Now that back to school season is in full swing, graduate students and postdocs everywhere are getting ready to leave. That’s right, leave. It’s very common for graduate students to bring their research to conferences all over the nation, often the globe, and for postdoctoral professors to be invited as visiting professors or researchers at other colleges.
Academics are often on the move, researching abroad, attending seminars, and teaching at different schools. This helps expand their scope of knowledge and promote their research to others in their field. It’s also pretty stressful for the academic and the people they leave at home. Most of the mathematicians Josh has met have a rule of how many trips per year they take without their spouse; some count days or weeks, others always bring their spouse with them. If you’re lucky enough to join your spouse on their work trip, awesome! (If you’re holding down the fort, read part two.) To reduce the stress of time away, the motm household has developed some travel tips for international trips, and a packing list that works well for the academic.
Have a good data plan.
When traveling internationally, most people will say you can get away with hopping on wifi and using chat apps like Viber or Google Hangouts. I don’t recommend this. You will need access to your phone for maps, translate, and your colleagues at your university abroad will need to contact you. Having a method of communication that is professional and easy to access is key. If you travel internationally a lot, or find yourself overseas for a long period of time, it may be beneficial to get a phone that works with an international SIM card, like a Pixel. That way, when you are overseas, you can pop out your domestic SIM card and purchase a pay-as-you-go plan, which would be less expensive than buying international data on your domestic plan.
Don’t fight the time change.
Whether it’s international or just an hour, try to adjust to the time zone change as quick as possible. This will reduce stress, and prevent you from becoming tired, worn out and sick during or after your trip. Pack melatonin to use as a sleep aid if needed, but I recommend avoiding any unnatural or unhealthy sleep aids.
Practice the language.
If you are traveling to a foreign country, most people in your field of study will speak English, but people outside of the university may not. Be a good visitor and do your best to learn common phrases before your trip. Some people are more willing to speak English if you attempt to speak their language. Duolingo is a free app you can use to learn languages.
Bring your own adapters.
I’m not just talking outlets here. You will need an outlet adapter, but I also suggest bringing an Ethernet adapter/connector. While most places will have wifi, their speeds will not be as fast as you could get on an Ethernet connection. We learned this the hard way.
Expect to be uncomfortable.
Your plans will change, flights get delayed, trains are late, you will get lost. Give yourself large enough windows in your travel plans to allow for things to go wrong, and be pleasantly surprised when you get to slow roll it to your destination when everything turns out just fine.
This is probably the most important tip. Always leave enough room in your suitcase to bring home candy for every day you’re gone. Trust me, your spouse appreciates it.
Academic Packing List:
- USB drive
- Laptop charger
- Pens and paper
- Other work
- Ethernet to USB adapter
- Outlet adapter
- Laptop adapter