• GradHacker

    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online


Business Travel and Graduate School

With careful forethought, you can successfully manage business travel and graduate school.

April 3, 2019

Elizabeth Dunn is a Ph.D. student in Information Science at the University of North Texas. She works for Tarleton State University in Stephenville,Texas, in the College of Graduate Studies, and also as an adjunct faculty instructor for Tarleton’s College of Business Administration.

One of my favorite things about my career is that I have the opportunity to travel. The leadership in my organization believes strongly in professional development as well as the additional benefits of traveling. While travel is not mandatory for my role, being open to the opportunity to travel for work has afforded me opportunities that perhaps I would not otherwise have had in my professional life. Even better, getting out of the mundane office routine leaves me feeling recharged and ready to cultivate exciting, new ideas.

I’m constantly hustling to juggle work and graduate school, and over the last four years, I’ve worked on many graduate school assignments from an altitude of 35,000 feet. With no cell service and a couple of idle hours free of interruptions, sitting with my laptop in a window seat on a flight en route to a conference feels like a guilty pleasure. Thanks to inflight wifi and a set of headphones, I enjoy making the trip the perfect opportunity to get some truly concentrated work done.

As any experienced traveler will tell you, traveling isn’t always smooth and easy. Conference schedules, for example, are usually robust with idea sessions, presentations, and networking opportunities. You’re moving about from session to session, walking to dinners, meeting new people, and seeing the sights. While fun, business travel can leave you physically and mentally tapped. Add time differences (and too many free drinks at the social) to the mix, and the grad school train can easily be derailed. However, like many things, staying on course while traveling can be accomplished by being prepared. Here are some ways I’ve managed my various responsibilities while traveling for work:

Devote some serious time prior to your travel to organization. Well in advance of your trip, start thinking about what you might need and what you need to do while you’re gone. For example, I have a class that is beginning this summer while I will be in the UK on a work trip. I have a reminder in my calendar to ask for the syllabus early so that I can be aware of expectations and make a plan even before I leave for the airport. Keep tabs on the progress that you need to be making. In doing so, you’ll lessen your chances of forgetting them in a rush. Review the course calendar and make checklists well in advance. Trying to remember everything that is due or everything that you’ll need for a trip can be stressful if you wait until the last minute.

Avoid squandering time: treat it like a precious commodity. While travel may present lots of opportunities to network, be sure to allot some of your work “downtime” to your grad school to-do list. If you can, work well ahead before you leave home so that you don’t feel as cramped for time while traveling. There are usually many opportunities to engage in social events and see local sites, but be sure to prioritize your time in consideration of your student responsibilities when these excursions are optional. Save yourself stress by budgeting for even more time to complete things than you think you’ll need. If your flight is delayed and you don’t make it back on time, will you still be able to get that paper done? Communicate with your professor about things like exam requirements such as proctoring. It could present a challenge to take a proctored exam while in another country!

Embrace technology that simplifies your life. I utilize online checklists through a tool called Trello (game changer for me in the organization area). Also, working in a cloud storage platform like Google Drive can make your documents accessible from anywhere you can connect to the web – even in the air! If you need to collaborate with group members or colleagues while you’re gone, consider online collaboration tools such as Slack. Even if you’re not sitting at your laptop, most of these tools have fantastic apps which allow you to keep an eye on things right at your fingertips. For background music during flights, download an app like Pandora that has an offline mode. Charge your laptop and phone before you leave home because outlets may be at a premium in airports. I’ve also run into the situation where I can’t get my phone to charge in a rental car. And while wifi is nearly omnipresent, it’s a good idea to save some of your important working documents or resources in drives that you can access in the event that wifi is inaccessible.

Care for yourself. While you’re traveling, be sure to stick to your typical diet as well as you can, and avoid drinking too much! Be sure to pack comfortable shoes for the daytime and your running shoes too so you can hit the treadmill. Exercising at the start of your day will leave you feeling motivated and ready to face the tasks of traveling for work and getting your grad work done as well. Don’t forget any vitamins, supplements, or regular medications that you may take. And don’t neglect plenty of sleep! It can take days to adjust to time changes, so treat your body kindly and give it the rest it craves.

Traveling for work provides fantastic opportunities to build career experience through things like presentations, team and relationship building, networking, and new ideas. While you should prioritize your time in consideration of your grad school responsibilities, be sure to find balance and take in the experience of travel. You’ll miss out on rich career opportunities if you stay burrowed in your hotel room under a pile of research articles during all of your downtime. With planning, traveling for work can provide nuggets of time to get focused work done for graduate school and also allow you to have some incredible experiences along the way.

What tips can you share about traveling for work while being in graduate school?

[Photo courtesy of the author, taken in Clearwater Beach, Florida.]


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