Logistics and Planning for a Life Outside the University

There was a really great comment on the previous post about logistics for doing something like educational tourism. It’s all well to talk a good game, but seeing some numbers and maybe a plan might help.

For those of you with those questions, this post is for you. Numbers are at the bottom.

I assume you already have a passport, a good pair of shoes, and a laptop. To your bag you add a daypack, an actual camera (saves battery life on your phone), a bunch of small notebooks, and your towel.
First stop is the A4M conference in Vegas. Of course you’re going to sit in on talks by some of the leading experts in anti ageing medicine and research. Doesn’t that sound cool?
What do you think going to college is like? It’s mostly sitting at lectures. They rarely talk about their work, they’re just explaining punnett squares for the 400th time in your life (looking at you, genetics 300 level college course). Gotta make sure that everyone is on the same page…

This way you get all the good stuff.
Instead of one person talking for 2 months, it’s a bunch of people talking for a week. About cool research.
Prepare to take notes. you can Google when you’re done. Stay at a cheap place at the end of the strip. Try not to blow your cash on the nickle slots. I suggest making friends with people and talking outside the conference. That’s where the fun is.

This quarter you were going to be taking a reversed learning class in Intermediary Cell Biology where the teachers watch the students teach themselves and assist by handing out you tube videos…. (she wrote a paper on that, never mentioned we were the test subjects…)

Now you have 3 weeks to chill and wait for the next thing. Google the talking points, start reading those journal papers, transcribe your notes, and make sure you are doing the required reading for the Exosphere Hydra III, which is where you go next.

For the sake of the narrative, let’s say you stay at the hacker house Airbnb out by Lake Union in Seattle. Make sure to borrow one of their bikes and get into the University District proper, soak up some of that wifi and maybe argue with some grad students about potential neural precursors in beer. Feed your brain with dollar oyster shots from Ivar’s down on the water.

Now it’s the first week of January, time to prep for Chile. The cost of the program accounts for room and board, so you’re basically just paying to fly there. You bought your ticket in advance and you’re good to go. You’re traveling light and lean. All you books on on your laptop or preferred e reader, you have a solid weeks worth of clothes, and it’s summer time down south. For the next 2 months you’ll be talking with entrepreneurs, hackers, biologists, and tech enthusiasts from all over.
Of course, there will be no college credits offered. However, you will come out with some hard documentation about a project that you helped develop. Skip the degree, go straight to the benchwork, as it were. This way you can get hands on experience with programming, biology, 3d printing, and more. The networking opportunities alone are great, but add in a bit of potential startup action, and you’ve got yourself a really solid incubator.

It’s a bootcamp for future tech.

Right now you could be sitting in 300 level virology class where your professor called malaria a virus. YAY!

Now we have another few weeks to chill and soak up the learning. You’ve probably decided that you need that small 3d printer, but you dont really have a room per se. It can wait. Use some of the money you saved later for that.
At this point you have 3 weeks till Grindfest in deepest darkest Southern California 😉 Make sure your keep up with the updates on the biohack.me and Slack boards. Talk to some people. If you planned your trip properly, you can carpool from the airport. Spend some time keeping up with the developments from people post Hydra. Somebody probably has something going now, and you probably had lunch with them every day for a month.
Grindfest is only a couple of days, but if its anything like the last two events, it’ll be quite a party. With learning. Learning party, it’s a thing, tell your friends.
For the first week in April, you’ll get to hang out with diy biohacking enthusiasts, learn some basic surgery techniques, do a fair bit of circuit bending and coding, take a bunch of smart drugs, and probably end up getting at least one implant and a programmable rfid chip. Luckily, you’ve saved so much cash, it’s easy to chip in for the bbq.

Afterwards, as you shuffle back to the airport, you realize that your friends back home are doing midterms. You decide to do a cost benefit analysis of your last 6 months. There’s more to do, but let’s put this in perspective.

Numbers are rounded for ease.

A Breakdown of Costs

Half a year of a standard degree in whatever field it is you are aiming at, if you’ve even chosen a major
Let’s assume you’re an undergrad, or we can start adding up the cost of all the classes you took to get to this point and that’s just unfair… 😉
Assume in state tuition cause that makes life easy.
Assuming a full course load.

Tuition $6000
books $600
housing $11000 (sorry, the 6 month lease is dead, you got a place for a year)
personal expenses (estimated) $1100
local transportation $200

Grand Total for half a year of University $18900

cost reference


Learned about anti aging research.
Intro to 3d printing course, with hands on training.
Intro to synthetic biology with hands on training.
Intro to minor surgery with hand on training.
Traveled all over, including 2 months in chile.
Got yourself a nifty implant or two (rfids or sensing em fields, or both?)
Participated in developing an MVP for a potential startup
all the networking

Tickets to Vegas $250
A4M seminar $600
cheap place on the Vegas strip $250
Ticket to Chile $1500
exosphere hydra III $4200
books for hydra $70 (ebook version)
Ticket to California $250
Grindfest (food, implants, beverages, bandages) $200
chipping in for gas, paying for buses, emergency cabs/ubers $300
air bnb in the hacker house in between trips $1680
personal expenses in downtime (estimated) $1000

Grand Total for 6 months of Science Tourism $10,300

There are the numbers. Even with a significant increase for unforeseen expenses, it just doesn’t compare, cost wise. Also, the traveling around doing science plan sounds a lot more fun to me. If you want to talk about learning experiences, college starts to pale a bit…
For anyone who was curious about the logistics, I hope this clarifies some of that.

Let me know if there are some points missing that you have questions about.

2 thoughts on “Logistics and Planning for a Life Outside the University”

  1. WOW! impressive answer! totally valid looking…

    major point: again wow! this is a very feasible, very exciting, very applicable education! wrapped in a totally compelling vision!

    minor point: 18900 for a semester at college?! i was able to get away with ~6k/semester for EVERYTHING at the local state school (4 year)… living low flow… even on its face you could stay at the airbnb place and go to school (not sure how distracting that would be…)

    … but compared to 2 months in chile (let alone other decent spots) and all those contacts plus the potential to get an early start on business building: so invaluable at this stage in america’s biotech (and other tech) growth, i think…

    hopefully it’s more than just me that thinks this is worth further considering! thank you!

    1. That was 18,900 for 2 quarters and a year of rent. If you double your number, you start to get a bit closer to the estimate.

      It depends where you go when counting the cost of school. You’ll notice that I put a whole years rent in there, since it’s hard to get a shorter lease (at least around here). Average rent for a studio in Seattle is about 1k a month. Really puts the bite on. Living in the city has it’s costs, as does going to coast schools. It’s all a matter of what you think it’s worth.

      Hopefully other people are excited as you 😀

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