I’ll admit this: I don’t generally enjoy conferences.  I love hearing new ideas, and I love even more putting a face to the names that have grown so familiar from the stacks of articles I always seem to be reading.  However, I’m a very Type A personality and something about the fast pace of traveling, staying in a new city, and returning home three days later stresses me out.

Because of that, I had myself more nervous about (than excited for) a certain conference last week. Granted, some of my nerves were legitimate.  The conference was held too far away to travel by train or car, in fact it was held in a location that was further from home than I’d ever traveled, so I needed to fly for the first time since I was a little girl.  This meant that I needed to brave airport security for the first time.  It also meant traveling separately from the familiar faces I generally ride with to conferences.

Once I made it to the conference, though, I was in for a treat.  For the first time, I was genuinely excited about every talk I attended.  Even though the conference was only on the margins of my area of research interests, I saw very obvious connections between my own work and the work of others.  I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with a number of incredible researchers who have given me much inspiration over the years.  I was practically a giddy schoolgirl when I was informed that the kind gentleman who conversed with me about research and “dream jobs” during my poster session was actually a leader in the field who I had cited on the poster itself.

In short, it was an enthralling experience that, once again, has ignited in me a passion for what I do.

Even though the conference organizers obviously worked very hard to create a memorable event, I have to wonder if this experience was due in part to my own academic growth since my last conference.  I’ve grown older, and I’d like to think wiser, in the months since then.  I’ve devoured journal articles (thanks in part to prelims) and am beginning to understand some of the trends and the “bigger pictures” overshadowing the research I am learning.  It seems as though that would influence my understanding and excitement at conferences, too.  If so, it seems that I have much more conference excitement to anticipate in the future.  How wonderful!

So I ask you, blogosphere, do conferences keep getting better over the years?

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