Travelling to Conferences without Breaking the Bank

By: Caroline Winter

(11-10-2016) Update: The post was updated to reflect the increase in funding available from the English Department from $250 to $300. Note that all amounts are the maximum.

Presenting at conferences is important professional development for grad students, but it’s expensive. Those registration fees, travel costs, hotel rooms, and restaurant bills really add up!

There are three main sources of conference funding available to grad students at UVic: the Graduate Students’ Society (GSS)/Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS); The English Department; and CUPE 4163. The CUPE fund is available to Component 1 TAs during their TA-ships and for 12 months afterwards. Sessional instructors in Component 3 are not currently eligible for conference funding, but continuing sessional instructors are; see the CUPE website for more information. The GSS/FGS and English Department funding is available to all current English grad students.

Each funding source has a 12-month grant period, meaning that you can apply for funding from each source once per year. The catch is that the grant periods are not the same for all sources, so it pays to be strategic when planning what conferences to apply to and seek funding for to maximize your travel funding.

The amounts of funding available from each source and their grant periods are summarized in the table below. Click the links for more information about how and when to apply for each.

Funding Source Grant Period $ to Present Non-locally $ to Present Locally $ to Attend Non-Locally $ to Attend Locally
GSS/FGS April 1–March 31 $400–$600 $150 $300 $150
CUPE 4163 Component 1 September–August $250 $250 $250 $250
English Department (link is to the Grad Handbook; see section 12.12) September–August $300 $300 $300 $300

Essentially, each grad student is potentially eligible for up to $1100 in conference funding per year: $600 from the GSS/FGS, $250 from CUPE 4163, and $300 from the English Department. The Department’s contribution is dependent on fundraising, though, and none of this funding is guaranteed. The English Department also offers an additional $150 to support research projects, but again, it is not guaranteed.

One other source of conference funding is the conference itself. Many sponsoring organizations offer bursaries and scholarships to grad students. Be sure to look for these on the conference or sponsoring organization’s websites, or ask the organizers.

The application process for the GSS/FGS and English Department funds is simple: just fill out the form (see the current version at GSS/FGS link above) and submit it to Colleen. This form must be submitted no sooner than 4 months before the event, but it’s a good idea to apply as soon as possible, since the funds are distributed on a first come, first served basis.

The CUPE Component 1 fund is also distributed on a first come, first served basis. To apply, just fill out the form at the link above and submit it at the CUPE office in the Technology Enterprise Facility.

It’s important to note that you must apply for funding before the event, and you must pay the expenses out of pocket and submit receipts for reimbursement later. To receive funding from any of these sources, you must submit all your original receipts within 30 days of the conference; this deadline is strictly enforced, so be sure to keep all your receipts and submit them on time! If you’re travelling by air, keep your boarding passes as well as your receipts.

There are many ways to save money while travelling to conferences, such as dining out frugally, taking public transit rather than taxis or renting cars, being flexible with flight dates and times, and sharing hotel rooms. In my experience, you can usually find less expensive hotels than those at the conference hotel, but there is value in staying where most of the other delegates are staying; the extra expense may be worth the extra networking opportunities.

I hope these tips are helpful, but you should, of course, double check this information at the links above before making any plans. If you have any other tips for saving money at conferences or about accessing travel funding from UVic or other sources, please share them in the comments!

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