I got selected for an opportunity. But should I go?

A number of students write in to me with this question. They get selected to an opportunity and then wonder if they should take up on it. Sharing a case of guidance facilitated in this regard.

Second year student at MEC, Selected to an AI Conference

I’ve read your blog and I’ve sat for one of your session too, that’s why I decided to contact you directly. I don’t know if I’ve done impactful things with my life, but I co-founded FOSSMEC with a senior when I was in the first year and I was a fellow at Google Summer of Code 2018.

So the thing is I’m kind of lost for things to do because I got selected for Winter School of AI (https://nepalschool.naamii.com.np/)

which was happening at Kathmandu. They won’t provide any scholarship for students who are not from Nepal. This event is really really useful for me because this is a field I want to pursue and the people who are coming to conduct the sessions are all PhD’s in this field. I would have loved to attend it if it was not for the flight tickets which costs 20k for both ways.

I don’t have any idea on what I’m supposed to do as this event starts right after my semesters end on 20th of this December and this event is on 20th. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do to get some kind of sponsorship? Does rethink have any grants for sponsoring these kinds of opportunity? I would love to hear what you’d do if you were in my shoes.

Please let me know what you think whenever you get some time. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. 🙂

My response:

Appreciate you writing in. It is quite impressive to see that you’re a junior at MEC but have managed to cover some ground in the short duration. Kudos on completing GSoC as well.

Coming to your selection and travel to the Winter School of AI, let me first answer what I’d have done if I were in your shoes:

1. I’d validate the opportunity thoroughly. What I’d first to is figure out if this program is really really worth my time. Read this blog article for more perspectives on validating opportunities.

2. If I feel that this program is worth my time, my next question would be this — Should I really do this now or can it wait?

Typically, first cohort of any program isn’t well-structured. It is a time when the hosts are mostly testing ground and figuring out if it works. It might make sense to wait it out a bit if it isn’t immediately useful. Even otherwise, thinking through how doing the program right now would add value to you would be good.

3. If I do attend the program, what exactly am I going to take away? Is there a key person I wish to meet and engage for a specific reason? This one’s got to be specific. I’ll get good exposure is not a good enough answer for this.

Now my guidance to you,

I took a quick look at the program website. It appears that this is the first cohort of this program. I also couldn’t locate a lot of info on the organiser/host of the program to validate how good this might be.

Conferences and summits are a great starting point. But beyond that, they don’t add a lot of value. At this point, given your portfolio, I think you’d benefit much more from internships/mentorships or projects. Narrow your focus to high-value programs and internships would be my guidance (one such program I came across- openAI fellowship)

But if you have decided to travel, there are a lot of options to fund your travel.

Rethink doesn’t provide travel grants just yet, but there are tons of other orgs/programs that do. I have also penned down a blog post on how you can make money to attend such conferences. You may find the article by googling for “how to make money to travel to conferences”

I hope I’ve given you enough frameworks to think through this.

I’d love to know what you finally decide and more importantly why 🙂

Keep me posted.

And his response:

Thank you for the comprehensive response.

You just managed to change my mind on this. 🙂

I do think now that I’d personally benefit more from an internship than a conference like this and I shall dedicate the time that I was planning to spend for this event to prepare and figure out how to find a good internship.

Thanks for the link to the OpenAI portal but that’s like shooting for the stars, I think I’ll keep that as my goal of where I want to be and do internships and projects which would help me get there in the future.