Everyone should attend at least one conference or symposium in their veterinary school career. They can be a great source of supplemental learning and they are also a great source for networking and making connections. There are a variety of these events internationally so finding one near you should be fairly effortless. They can range in their topics from broad veterinary medicine to specific areas of interest and can vary in length from just one day to a week. Some offer lectures only and some have lectures as well as wet labs. With this comes a wide range of prices anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars. Some conferences will offer scholarships to attend, such as the annual SAVMA symposium so make sure you look into the ones you are interested to help defray those costs.
I recently attended a one-day symposium that was full of lectures on exotic companion mammals. Developing knowledge outside of school can be extremely beneficial and it can also tie in those things we have been learning in class to clinical cases–which is always satisfying to remind yourself of why you sit through countless hours of lectures. It can be especially helpful for those classes that may not be offered until later in the veterinary school curriculum that you’d like to get a head start on, or if your school doesn’t offer many classes in a certain area of interest and you want to further your knowledge. Symposiums can also offer lectures that you may never hear elsewhere. For example, I attended a lecture on honey bees and the role of the veterinarians which was incredibly eye-opening but something that my school does not offer at this time.
Another reason to attend symposiums is for networking opportunities. This is a way to meet other people in the field, whether they are fellow students from other schools or other professionals. One of my favorite parts of attending the SAVMA Symposium last year in Philadelphia was talking with students from other schools, contrasting the differences in our curriculum, and getting to know their interests. Furthermore, networking is important in that it can connect you to future opportunities. I am in this current position as a veterinary student blogger for the Merck Veterinary Manual thanks to networking at the 2018 SAVMA Symposium. I was wandering around the seemingly endless booths and found the Merck Veterinary Manual booth and struck up a conversation with an employee. We got to talking and she gave me her card, several weeks later I decided to apply and because of that connection, I got the job.
Attending a conference or symposium is a valuable experience and I encourage you to seek out one that is right for you.