Today was the first day of the NAFSA annual conference. What a great day! I truly feel as though the conference gets better and better for me each year, particularly as I gain more experience in the field and expand my network.
I started the day by going to the English USA/American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP) booth. I had originally responded to their request for volunteers to man the booth at that time, but it turned out that several other people had also volunteered for the same slot. I decided to go anyway to see how it is normally done.
What a great decision that was!
After greeting my friends and colleagues at the booth, I began listening to them as they dealt with people approaching the booth. A few minutes later, a woman approached the booth. Since all the booth volunteers were already tied up, I decided to try to assist her.
I am happy that I did.
She was from South America and works with the Ministry of Education in her home country. She was looking for partner schools in the USA. I listened to her carefully and took notes so that I could pass along the information to the rest of the 300 members. From that one conversation, I was able to connect this person with over 300 accredited ESL centers, which will probably help her to achieve one of her major NAFSA goals. She will definitely be able to find partners for her government’s scholarships among our members.
After that, I spoke with a gentleman who approached the booth. It turns out that he is a Brazilian agent, and my institution is always on the lookout for additional good agencies in Brazil. I gave him information about the AAIEP schools, and we made an appointment to meet later in order to see if his agency and my institution will be a good fit. We did, indeed, meet later, and we are going to try to move forward with an agreement.
After that, my boss, my colleague, and I had our annual lunch with one of our best agents. His agency is located in China, and he does a great job. It is always our opportunity to connect and discuss how the relationship has been going over the past year. It is an activity that I look forward to each year at the conference.
When lunch was over, I went back to the Expo Hall to meet with one of our online partners. He had some great ideas to improve program visibility in one of our target markets and to facilitate the application process for our students.
By the time we finished our meeting, the Expo Hall was closed. It gave me enough time to get back to the hotel and do some work before heading out again for the Brazil party by BMI.
I am one of the fortunate ones who gets a VIP invitation each year to the dinner and cocktails prior to the dance party. This is one of the highlights of the conference for me each year, as I get to reconnect with my fellow recruiters while enjoying good food and music. I have been doing these fairs for so long that I know many of the people in the room, and it is always lovely to see everyone.
Overall, it was a fantastic first day at NAFSA: good connections, good opportunities, and great chances to see old friends and to meet new ones!