Note: I'm primarily interested in answers relevant to Computer Science (Theory), but answers in different areas in CS / totally other disciplines are equally welcome.
In most (if not all) PhD programs, incoming grad students are supposed to take relevant courses and fulfill their TA-ship duties (I'm assuming not everyone gets a RA from the 1st semester itself). During that time, they are also expected (and highly encouraged) to keep reading on their chosen research field, to have a concrete idea of where all the focus in that field is at that moment.
In my opinion, I would consider that attending important conferences and interacting with leading researchers in their field would play a very important role in the development of a young researcher, as he/she would have the chance to get motivated by the best brains in the business! But, it is unlikely that he/she would have publishable results at such venues within such a short time, and if he/she doesn't have a fellowship/travel scholarship, it is unlikely that he'd be able to afford the registration/travel/accommodation expenses from his own stipend.
So, what are the options in front of such a student to make attending such events possible:
- Do advisers cover the expenses for their incoming grad students, for attending such talks/conferences, or is there a provision for such funds from the department ?
How much does the answer to the above question vary between different colleges - I've heard (unconfirmed) reports that higher-ranked institutions have more funds to burn, and as such students in such departments can afford to attend talks without publishing in them (at least for the first 2 semesters) ?
Are there specific scholarships/fellowships that exist to primarily cater to conference related expenses for students? If so, it would be great to get some leads on where to look, and what are the primary qualifications (>90% of fellowships in US require the applicant to be an US citizen, making it extremely difficult for international students to get one!) ?