Recap: #NAFSA11

Networking at NAFSA - what a backdrop!

If you are following me on twitter (@VaiViaDeidre) you would have noticed quite a few random hashtags from me last week. Mostly #NAFSA11 but a little bit of #flashmob, #vancouver, #gocanucks, #studyabroad, and #access were thrown in there as well.  That’s because last week I spent seven days in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the 63rd Annual Conference of NAFSA: An Association of International Educators.  And let me just stay, I’m still exhausted!

There were over 8,700 registered attendees attending hundreds of sessions, learning priceless information about the future of international education, and forming invaluable connections and partnerships with other participants, vendors, sponsors, and presenters.  Here are a few of the highlights from my time in Vancouver at NAFSA:

I sat in on some amazing sessions.  A couple of my favorite were “Minority Students and the Goal of Equity: Re-Imagining International Education Leadership”  which discussed HBCUs and internationalization and “Make Your Mark in International Education: Reflect, Write, and Get Published” (the title says it all!).  I also got to hear from some amazing speakers such as Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of THE 99. To check out all of the sessions, workshops, plenary speakers and more that were offered at NAFSA this year, click here to go to the conference’s Educational Offerings page.

I volunteered. To be honest, my initial reason for volunteering was to get part of my registration fee back (hey, I’m in grad school); but I can honestly say that I met some amazing people and had some truly engaging experiences while helping out during the conference.  I was able to work in the hospitality center, the career center, registration, sit in on some more sessions and most importantly participate in a flashmob (<—- yes, most importantly).

I began some amazing relationships.  I almost wrote “networked” here, but it’s really about more than that.  What started as an exchange of business cards usually ended up with “Let me know when you make it to DC!” or “Where are you getting dinner tonight?”  or something similar.  The world of international education seems vast, but there is that small community feel in the sense that everyone is willing to help someone out and people are always crossing paths.  And when it comes to minorities in international education, the community is smaller and the feeling is stronger.

"The Sails" at the Vancouver Convention Center

I enjoyed Vancouver. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in a long time.  The juxtaposition of downtown’s skyscrapers against the English Bay and the mountains is remarkable.  My only beef with Vancouver is the weather! It was pretty gray for most of the days that we were there, but the two or three days when the sun was shining and the sky was blue could not be beat.

Rainy Vancouver from Granville Island

But even in the rain, I do have to admit that it was gorgeous.  I couchsurfed (www.couchsurfing.org) for a couple of days and really got to explore parts of Vancouver I never would have seen.  And it didn’t hurt that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup starring Vancouver’s hometown Canucks was during my time there.  I have never been into hockey but Canuck fans are insane and the fever is contagious! It was only Game 1 but the streets were blocked off, kids were let out of school early, and the city was painted blue!

There’s so much more to talk about but I’m getting exhausted all over again just thinking about it.  In a nutshell, I came, I saw, I conquered.  But I am by no means done with British Columbia.  I still have to tackle the Grouse Grind (with my couchsurfing host, Beck), visit Victoria on one of those little seaplanes, chill out on Kits Beach, and then some.  NAFSA blew my mind and I can’t wait until next year’s conference in Houston!

The Deck of Vancouver's Convention Center - Free Willy?

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