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Bringing First Timers to PyCon Through Financial Aid

Spending a few days at a conference isn’t cheap. If you’re really lucky, it’s in your hometown or a short drive away. For a majority of the attendees, it’s a plane ride away and a few nights or even a week in a hotel. For many, it’s a plane ride across an ocean, from a different hemisphere. For André Augusto of Brazil, travel alone was almost a full month’s salary, but PyCon’s Financial Aid committee helped paved the way to bring him to his first PyCon in the US.

“I really am grateful for the PSF and PyCon team for helping me out on this,” said André of his grant. “I am already saving for attending PyCon next year,” he says of PyCon 2014 which takes place April 10-17 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


For 2013, the financial aid budget started with a slight increase from years past, around $50,000. As the organizers began to put all of the parts together, we quickly saw that this was going to be a huge conference. More talks, more events, more of everything. What we needed was more money to help bring this conference to people from around the world who needed a hand with the expensive trip, and the Python Software Foundation graciously increased the financial aid budget up to $100,000.


The way financial aid works is that applications are open to all, with a series of questions asked of each applicant such as their background, their experience, contributions to the community, if they’re a student, or if they’re presenting something at the conference. From there, the committee, lead by Peter Kropf, divides up the funds with a goal of helping as many people as possible. Most grants are partial in order to spread the funding, and assistance can cover expenses such as reimbursement for travel, lodging in the various conference hotels, or the conference admission.


For international travelers like André, the organizers help as much as possible to make sure attendees have what they need to get in. “Thanks to the invitation letter Rami gave me, it was easier to get an American visa,” André said of Rami Chowdhury’s role in writing formal invitations make travel plans easier or even possible from some countries.


As for the conference itself, André, “met real good people from US, Poland, France and Brazil as well,” and made “lots of new connections to grow new projects I have in mind and also open source projects to support.”


Marta Maria Casetti, a student from London, made it to her first PyCon thanks to a partial grant for her travel, and cover for her hotel stay. Financial aid recipients who receive lodging support are paired up with other recipients, which is part of the way PyCon is able to spread the help across more people than in the past.


“I am not sure I would have come without a grant,” she said of the expense, especially tough for a student. PyCon helps many students each year, and this year we cut the student rate in half to $100 at the early bird rate. The regular rate was also halved to $125.


“The tutorials were a huge part of my PyCon experience,” said Marta Maria of Jessica McKellar’s beginner tutorial, followed by Matt Harrison’s intermediate tutorial. On Sunday at the conference, she presented a poster titled “Beginners Welcome: From Zero to GUIs in Four Months, via Writing a Tutorial” about her experience working on a GTK+ tutorial through the GNOME Outreach Program for Women. As for how she felt presenting the tutorial, she said it was “empowering, and a great source of ideas for my work, and a chance to meet so many interesting people!”

PyCon is happy to have been able to help people like André and Marta Maria, as well as everyone else who received assistance in 2013. We look forward to seeing them again in 2014!

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