In a few short hours, I’ll be getting on a plane to head back to Massachusetts and Virginia for just over a week. For work. It’s certainly better than some of the places I’ve been sent for work before (Hanoi, Beijing, Kandahar), and I’ll even get to visit my family on Martha’s Vineyard for a couple days, and catch up with friends I haven’t seen in years. But I always hate having to leave my family behind.
I’ll be in Boston to attend the NAFSA annual conference as one of four representatives of my university, Akita International University. The conference days are going to be packed with back-to-back (and sometimes overlapping) meetings with our partner universities from around the world, talking about our exchange students, improving recruiting and outreach, student quality of life and all that fun stuff. I’m hoping to attend a few speeches or presentations, too, if I can find any in my few free moments that have anything to do with my personal and professional areas of interest: Web and promotional goods design, student interests, and evaluating program outcomes.
After conference hours end, the nights will be a parade of receptions and networking events. At my last conference, in Prague, I focused on trying to talking about our program and university too much, but this time I’m going to shift my goal and work on personal development and networking, too. With a year under my belt at this job, I now have a better idea of what it is I don’t know and where I need to improve, so it’s time to start looking for people who might be able to help in those ways.
The Entrepreneur Angle
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on building a website to provide a resource to help students find the best places to study abroad for their personal development goals. I am a devotee of “effects-based planning”, that is, put simply, basing your short-term actions on reaching a long-term goal and streamlining all actions, processes, and decisions to focus on reinforcing that goal. My website is taking this way of thinking and helping students understand what study abroad programs are best for each goal.
To do that, I am working on an evaluation framework so I can offer an objective basis for comparison. This is a hell of an undertaking, as there is no current quantitative way to evaluate study abroad, as there is with evaluating universities as a whole. I can think of things that I think are important contributing factors, but to make this system as useful as possible, I need input – and feedback – from others in the study abroad space, so this conference is an excellent opportunity to build that network, too.
Missing the Family: Work Harder
I’m going to miss them like crazy. I hate leaving my not yet 3-week-old son for a week and a half, and I hate leaving my wife to take care of both children and the house all on her own while I’m gone. To overcome my intense guilt at going away at a time like this, I need to make the most of the opportunities that this conference presents to network and contribute to my future career- especially the entrepreneurship angle- so that I can contribute to the family in some way, even if the visible effects will be far in the future.
Writing While Traveling
On past trips, I’ve watched my concentration ability, word counts, and energy disappear gradually as the trip wore on. This is my longest work trip yet, so the threat level is high. I’ll be doing my level best to keep up my minimums, at least! I don’t want to lose my 870 consecutive days streak on the Magic Spreadsheet!
Attending NAFSA? On MV? Let me know!
If you’re in Boston this week (especially if you’re attending NAFSA) or will be on Martha’s Vineyard on May 29-30, leave a note in the comments below or shoot me an email! This is my first trip to the East Coast since a three-day weekend in-and-out for a wedding four years ago, and I have no fixed idea when the next visit will be.