The main purpose for my trip to the US was the annual NASPA conference (student affairs conference) in Chicago. This was perfect for me because Chicago is one of my favorite cities and is home to some of my favorite people. My time in Chicago was FULL; full of work, full of friends, and full of fun.
My first night in the city I was picked up at the airport by Katie and Paul. For those of you who do not know Katie and Paul, they are one of the most amazing couples out there; they are generous, kind, and fun. We grabbed dinner and went to Second City! I love Second City! The show was “The Taming of the Flu,” and it was really funny. My favorite skit was the whole cast singing about winter in Chicago. As they sang about the bitter cold and crisp wind that stings you, I was thinking about the pleasant extended fall (I can’t even call it winter) that has just ended in Doha. While I am not looking forward to the quickly approaching inferno that is summer, I could not help but feel happy at not having just experienced winter in the windy city.
Another night later in the week I was able to meet up with Audra, Katie and Tessa. I miss girls’ nights. It was like the best parts of college without the classes or the drama. We stayed in, ordered dinner, and just talked. We are each at such different placed in our lives, but we still connect as easily today as we did in college. While I can make new friends in each city I live in, I am not sure if there will ever be a time when I have the same type of friendships that I have with the girls I lived with in college. That being said – I truly enjoy my friends in Doha.
In addition to meeting with college friends I was able to meet up with a friend from high school, Karen. A lunch together ended up being 4 hours. If I had not had to go to the airport, it could have lasted even longer. I wish I could have a profession where it was my job to just travel around the country (world) catching up with old friends. Does anyone know if that job exists, and who would pay you for it?
Now to the purpose of the Chicago visit: NASPA. First, conferences are so much more work than actual work. Second, it is not a good idea to spread a conference out over three different venues and only give 15 minutes between sessions (10 of those minutes are spent talking and figuring out where you are going next, leaving only 5 minutes to get there). Even with that all said; the conference was wonderful. My favorite speaker was Condoleezza Rice. She has this way of speaking that draws you in and makes you feel a part of the story she is telling and makes you feel like you can easily understand all of the information she is sharing. I know she will not run – but she should be our next president. We should all plan on writing her name in when we vote in 2012! Another great speaker was Ebu Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core. He spoke of the importance to recognize the whole student, and to do that you have to be able to recognize and engage with faith – all faiths. So many times faith is separated out from the educational experience, but all that ends up doing is creating an environment where students are not asked to engage with others of different faiths and where students feel like they have to suppress their faith identity. I love what he is calling for universities to do and I hope faith becomes a part of more conversations.
In addition to seeing some great speakers I was also able to facilitate a panel. I have presented at conferences before (smaller conferences), but I have always given lecture style information sessions. That is a thing of the past… I loved facilitating the panel. I know the audience benefited from the session because we were answering their questions. We were able to share a great deal of information about being female student affairs professionals working in the Middle East in an easy format. While I did prepare ahead of time, all my hard work was not needed. My pre-planned questions and copious notes on each panelist were not even used. There was never a lull in the participation from the audience and the panelists did an amazing job of jumping in and answering questions. While maybe not on the same topic, I do hope I can facilitate another panel next year.