So a story idea comes in: A group of college geology students pile into a car, take a road trip and ultimately wind up sleeping in tents in a park. Are we interested?
Students pile into cars all the time to take field trips, see concerts, head down to Mexico for spring break … what’s the big deal?
As it turned out, a group of students from California State University, Fresno, wanted to go to the AAPG Pacific Section annual meeting in Monterey, Calif., this past April, but, being students, had no money – certainly not for hotels. Not even, really, for the conference.
“We planned,” said AAPG member Christopher Bowie, one of the students, “on taking a group to the conference as soon as it was announced in the fall.”
Bowie, a graduate student at Fresno and now working at Devon in Oklahoma City as an intern, is talking about his seven friends, classmates, who all were planning to attend the event – even though that’s about all they knew.
“We weren’t sure how we were going to get there originally or where we would stay,” Bowie said. “We didn’t have the funds to get everyone a hotel room in downtown Monterey.”
For starters, hotels there ran about $200-plus a night. Time for Plan B.
They decided, instead, to pitch a tent in a nearby park and work for free at the conference to gain admission.
Repeat that to yourself next time you’re worried about the future of the industry.
Home, Sweet Home
Even their plans, however, took some preparation – and some luck.
“Through contacting the conference volunteer coordinator,” Bowie said, “I found out about a campground one mile from the conference center, and that was $8 a person per night.”
But even the campgrounds required reservations.
“Unfortunately, they did not take reservations and it was first come, first served,” he said. “We had planned on getting there Friday night. We were a little nervous that the camp ground would be filled up when we got there.”
“Okay, we were VERY nervous,” he said, “and we did not have a back-up plan.”
To hear Bowie tell it, he was the first to arrive and the first thing he did was call the others, en route, to tell them to hurry up and get there before the camp was filled.
The group eventually arrived.
“We were very happy and relieved,” he said. “We had a place to stay for the next five days.”
For Bowie, this conference was special. He had been to others, but this was the first time he was presenting a poster.
“For many of the other students, it was their first AAPG conference.”
And it was Bowie’s idea to volunteer at the convention center.
“We had been corresponding with the student volunteer coordinators,” he said, “so we knew we would be reimbursed for most of our registration fees after our shifts.”
The trip from Fresno to Monterrey is about 160 miles – not a great distance, but impressive when considering why the students wanted to attend.
“Half of them made the trip just for the short courses,” Bowie said.
And it was, in retrospect, totally worth it.
“The most rewarding part about these conferences is getting new students involved,” he concluded.
And that can also be the toughest thing about them.
“The hardest part is getting new students to agree to come to an AAPG conference,” Bowie said, “but upon their return, they are usually glad they went, inspired and want to get involved with the student chapter leadership.”