Priceless Nuggets at The Biggest Little Conference in the World

November 15, 2011

By Sandy Schoeps Tennies

I had the pleasure of spending the past week at the biregional I/XII conference in Reno/Sparks, Nevada. What better way to visit Nevada for the first time than with nearly 600 other NAFSAns?

The program was chock full of important information, new ideas, knowledge-sharing opportunities, and varied perspectives. The hospitality committee provided wonderful networking opportunities and time just to get to know each other, including a restaurant hop, a social mixer, karaoke night, and a pub crawl. Wednesday's karaoke was a hit not only with NAFSAns, but also with some of the other hotel and casino guests. Many hidden talents came to light that night!

The special events that each region traditionally holds merged nicely. The Welcome Reception on Wednesday night in the exhibit hall was festive and well-attended. And at the Awards Luncheon on Thursday, we discovered how rich these Western states are in NAFSA leadership. Region XII participants were introduced to the Gala Auction Thursday evening, which raised more than $1,500--which will be split between the two regions--to support travel grants for the coming year. This year, 33 international educators received travel grants to The Biggest Little Conference in the World! The Exhibitor Roundup earlier that afternoon was new to Region I participants, as each exhibitor raffled off a special prize, taking a few minutes to introduce themselves before their drawing.

As the week unfolded and then drew to a close, we found ourselves invited again into intercultural adventures. It wasn't only traditional events merging at this biregional conference, but it was also a meeting of cultures--albeit similar in most ways, but still with noticeable differences in values, practices, and attitudes. And being international educators, we opened ourselves to our differences as well as our similarities, enjoying the learning that comes with spending time with other people.

What better environment for a NAFSA conference than in a space where we could meet people like us and unlike us, experience something a little outside our comfort zones, learn a little more about ourselves and each other, and gain knowledge and connections that make our day-to-day lives work better. These are the priceless nuggets I found at the biggest little conference in the world.


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