This time last week, I was back on GT, grateful to be home after having spent several days out of town at a conference where I felt so alone I had to create a burner account so I could log into GT and share my misery. This week, I am home after a totally different conference experience, one where yes, I already knew people and had work companions there, but the vibe was totally different. I go to this conference every year, mainly because it recharges my professional batteries. The people are very open and welcoming, encourage new ideas and research, and no one is left sitting on their own. It's a totally supportive, geeky, scholarly environment.
And I love it.
So I got to thinking - what makes these two groups so different? As far as conference sizes go, they're about the same. Part of it I think goes to the actual mission or philosophy of the groups. The second one views mentoring graduate students as a big component of what we do, so by nature, we have to be more welcoming. There will always be "newbies" to the conference, every year, as there are new grad students in attendance every year, so the "regulars" make an effort to meet new people. Meals are included, so there's structured time for everyone to be in one room together and sit down and talk and I never see someone sitting off alone.
I was hoping the first group would be more like the second one, but it wasn't. I realized this week I should just be happy I have the second group in my professional life and not look for other professional homes. And I'm glad I'm done traveling for awhile. I iz tired.