From Santa Barbara to Baltimore- Tips for Attending a SWE Conference

The women of SWE at UCSB were super excited to attend this year’s annual SWE conference all the way in Baltimore, MD. The month of September was spent reaching out to local companies, as well as school funding sources to find ways to sponsor our travel. We were very happy when we received enough funding to send 4 girls to the conference! All it took was a little bit of reaching out. For 3 of us, this was our first SWE conference ever!

We eventually arrived in Baltimore after what seemed like an endless day of sitting in planes, trains and automobiles to find that to our surprise, Baltimore is FREEZING COLD. Unfortunately, none of us packed our heavy coats and we knew it was the beginning of a very chilly four days.

Day 1 of the conference was spent sleeping in, as we were all very exhausted and exploring the convention center (it was too cold to venture outside). We also attended the Region B meeting, which was a great way to feel more connected to other women in our region. The first night contained the opening of what seemed like the world’s largest career fair, followed by awesome hospitality suites put on by the companies. Day 2 was filled with booth after booth at the career fair, and even a couple of on the spot interviews with potential employers. It was exciting, fun and scary at the same time. On the last day, we were brave enough to actually leave the convention center and explore Baltimore for a few hours. We did a walking tour of Fells Point, went to a farmers market and ate a great meal at a local diner. We spent the last night at the Celebrate SWE dance, which was super fun and a great way to end the trip!

The trip had a lot of great moments, with a couple of unexpected hurdles along the way, but in the end served as an amazing bonding experience for the four of us. We gained a lot from our experience…here are some helpful tips we learned along the way:

1)If you want to attend a conference, but can’t afford to go, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for sponsorship. People usually want to help you.

2) I can’t emphasize this one enough: CHECK THE WEATHER and be sure you are packing the right clothes for the city you are traveling to.

3) Don’t be afraid to go alone- we met the awesome President from UC Irvine who came all by herself and was having a blast.

4)Pack a professional but comfortable outfit for the career fair.

5)If the conference is happening at the same time as classes (they usually are), try to finish all your homework before attending. There really wasn’t much free time to study in the hotel room!

6) Make sure to set some time aside to explore the city you are traveling to. The convention center doesn’t really count as seeing the city.

7) Try to attend as many seminars and discussion panels as possible, most of them are very helpful and a great way to network.

8) Take advantage of the free food (there is lots of it).

9) Introduce yourself to as many people as possible. You never know what a connection you made at the conference could lead you to.

10) Have a positive attitude! Things will go wrong when you are traveling, but with a positive attitude, you won’t even remember the stressful situations.

Hope all of you who attended had a great time. Can’t wait to see everyone at the Regional Conference!

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3 thoughts on “From Santa Barbara to Baltimore- Tips for Attending a SWE Conference

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said! A few of us packed poorly as well. I want to add some of the things my section has learned over the years of conferences. Just to add to some of your points!

    2) If you do find that you are cold, take the shuttle buses to and from the venue. They run pretty frequently as well as take some strain off the sometimes uncomfortable business shoes.

    4) When it is going to be a long day, wear flats. When attending Celebrate I know a few people that pack flip flops in their bags. That way after all the group photos you have comfortable shoes for the dance party!

    5) We now try to show up Wednesday night, this allows us to sleep the night before conference. In the past if we took an early flight out, half of the group would be too tired to make it to the beginning conference events. On the other end, when picking flights home we would take the earlier one out. We are usually able to sleep during the flights, and after planes and cars we were still able to make it back to school by noon. This left plenty of time for homework!

    6) I cannot agree more! I feel like every conference I don’t get to truly enjoy the area. Even if it is just walking to dinner, take the long way! Enjoy the city! If that means working on homework late at night for that extra hour or two exploring the city during the day it is worth it! I would rather be tired then feel like I missed out on the city.

    7) Divide and conquer! As stated #3, it is okay to go alone to the sessions. You meet more people that way, and you can regroup and discuss what everyone learned. Different session are more appealing to different people, the great part is that we can choose what we want to go to. This lets your section back home get more out of your trip as well.

    I love and agree with all the tips here. Conference always has some stress involved, but as you said if you keep a positive attitude nothing else seems important beyond the fun you are having!

  2. I’m so glad I found this post. I am planning on attending Annual Conference next year and this definitely provides me with a lot of useful advice and information.

    My chapter is very encouraging and helpful towards anyone who wants to attend the conferences. I absolutely agree regarding asking for sponsorship. Attending conferences, especially if they are a plane ride away, can be extremely expensive, but people are always willing to help find ways for you to attend. I know my chapter offers companies the opportunity to sponsor students to attend conferences so that provides a fund for cases like this.

    I always hear such great things about the conferences and I can’t wait for my chance to go.

  3. I think both of you have great advice. It not only applies to SWE conferences, but successful travel in general. Traveling with fellow SWE members allows you to bond and make lasting friendships. Also, it is always important to have a positive attitude!
    I am a freshman and this is my first year as a SWE officer. I am looking forward to future opportunities to attend SWE Conferences and I appreciate your advice.

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