When applying for programs, you may find you’re self in this peculiar situation: you attend a conference related to your field, and you find out that folks from your favorite program, or more specifically, the researcher you want to most work with is at the same conference. What do you do? Do you go over and speak with them? Do you stay clear for fear of saying something wrong or ruining your chance as of ruining getting in to the program?
While it is ok to approach a situation such as this with some nervousness (after all, this is someone or a program who you are hoping to work with in the future), it is perfectly fine to look to speak with them. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to do some very important things:
First, you can take this time to introduce yourself to them, and let them know that you are interested in their program. Ask them their names, ask them what they do or what they teach. Let them know why you are interested in their specific program. While these questions may seem simple, they are good, foundational queastions to ask of them to show that you have researched the program, and have taken the time to get to know these folks.
Second, you can also take this time to ask them more in-depth questions about their experiences at the institution, or at the specific department. Dont ask too many questions, as they’re also there to enjoy their time at the conference, and not be interviewed about what they do back home. But, you can ask simple questions for them to answer. What do you think is a strength of your program or institution? Why should someone come to study at said institution?
Finally, and most simply, just try to connect with them. Youre both at a conference, youre both there to learn, and youre both there to enjoy the company of fellow professionals. This is an opportunity to meet with folks and form your network for the future. Enjoy the moment and connected with them as fellow people and professionals.