Doing something alone is not always necessarily a lonely scenario. I’ve never been to a conference on my own before (local let alone international), so it was obviously going to be quite a daunting experience to begin with, filled with apprehension. However, I’m not the type of person to stay to myself at these kinds of things..so after a great flight into Porto, and getting to my hotel, I ventured out and watched a great orchestral performance right outside my hotel room! After travelling I was tired, so then hit the sack and got things ready for the start of the conference on Sunday.
Lazy morning on Sunday as the conference didn’t start until 13:20, so down for breakfast and wandered around for a bit, then a cab to the Faculty of Engineering for registration. I got my badge and welcome pack, and immediately made some friends who are studying in Southampton – lovely bunch of guys and great to hear a familiar accent too! My poster defence was in the first poster session, so after the first set of lectures, it was coffee time (although I had lemonade because it was about 30 degC!) and poster defence. After some confusion with the timings I got to my poster somewhat late and thought I had ruined any chances of getting recommended for Flash presentation, so I just went about talking to anyone and everyone about my poster with the same enthusiasm as I always do. I love this part of the job – its great to talk to anyone that will listen about something I am so passionate about!
After the poster session were more lectures and then a welcome reception with Porto wine, nibbles and great company. I met Joey (from Canada) who has just started his PhD. Such a cool guy, down to earth and great to hang out with. After the reception I headed back to the hotel and decided to venture out to the centre and get a bite to eat and see whats about. Now, Porto is just the most beautiful place I think I’ve been to. The views are stunning, and the food amazing. I had spoken to a number of people before my trip and one thing that came up consistently was to try the Francesinha (and to make sure I was hungry before ordering!). I was really hungry at this point, so I ordered it, and in true British style, ordered fries too! This thing is incredible. It is basically a toasted sandwich, filled with steak, sausage, ham and covered with cheese and a sauce. Best. Food. Ever. It beat me, but worth every cent.
I managed to get in a bit of football watching too as their was a TV outside the restaurant..so good times! Then I did some more sight seeing wandering around Porto and taking in the views.
Day two of the conference, and I awake to an email from the organisers telling me I had been selected for flash oral presentation because of the ‘outstanding quality’ of my poster! What a message to wake up to, and a good job I had a presentation prepared!
Day two contained a number of really great lectures and two poster defence sessions – all of which were of really high scientific quality. It’s great to come to conferences where the science is the priority and is so good, and after a day of science was the conference dinner and wine cellar tour. So while waiting for the bus to take us to the wine cellars, I met some more amazing people; Špela and Dina. We got talking and immediately felt like I’d known them for years! While waiting in the queue we also made friends with Amanda who is just writing her thesis in the states. These people are amazing, and I’m so lucky to have met them all! We arrived at Taylor’s for the wine cellar tour and conference dinner, and were greeted with more wine and nibbles. where we also met Bradley – a post-doc from the states travelling around. our group was complete.
The wine cellar tour was amazing, and the tour guide so knowledgeable even though she is only part time and studying for a dentistry qualification! The dinner was delicious, Gazpacho, followed by veal and veg, then a cinnamon and apple turnover/puff pastry thin with caramel ice cream and coffees! Then we decided to head out for a walk around and see whats about. Nice to get more sightseeing in and more selfies of course! (although, the guys were getting pretty fed up I’m sure by this point haha).
Sadly time is a constant, and despite how much fun we were having, it was getting late (or early actually by this point), so we all decided to head back to our hotels and get ready for the final day of the conference, which for me was Flash Oral presentation day!
I decided to suit up and go all out for this, which by the sounds of it worked quite well from feedback I had! haha!
It was pretty nerve-wracking waiting to give a presentation after already giving a poster presentation, and some of those before me were doing great but going over time, so I was worrying about that too.. but when my name was mentioned and introduced, all nerves turned to positive energy. Ok the presentation wasn’t the best I’ve ever given, but I got my point across and finished bang on time, and the questions showed that people understood the content which for me was goal achieved!
We then broke for coffee break while the public scored the flash presentations, and went out to socialise before the last session and awards ceremony.
I didn’t win the best flash oral (which of course I was disappointed at), but I did win Best Poster :D. Not only that, but one of my new best friends Špela won honourable mention in her session too! So we got to share the stage as we were showered with congratulations (again, always nice to get haha!), and handed our prizes of a presentation box of porto wines and certificate.
Sadly, it was then time to say goodbye to those that I felt I had only just met but known for a lifetime as my flight home was in a few hours time. Much sadness to say goodbye, but will forever keep in touch with these guys, and who knows what will happen in the future! And the good news is that so far, I’ve managed to keep in touch..one week down! 😀
Best. Conference. Ever 🙂