Two weeks ago I attended the NAFSA Region 1 Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. A little back story, last year I started my Master's in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. I'm currently doing my final practicum semester, while working at Spring Street International School in Friday Harbor, WA.
NAFSA is an organization for professionals working in the International Education field. Many professionals are working with high school or college students studying abroad or international students coming here for degrees and Intensive English Programs. The conference is a great opportunity to learn about new products and programs from sponsor tables, network with other professionals, and attend sessions presented on current issues and trends in the field.
One the first day of the conference I attended four sessions. The first talked about recognizing fraudulent credentials (transcripts, diplomas, etc.) from international students. It was a lot of new information for me, as they gave examples of what authentic credentials look like, something that I haven't had the opportunity to see before. The second and third sessions that I attended covered dating/relationships and supporting LGBTQ students. As these areas are something that US colleges are really struggling with lately, it was good to hear about the challenges that schools are having, and what those campuses have done to overcome it and better support their students. I wrapped up with a presentation on social media and how three professionals at Concordia University - Portland have used it in their outreach for different departments.
The second day I attended two sessions. One talked about specific trends with Chinese students coming to the US and how many are starting to turn away from the traditional four-year college route. Some students have started in high school, while others have done high school completion courses at community colleges and later transferred to a university. The second session was about marketing, and how to think about your materials and branding when doing outreach. As I want to work someday in this area of the field, these both were vital presentations for me to attend.
In the afternoon they brought in a local bird rescue group Bird TLC, who brought an owl and a hawk for us to see.
The final day I focused on sessions about international student engagement outside the classroom, and how to develop these students' leadership skills. A lot of them told stories of how students were offered positions on campus, what clubs were started and more.
Overall it was a valuable week for my career, I met a lot of professionals in the field and have kept in touch with a few about collaborating on projects in the coming months. The sessions have informed my practicum deliverables as well. I will definitely be attending another conference next year.