4 Simple Ways I Survived My First NAFSA Conference

4 Simple Ways I Survived My First NAFSA Conference

4 simple ways I survived my first NAFSA conference

The National NAFSA Conference is a big networking party!

Attending a NAFSA conference is more than your typical 9 to 5 job. It’s an almost 24-hour circuit of business mixed with a bit of pleasure. Having attended conferences before, I knew I had to mentally and physically prepare for the long, yet stimulating week. Here’s how:[spacer height=”20px”]

Plan Well In Advance [spacer height=”20px”]

Surviving NAFSA 2016 started way before I even landed in Denver. It took weeks of preparation. I expected to: (1) Present a poster; (2) Volunteer; and (3) Leave a great first impression in the field as a newbie. [spacer height=”20px”]

I started planning, designing, and finalizing my poster in April. Too, I began scheduling my volunteer shifts and a few key sessions I wanted to attend. [spacer height=”20px”]

I booked my flight in advance so I could reconnect with old friends from GoAbroad. And, of course, get their feedback on how to best navigate my first NAFSA. [spacer height=”20px”]

I, however, didn’t plan for the physical component of my trip nor the altitude. I didn’t realize the altitude and its effect until the morning of my 2nd day in Denver. [spacer height=”20px”]

Several IE vets and I had begun our morning sitting around a table at Fado Irish Pub. GoAbroad prepared to host its pre-conference welcome event followed by a baseball game at nearby Coors Field. [spacer height=”20px”]

Exhaustion overcame me and my lips began to crack. Throughout the game, I daydreamed of sleep and a cold beer (shocking if you know me). [spacer height=”20px”]

Lesson learned: hydrate and remember where you are going. Prepare to adjust to any climate in any destination. [spacer height=”20px”]

Cheers to the Volunteers! [spacer height=”20px”]

I’m a certified introvert with expertise in timidity, stuttering, and avoiding small talk. I’m easily intimidated by networking. [spacer height=”20px”]

Yet, I found a trick that brought me out of my comfort zone and social awkwardness, at least a bit. [spacer height=”20px”]

Volunteering forced me to speak to others, share my story, and seek guidance on my job-hunt. The conference was less daunting once I started opening up and expressing my true passion for IE. [spacer height=”20px”]

Besides meeting seasoned professionals, I met some amazing volunteers job-hunting like me. We bonded over our desire to break into the field and our hopes of landing the dream career right then and there. [spacer height=”20px”]

I felt empowered as a volunteer. Thanks to built-in networking opportunities and providing hands-on and logistical support to the NAFSA staff members. [spacer height=”20px”]

I didn’t feel forced to network during every face-to-face encounter in the elevator, restroom, restaurant, sessions, and events. Balance became the tool of the week and volunteering certainly helped that. [spacer height=”20px”]    

Nothing Like Good Ol’ Support [spacer height=”20px”]

Attending NAFSA as a first-timer is comparable to starting the first day at a new school. Anxiety builds when entering a new environment with unfamiliar faces. [spacer height=”20px”]

Luckily, I knew several faces, even some veterans in the field. [spacer height=”20px”]

There is nothing like having support throughout the conference with people to depend on when NAFSA becomes overwhelming. [spacer height=”20px”]

The GoAbroad team welcomed me with open arms when I returned to Colorado. I survived NAFSA simply by the generosity and care from Troy and his team. [spacer height=”20px”]

As an intern with GoAbroad, I met some amazing people during my stint in Fort Collins. And, of course returning in 2016 was no different. [spacer height=”20px”]

Network building begins with at least one friend. I started out with a dozen. [spacer height=”20px”]

Preparation is Key [spacer height=”20px”]

Snacks and water were necessary items. Sustaining my health during the conference was imperative. [spacer height=”20px”]

Already a fitness freak, I ate every three to four hours. I carried everything from cashews, protein bars and chips, fruit, and some candy to satisfy my sweet tooth. [spacer height=”20px”]

It’s easy to overlook the obvious when running between sessions, speaking with attendees, and visiting the exhibit hall. But, feeding and hydrating my body were some of my top priorities. [spacer height=”20px”]

Juice got me through the day too. Not orange, apple, or fruit punch. My phone charger and extra battery ensured I could tune into the day’s events via social media. [spacer height=”20px”]

What better way to stay in the know? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, that’s how! [spacer height=”20px”]

Take it Day-by-Day [spacer height=”20px”]

I had lofty goals to achieve in one week. It included volunteering, presenting my poster, networking, getting job prospects, and scoping out opportunities in IE. [spacer height=”20px”]

As soon as I touched down in Denver, I was on a nonstop train of events, activities, and networking. [spacer height=”20px”]

The Monday preceding the opening of NAFSA 2016, I literally walked around the convention center and the streets of Denver like a zombie. [spacer height=”20px”]

Although I didn’t crave human flesh, I yearned for a blanket and pillow and a nice space to sleep. Jet lag, lack of sleep, in tandem with the altitude sickness swarmed over me all at once. [spacer height=”20px”]

But, remembering from previous conferences that taking time for myself isn’t such a bad thing. It’s ok to take an hour or two to decompress and take a break from everything. [spacer height=”20px”]

Some tender, self-love and care made my week. I overcame stress and anxiety through naps, quiet moments, and living in the moment. [spacer height=”20px”]

The hustle and bustle of navigating NAFSA wouldn’t have been as rewarding if I hadn’t taken time away from the conference. [spacer height=”20px”]

Simply, taking it day-by-day helped me see the bigger picture. I wasn’t just there to get a job, present, volunteer, but also to make positive contributions. And, that begins with a healthy mind and body. [spacer height=”20px”]

Since the conference, I’ve considered myself a survivor of NAFSA 2016. NAFSA 2017, here I come.[spacer height=”20px”]

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4 simple ways I survived my first nafsa conference

How did you survive your first conference? Comment below with some tips and advice! 


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