I came to NAFSA directly from Capitol Hill. During my two years on the Hill, I worked at the front desk of my home state senator's office as a staff assistant, and then got promoted to legislative correspondent. I became part of the inner workings of the office and took many constituent meetings. I always enjoyed talking with constituents and doing my best to answer their questions and help with their concerns.
Please trust me when I say that congressional staffers love to meet with constituents. The staffers that you will meet with on the Hill in March will likely be familiar with international education issues, but they may not be familiar with how the issues affect the constituents from their home state or district. Hill staffers often have diverse portfolios, and though they are familiar with the legislation you are advocating, they cannot know everything. That is where you, the constituent, play a very important role in the legislative work of your member of Congress.
You can explain the everyday reality of working in the field of international education and exchange. You are the experts, not the staffers.
You can explain how the bills we are advocating for will affect your students, your university, and your home state.
You can make a piece of legislation personal and meaningful and inspire the staffers and member of Congress to champion your cause.
So if you are considering registering for Advocacy Day 2009, or are already registered and may be nervous because this will be your first time on the Hill, please be assured that we at NAFSA will provide you with all of the briefing materials and training you will need to talk about the issues that you work on every day.
The staffers you will meet with in March won't expect you to know everything about the bills you are advocating, but they will want to hear your stories and understand why these bills are so important to you. Remember, these staffers and members of Congress are working for you!
Do you have questions about Advocacy Day? If so, post them below or e-mail grassroots[at]nafsa.org.