I’m not special, most people do! So, I’m going to let you in on how to have (possibly) the cheapest holidays of your life, as a PGR.
DISCLAIMER: ALWAYS SEEK THE PERMISSION OF YOUR SUPERVISOR!
Step 1: Find a conference
If you’re unsure where to start, ask around. Your supervisor may encourage you to go to specific events. If you tend to turn to google for answers, just beware of fake conferences. Ways to weed out the good from bad, is to check out the people organising the conference as well as any invited speakers. If other researchers recognise these as legitimate members in the field, it’s a good sign.
Don’t be disheartened if your supervisor recommends you wait until you have more data, this is perfectly normal. On the other hand, don’t wait around to be told to go to a conference – something I’ve been told since I was young is ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.
Step 2: Secure funding for said conference
Funded research positions might include travel funds (you can double check with your supervisor). In any case, a good way to convince your supervisor to let you go is to have applied from some funding yourself. Plus, travel awards look great on a CV.
Travel scholarships can be awarded from the university itself and may vary on a school-to-school basis. A quick google search of ‘conference support application University of Glasgow’ alongside the name of your school should return more information about this. Otherwise, keep an eye on your emails as funding is advertised periodically.
Also, the conference itself may accept applications for travel awards – particularly if this conference is organised by a larger society.
For other sources of funding, google may be your friend here.
Step 3: Confirm travel details: aka plan destinations 2/3/4…
Once you have the go-ahead to attend a conference you need to plan your travel and accommodation. This is where the holifrence begins. At the discretion of your supervisor, you may alter your return travel destination. For example, I attended a conference in Washington, DC, but my return flight was from JFK in New York City. I footed the bill for travel between the two cities (which was super cheap) as well as my stay in NYC. My return flight back to Glasgow was already paid for and I got to tick an amazing city off my bucket list!
The university currently uses two suppliers for travel. For travel within the UK, make your arrangements with Clarity Travel Management. For travel outside of the UK, organise through Selective Travel Management.
Step 4: Documents
Another amazing feature of travelling with work is that you needn’t fork out for travel insurance. Just make sure you apply for university travel insurance five working days before you travel, and you are good to go. If you extend your travel to include a holiday, you will need to gain extra travel insurance, which for a single trip doesn’t cost too much. I tend to look on compare the market for this; as well as saving money, you get the bonus of two-for-one cinema tickets and discounted food by using this company.
Step 5: ENJOY THAT HOLIFRENCE!
Conference booked, travel arranged, and the time has come to enjoy your holifrence! In between the hustle and bustle of the conference, use down time to get outside and explore where you are.
NOTE: Make sure you keep copies of your receipts for the dates that are specific to your work, as these (up to a certain amount) can be claimed back. A student expenses claim form will need to be submitted to the finance departments specific to your institute/school/college (double check with your supervisor for who to send this to).
All that’s left now is for you to stop reading this post and GO FORTH AND HOLIFRENCE!