NAFSA stands for the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. It was created in 1948 and grew to be the world’s largest non-profit organization promoting all aspects of international education including international student services, study abroad, student exchanges and “English as a Second Language” programs. NAFSA is supported by its paying members and works closely with the U.S. Government for funding.
It’s a week-long event organized by NAFSA with the objective of bringing together international educators, administrators and students from 50 U.S. states and 150 countries. Every year, it’s always held around Memorial Day weekend in a different U.S. city with a different theme. Last week, the 2019 conference was in Washington D.C. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from May 26-31 and it focused on the central theme of “Global Leadership, Learning, and Change”. There were ample opportunities for networking and professional development at all of the concurrent sessions, evening receptions and lectures. The huge expo hall was open daily from Tuesday to Friday and international educators from many countries exhibited at their own booth or as part of a larger country pavilion.
Despite the close-minded efforts of some political leaders, the ever-increasing globalization of today’s world is happening in front of our very eyes and it’s so important for us to support the mobility of students around the world. There’s always more that we can do to help our students, whether they are planning to move to another country to study, work and create roots there, or even if they are traveling abroad on a short-term academic program. Students who bravely step outside of their comfort zone to explore new frontiers help strengthen our intercultural ties. Not only does this fuel innovation and a broader exchange of ideas, but it also fosters a deep level of respect among people from diverse backgrounds, making the world a more welcoming place.
There were mainly administrators and advisors from higher education institutions in the U.S. and abroad. I also met some high school faculty and members from volunteer-run organizations that support student exchange, like the President of the American International Education Foundation at the China Member Interest Group meeting I attended. During the evening receptions, I had engaging conversations with people working to support other aspects of student travel, like visa processing, study abroad technology solutions and diversity and inclusion advocates.
Our company director Alex and I proudly represented The Learning Adventure. We exhibited at our booth with information and materials about our faculty-led programs in Europe and Asia. In between our pre-scheduled meetings with university partners, we welcomed any and all attendees who dropped by our table to learn about our hands-on subject-focused itineraries and talk about ways we can collaborate. Without a doubt, my favorite part of the week was speaking face-to-face with our existing partners and forging promising relationships with new ones. Seeing so many international educators and advocates in one place was inspiring and left me feeling optimistic about the global trends and public policies affecting academia. Next year’s conference will be in St. Louis, Missouri and we hope to see you there!
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