Many of you have emailed to try to set up meetings at NAFSA’s national conference this week. You may be surprised that I am not at NAFSA this year – and actually haven’t been for several years.
What? I’m missing NAFSA? That’s crazy! WHY?
I’m going to answer that question with 5 specific points. Before I do, I need to be abundantly clear here: I am not writing this post to knock NAFSA or dissuade anyone from attending their conference. I have attended countless NAFSA conferences (regional and national) over the years. They serve a specific purpose and I have many fond memories of good times with colleagues and friends, making important work connections, socializing and laughing (a lot!), gaining some valuable information, etc. I miss those incredible times and am sure that people are relishing in the camaraderie, community and advocacy for the work that we do this week in California.
With that in mind, here are my top reasons for passing on the NAFSA conference this year:
1) It is expensive. Seriously expensive.
The national conference was expensive when I worked for a college, but I wasn’t paying for it then. As the “Queen Bee” of Melibee Global, I have to make difficult decisions every day about how to spend our hard earned pennies. Year over year, I simply haven’t been able to justify spending several thousand dollars to attend this conference over investing in other areas of our work.
2) The session content is not meeting my needs at this stage in my life and work
The last few conferences I did attend were very specific either to government regulations or were stories of “best practices” at specific schools. I don’t work at a school anymore and that means that I usually don’t need this information anymore in the way that it is often presented. Personally, I found the majority of the sessions to be lacking in creativity (likely due to the scale of the event). I don’t mean to be harsh here, but if I’m spending that much money to get to a conference, I don’t want to hear most sessions start with “this is what we do at our school.” Simply put, I think that they’re too tailored to higher education instead of international educators (broadly speaking). If you don’t work for a school/government/agency/third party provider, there is less value in the conference.
Melibee Global and Amizade’s free project, Better Abroad, is a finalist for GoAbroad.com’s Innovation Award – and we are sad that we cannot be at NAFSA to thank them in person for thinking of us! (Humbled! Thank you!)
Technology has allowed me to meet with colleagues from all over the world without having to pay thousands of dollars to arrange to meet them in person each year. As we don’t partner with specific organizations/companies at Melibee, I have less need for face to face meetings. If I did, I could likely have them in country or closer to home for less cost.
4) Job Hunting
Many people attend the conference to job hunt. I have a job. Enough said.
You may know by now that we are launching our own gathering, called the “Melibee Swarm” in North Carolina this fall. When I initially thought of bringing people together, in person, under the Melibee Global name, I wrote this list of qualities I wanted in a new conference:
- Focuses on culture in a creative, yet practical manner
- Inspires us to rush home and implement creativity into our personal and professional lives
- Is experiential and participatory
- Honors the work that we do as educators and cultural connectors, yet does not become self-congratulatory
- Creates meaningful space to authentically network, reflect and to create action steps
These ideas developed into our new conference, the Melibee Swarm. This conference will focus on Culture, Identity and Perspective. It will be small (less than 100 participants) and we are not asking for our peers to nominate themselves to speak; we have selected a handful of presenters who are directly and uniquely addressing our theme. We think (and hope) you will like what we’re doing, as it is very different than your standard international education conference.