By Jini Curry, University of West Florida Honors Program
Being part of honors is not just about being smart or making good grades; it is also about learning leadership skills and growing as a student and a person. Coming into college I never realized that one program could have such a lasting impact on my life.
The opportunities that I have been given as an honors student at the University of West Florida are unlimited. As I freshman I went to the 46th annual NCHC in Phoenix, Arizona and I was hooked. Therefore, when the word was spread about proposals for this year’s NCHC in Boston, Massachusetts, I could not pass up the chance. The experiences I had during my stay in Boston are more than what I could have ever imagined, and the passion that it lit inside of me is unstoppable.
Preparing for a conference is not the world’s easiest task, but with the help of my other group members we put together a presentation that we felt would be worthwhile for us to talk about and beneficial for others at the conference to hear, and we went with it. Walking into our presentation room Saturday afternoon and seeing it filled with people was overwhelming, knowing that they were all there to see what our program was doing and how we were running things–that was nerve-racking to say the least. After we presented the questions started flowing in and that is when the real fun began.
For me, one of the greatest parts of the NCHC conference is the collaboration that comes from attending sessions. A question is posed, and then it is discussed. People from all over the United States and the Netherlands get to tell others what their program is doing, how they are running things at the institution, and even the struggles they are going through. At that moment you are able to see what NCHC is truly all about. It is about developing leaders and then teaching them how to work together to come up with a solution. Through feedback from other institutions, you are given an innovative idea of how to fix something that may not be working in yours.
I must admit from a student’s perspective NCHC is not just about the collaboration and the sessions—it is also about the friendships. Going to different sessions, often separated from the people that came from your institution, creates some awkwardness. After you get past that initial “should I talk to the person sitting next to me” worry, the doors open for conversation and oftentimes friendships. The passion that is in a room of Honors students is mind blowing. Everyone is eager to talk about their plans and what they are doing, and if not, someone is there to bring them out of their comfort zone.
For me, talking to random people is not a difficult task and I use that to my advantage. Talking to people is how connections are created and the NCHC conference gives us that opportunity. Whether it is at a session, reflections after the plenary speaker finishes, or even at the many student activities, you are bound to encounter someone that you do not know. You gain the courage to talk to them and the next thing you know, a new friendship is developing.
Overall the 47th annual NCHC conference was an experience that will never be replaced. I made connections with other institutions, I created friendships with people in many different states, I collaborated with others on Honors related topics, I learned skills that would enhance my leadership, and my passion for Honors grew greater. The experiences that come from attending the NCHC conference far outweigh the strife that it takes to get there. Never think that you have nothing to bring to the table if you attend or that the process is too difficult, because if you do believe that, you are missing out on the chance of a lifetime.