The Joys of University Funding

monkey confused about funding

Here’s a funny thing: according to the Research Staff Travel Prize rules, you can apply for their funding if your presentation at a conference is going to be through the medium of a poster.  That’s great, because they’ll fund up to 50% of the costs, to a maximum of £600 for an overseas conference.  By my calculations, that’s most of the flight covered.  However, they expect you to show in your application that the funding they offer will be matched, preferably via your home school – in my case, Health Sciences.

Apparently, I have a budget of up to £1000 per year for such things as conferences, via my school.  However – and here’s the nonsense – according to my line manager, that budget only covers PAPER presentations at conferences, not posters.  Which suggests that posters are not as valuable as papers.  I’m not sure I agree with this, and here’s my logic: if I present a paper, I get around 20 minutes, and I’m one of many presentations going on at the same time.  So only the people who happen to come to hear my presentation will know anything about the study.  If I present a poster, it’s up in the conference venue for the whole time (in this case, four days), I get to hover around it at break times, I can leave a little version of it along with my business card in case anyone wants to contact me, and – this is my favourite bit – I get to do a tiny version of a presentation on the daily poster round.  Seriously, does that sound less exciting than presenting a paper?  I think not!

I’m quite a fan of challenging things if I don’t think they’re entirely fair, so I feel a carefully worded email coming on.  If that doesn’t work out, it’s back to plan A: convincing friends and family that they love my cakes so much, they’ll pay me actual money to eat them.  And maybe a sponsored silence – anyone who knows me will understand the challenge there…

Time flies, but people really shouldn’t

image of Gold Coast beachI’ve realised that it’s less than six months until this epic journey happens.  And it does feel like it’ll happen, now, because I’ve been talking about it to lots of friends – apparently I’m one of the last people in the world to visit Australia (or so it seems).  Talking about things often makes them seem more real, I find.

The downside of these conversations is the inevitable question: ‘But what about your massive fear of flying?!’  It’s been a long-standing joke, my aversion to getting on a plane, and I’ve been trying to deal with it for a lot of years.

Back in the mists of time, when I was not a parent, I flew to Saudi Arabia a couple of times, to visit my Dad who was working there.  I also flew to the Czech Republic, Greece and Paris.  Bizarrely, I can’t remember being utterly terrified in those days – I mostly just enjoyed the food-in-a-tray excitement, and the biggest dread was about having that toddler playing peek-a-boo for THE ENTIRE JOURNEY over the seat in front.  I do remember not particularly liking taking off or landing, but there was no gripping of the arm rest, or hawkishly watching the cabin crew’s faces to make sure I knew the minute something might be wrong.  I know, I sound like a mad woman.

Anyway, somewhere in the mire of having children, I developed a proper, full on fear of getting on a plane.  I think it’s something about being a responsible grown up – several of my friends have been able to relate to this idea.

So in 2010, I had to go to Belfast for a conference.  Believe me, I looked at every possible way of travelling that didn’t involve planes – a combination of car and boat, or train and boat, or train, boat and car… But they all took too many days, and I decided I should face my fear.  I heard Chris Moyles talking about how he’d used a self-hypnosis app to conquer his fear, and thought this sounded like something I could do to help myself.

I have no idea whether the app worked – I never managed to stay awake long enough to even hear what was on it.  I always woke up to a lovely, calming sound that told me it was over.  I think I may be worryingly susceptible to hypnosis… Anyway, I got on the plane, and I felt as okay as someone who’s terrified of flying might feel.  But I did find myself tapping my arm rest part way through the flight, and tapping is not something I’m usually prone to, so I wonder whether it did work in some way?

Since then, I’ve continued to avoid flying.  I’ve only been once to Amsterdam (with my son, who told everyone when we got home that I was so scared, he had to hold my hand…), and twice to Dublin.  Each time, I feel a little worse, and I’m beginning to wonder whether I might soon turn into one of those people who demand to get off the plane mid-flight?

So, coping strategies for a massively long flight: I’ll probably try the self-hypnosis app again, and I’ll perhaps combine it with some kind of sedative – given the length of time in the air, maybe I can sleep the whole way there?!  One thing I’m very sure of, however, is that no alcohol will be involved.  I’m a cheap date at the best of times, and I don’t know whether you’ve seen ‘Bridesmaids’, but there’s a hilarious cautionary tale there about not mixing sedatives with alcohol…

Finding Friends

My youngest daughter had some interesting statistics for me the other day, on the subject of how many people live in Australia and how immense the country is.  I’ll be visiting a tiny part of it, but already I’ve discovered that two of my Facebook friends are nearby (that’s you, Val and Sairose).  This makes me happy, because it means I can visit them (if I survive the flight, obviously) like a proper tourist!  Also, it makes me wonder whether the entire population is crowded into the tiny part I’m now calling ‘Goldie’ (got that from the horse’s mouth, so to speak!).

My next job is to find people over there who have an interest in midwifery leadership.  If I’m going to travel that far, I’d really like to meet with like-minded researchers or policy bods, and I always find it super interesting to explore different systems of care.  And let’s face it, leadership is a worldwide obsession, so there are bound to be people with similar research interests to mine.  I’m thinking narratives of identity might be a good pitch, too…

So my first step is to go exploring in the world of Australian universities – well, the ones somewhere near to where I’m planning to visit – and hunt down some poor, unsuspecting researchers.  Then at least I can begin to put a plan together, instead of just doing blank face when my family ask me how long I’m planning to be away!

Well, hello there…

I have a massive fear of flying.  Some people think this is a silly thing, given that I get into my car and drive it every day.  I disagree, for lots of reasons, but mainly because I don’t fly my car over vast expanses of water.  A few weeks ago, I thought a fun way to get over this fear would be to put an abstract into a conference on the other side of the world.  Well, that wasn’t quite my thinking, but as it happens, I did put an abstract in for a conference on the other side of the world.  I thought if it was accepted, I’d just have a little think about the flying thing when it became necessary.

So now it’s become necessary, because the abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at this year’s Australian College of Midwives’ conference in October, which is happening at Gold Coast (you see that spectacular photo at the top of the page?  Yes, it is).  Initially, I thought I just wouldn’t be able to go – for fear and financial reasons.  However, it turns out that my university has a staff travel prize, which includes poster presentations, so that would be a help.  And then my eldest daughter pointed out that a lot of my friends would want me to go to Australia (apparently not in a bad way, though *hmmmm*), so I should raise the money to get out there.

Hence this blog: I’ve decided my daughter is right (as 17-year-olds so often are), and I really should try to go to the ball – sorry, conference.  I thought writing a blog about the adventure would be fun – my friends know how much I love to blog – and a good way of keeping my concentration along the next six months as I plan the trip.  As an added bonus, readers will get to enjoy my experiences of trying to get over my fear of flying enough to climb aboard a plane that goes over VAST expanses of water.  Fun times indeed…