New Orleans Greetings from a Social Psych Researcher
Many of you are wondering what exactly happens at a research conference so I am here to fill you in on all of the details! Research conferences are structured around lectures, poster sessions, and social events designed so that students and professors can meet one another and collaborate.
Usually conferences are in bigger cities with huge convention centers, and my conference (the conference for the Society of Personality and Social Psychology or SPSP 2013) was in New Orleans, Louisiana. Fortunately for us, we were there the weekend that kicked off Mardi Gras so we got to experience the city at its very peak! Conferences are a great way to meet potential graduate program advisors and present your research to a large audience (whether in lecture or poster form). I was presenting a poster this year and had the wonderful opportunity of seeking out programs I will be applying to next fall for graduate school (this is great because I won’t waste time applying to programs that aren’t for me).
Amongst the academic chaos there is also the chance to see the city you are in and experience the culture. We visited Bourbon Street, went to the famous Café du Monde for beignets, and saw live jazz music. There is a rule of thumb to not overextend your brain during the conference so it’s nice to get out and do some shopping and eat the local food. Don’t feel bad for staying out late, not exercising (trust me the walking is enough to give you blisters), and not attending EVERY single event. One of the most beneficial parts of research conferences is the connections with advisors, collaborators, and other students that you will make. Just going out to dinner and attending the social hour events provides you with more insight into research happening in your field and the kinds of grad programs out there.
And because most of you want to hear more about New Orleans then research, here’s some great insider information!
Food: You must eat beignets at Café du Monde (preferably when it’s empty at 2 AM). Don’t always go to the obvious tourist spots, their prices are high and the food is mediocre. This is something to think of every time you travel. Felipe’s Taqueria on Decatur Street is cheap, a mexi-cajun version of Chipotle, and has great hand shaken drinks. Be ready to try some voodoo and herbal inspired drinks as it is very hip down there!
Music: Every place down there has a great sound system to play club music, or you can indulge in live jazz music at the House of Blues or any place on Bourbon Street. Don’t be afraid to stop and listen to the street performers as they are incredibly talented and lively.
Shopping: Although there is a high end shopping center close to the French Quarter, feel free to indulge in the French Market and hit up touristy places like the Jazz Funeral. There are some fun chain stores to go to like Margaritaville, so stop in and get a souvenir.
Mardi Gras: The parades start at 6 usually but make 3 loops so don’t think you missed out the first time! Be ready for lots of people, loud music, and plenty of beads. Bourbon Street is the most insane thing you will ever see but it is a thing of beauty so go there during the festivities! Buy a mask to wear out, get yourself some starter beads to look blinged out, wear crazy outfits, and get into the nightlife culture that is Mardi Gras!
If all of this hasn’t convinced you to get into research then I don’t know what will! Conferences are a way to find programs and advisors and get your own research and name out into the academic field. In addition, you always get to visit a great city, meet fabulous people, and have some great experiences!