… by Iulia / from Romania / studying Environmental Geoscience / 4th year
When I decided to sign up with my final year dissertation project for the biggest geosciences conference in Europe, I did not have any estimate on the actual size of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. A couple of weeks prior to leaving for Vienna to take part in the event, I found out that my abstract was one among more than 16,000 which would be presented during 5 days of scientific sessions. At first I felt overwhelmed, then I started browsing the programme and creating my personalized timetable of short courses, debates, poster and oral sessions I was interested in attending.
The size of the General Assembly implied that every day between 7th and 12th April, there were multiple sessions running in parallel from 8 am to 8 pm. Many a time did I have to choose between two equally interesting sessions taking place simultaneously. Nevertheless, I am happy I had the chance of exploring a variety of topics tangent to the world of scientific research, which complemented subjects I was familiar with from my classes and widened my perspective of potential future careers.
For instance, I went to a couple of sessions concerning the dialogue between science and policy making, which made me realize how important it is to develop an open-minded attitude when trying to bring together two fields with such different approaches. I felt particularly attracted to these subjects, as I consider that linking the laboratory microcosm typical of science with the worldwide context defined today by the stringent need to tackle climate change is one of the most inspiring contributions I could make as an Earth Scientist to our society.
Presenting my poster within the conference was one of the most personally fulfilling academic challenges I set for myself throughout my student life. I very much enjoyed being able to interact with professors and postgraduate students familiar with my topic, to explain my results to them and receive comments, feedback and suggestions on how to improve or continue my work, and even an invitation to contribute to a publication! Thinking back about the atmosphere of those days, I can best characterize it as intellectually vibrant and stimulating – however, at the end of long days of sessions, when everyone was enjoying drinks while chatting to colleagues and collaborators, I often felt somehow isolated, mostly because I came by myself to Vienna and did not really know anyone within the conference. The entire experience made me understand that someone could feel very lonely even when surrounded by 16,000 other people…
My account of the EGU conference would not be complete, were I not to mention how thrilled I was to come back to Vienna six years after my first visit here. Vienna is a city I would go back to any time such an opportunity arises. When taking breaks from the intense programme of the conference, I strolled through its wonderful parks, admired its elegant, imperial buildings scattered all around Ringstraße, enjoyed its view from above while taking a ride on the Ferris Wheel, and reconfirmed – as I do every time I enter such a building – my fascination with the story of earth’s formation and evolution, so tied with my degree, in the Natural History Museum. I especially enjoyed gazing at the incredible interiors of the State Hall in the Austrian National Library, the State Opera and Burgtheater.
I will remember my first participation in a scientific conference as the perfect mix between academic challenges and touristic promenades in one of my dearest places. It added a new dimension to my last year of undergraduate and inspired me to take advantage of new opportunities I have come across during the week – the perfect motivation for the career I am heading towards after graduating in July.