It’s amazing how many interesting people there are in the scientific community. The number of conferences, summer schools, courses and other multi-day scientific events I’ve attended where I haven’t made friends, is close to zero. Almost every time, there are some great people that I enjoy spending time with. Especially when you don’t have any colleagues with you at a conference, it’s nice to make a few buddies to hang out with during the coffee breaks, and of course for dinner and going out in the evenings.
Most researchers are geeks who like to go back to their hotel rooms after dinner to work on a paper, but there are always a few young people who do enjoy a few beers instead. And those people make the best conference friends. They’re the life of the party, the people who aren’t afraid to get on the dance floor, not to mention insightful conversations (coincidentally, mostly not about research), interesting party games (truth or dare, anyone?) and weird adventures or accidents (for some reason, usually after consuming a number of alcoholic beverages).
You know you’re having a good conference when you attend the 9am talks with a hangover and after four hours of sleep.
As the conference proceeds, it only gets better. Of course your sleep deprivation accumulates, you have more and more insightful conversations, you’re stuck in the same place together. I’m pretty sure that that’s also part of why it’s so cool (a while ago, my conference friends and I invented the term “sleep deprivation induced euphoria” for that). And after only a few days, you get the feeling that you’ve known eachother forever.
But at the end of the day, these friendships rarely last. Everyone goes home to their own busy lives, and everyone has their own friends back home, who don’t live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Sure, maybe you become LinkedIn or Facebook contacts, and during the first few days or weeks after the conference you send a few emails back and forth, maybe exchanging some useful information about the conference or some chit-chat about the journey back home, but it just never lasts.
Right now, after almost three years of conferences, there’s only one person I’ve been able to really keep in touch with for longer than a month after getting back home. And that’s not a problem, it’s just that it took me a few conferences to realize this. Of course, every time it’s still a little sad to see all those interesting people leave at the end of a conference and realize that your friendship is over (except maybe when you meet them at the next conference). But in the end, it’s all fine, because at the next conference you’ll make new conference friends again…
Filed under: Life, Slacking off, Work | Tagged: conferences, friends | 3 Comments »