Forum Conference in Chicago

Last week I attended the Forum for Education Abroad‘s conference in Chicago. It was good but INTENSE! It was a short conference (Wednesday night through Friday afternoon) so all the usual receptions, meetings, etc were condensed.

I don’t think most people love conferences, and in general I don’t think they are introverts’ favorite things. They’re definitely not my favorite things. But this conference was interesting– I was reading the blog I wrote when I attended the CIEE conference in Philadelphia, and a lot of things were very different this time around.

Some logistical things were different. First of all, since it was in Chicago, several of us roadtripped down there in a minivan. That definitely added to the “E”-time, but it was fine. We were a pretty quiet bunch in the van, actually. Not that I didn’t want to talk to them, but it was nice not to feel like I had to keep up with a conversation for 8 hours. The last time I roadtripped to a conference (in Fargo, ND, a couple of years ago), it was a pretty much an 8-hour conversation, which was fine but tiring.

I also had a roommate this time around. I enjoyed having my own room in Philly, but it was fun having a roomie, too. The few times I’ve roomed with coworkers at conferences or whatnot have been nice, because it does kind of allow me to get to know people on a more individual basis, and I’m more comfortable and apt to open up on those terms. So even though I’ve known the person I roomed with this time around for several years, and have always liked her, I enjoyed the chance to have some more in-depth, one-on-one conversation time.

Aside from those kind of logistical differences, this conference was different simply because I’ve been in the field longer, in a position that allows/necessitates more collaboration with people in other organizations in the field.  I am starting to feel like I know people in the field– I ran into the director of the international office of our partner university in Ireland and got to chatting with her for awhile. I met several people that I’ve worked with over email or phone, but had never met in person. I even lamented the fact that I didn’t run into someone– a colleague from Australia who I knew was going to be at the conference. (I saw her from afar once, but didn’t get a chance to say hello.) And randomly, I ran into a friend from high school! I knew she was in the field, but I didn’t know she was going to be at this conference, so that was really fun!

The conference, content-wise, was fine. A lot of the time at conferences, I feel like a lot of the topics are kind of common sense, but I suppose that comes from having the good fortune to work in an office where we have been able to be on the cutting edge of the field and implement a lot of innovations that are kind of just catching on elsewhere.

The conference was so busy that unfortunately I didn’t get out of the hotel hardly at all, and didn’t really get to enjoy Chicago. I did have a little outing to the Billy Goat Tavern with colleagues from my office, but beyond that I was pretty much in the hotel. I’d have liked to get down to the lake, but oh well. Another time!