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Final Thoughts on NASPA 2010 – Chicago

March 15, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin; the NASPA conference in Chicago was so much more than I could have ever imagined.  I did not get excited about the conference until a week before it came because I had so many things going on.  There was so much work to do with my clubs and activities not to mention the school work.  I also knew that I would be missing three days of school which was my biggest concern.  A week and a half before the conference, Nathan Victoria called me to offer me the level two Sodexo stipend.  This put my mind at ease because I no longer had to worry about being able to afford everything.  Little did I know, it would influence me beyond my wallet.

I arrived in Chicago on Friday afternoon and one of my requirements as a stipend recipient was to volunteer at The Placement Exchange (TPE).  Getting a chance to see how TPE operates was unreal.  Seeing how many interviews were going on and watching people prepare was the beginning of an experience of a lifetime.  That same night, the other stipend recipients all went to dinner at a popular Chicago restaurant.  We all bonded instantly and exchanged business cards.  I got a lot of tips about graduate school and good places to start searching for schools that would be a good fit for me.

Saturday was the start of the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Pre Conference.  We began the day with ice breakers and team builders, something I normally take for granted because I am usually leading the activities.    These activities were so valuable and were the start of lifelong friendships.  I loved being able to let people know who I am without fear of being judged or criticized.  It was also fun to see people who I met at other conferences and had not seen in several months.  Throughout the day I was able to hear various people speak about their careers in student affairs and the advice they have for us.  We also got a chance to attend different sessions throughout the day on many different topics such as ethics and values, diversity and self-development.

On Sunday we did the same thing again but this time there were small group sessions.  I really enjoyed getting to talk to people on a personal level.  I got a lot of more graduate school tips and further developed my friendships from earlier in the day.  At the end of the day on Sunday the stipend recipients got a chance to go to Mike Segawa’s, suite to meet the Legacies recognized during the opening ceremonies.  It was priceless to be able to spend time with them, learn their stories and hear all of their advice for our career paths.  It was unforgettable to walk them on stage while they were being recognized in front of almost 5,000 people.  We were also able to spend a little more time with them after the opening and see how they have impacted other people’s lives.

The rest of the conference was spent with programming and other sessions.  On Monday I got the chance to attend the session by Condoleezza Rice, ask her a question during her presentation and take a picture with her afterwards.  She told me she has a lot of friends in the city where I go to school which was really exciting.  I was able to attend a meeting of the Latino(a) Knowledge Community as well as sessions about Latin American involvement in Higher Education.  I gained a new insight into the problems and conflicts Latin Americans face when it comes to their students and the social conflicts they face.  I was also able to attend the graduate school fair and gain so much insight into the different schools out there and the different types of programs and assistantships available.  Another awesome part was attending the socials and receptions for the different schools.  It was a little intimidating because the receptions I went to were all schools that I am a candidate for for the NUF internships this summer.  Even though this was a time for me to get to know them face to face as an informal interview I still had a great time and really enjoyed myself.

By the end of the conference I was not ready to leave whatsoever.  I had fallen in love with the city of Chicago and the organization of NASPA.  Everything I learned at this conference made it completely ok that I missed three days of classes.  I learned everything I wanted and accomplished so much more than I anticipated.  I feel so inspired and excited to get back to campus and get the ball rolling.  Not only personal advances like grad school searches, applying for the Summer Leadership Institute and adding new Facebook friends, but telling people about NASPA and student affairs.  I know there are tons of students like me who have no idea student affairs exists and I want to be a resource for them.  I want them to know about the NUF Program and how awesome my conference experience has been.  I can’t wait to go to the national conference in Philadelphia next year and I hope that more students from my institution can attend next year.

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