On November 4th, 2016 I headed up to Traverse City, Michigan for the Connections Conference. The two hour bus ride flew by, and everyone was super excited to visit the Great Wolf Lodge. After unpacking our things and settling into our hotel rooms, we had an opportunity to explore around the hotel. We went to the front desk and got a free pair of wolf ears, met Wiley the Wolf, and hung out by the fireplace and caught up with friends in our cohort.
Soon after we explored, the conference began. We received a name tag and a booklet with a schedule of activities in it. We were then sent to our first session, which was written on our name tags. My session was titled, “Coles Institute”, and I got to introduce myself to several new people. We did an activity that included thinking about what assets you bring to the table regarding culture, institutes, organizations, etc. It was such a cool experience, as I was able to hear everyone’s different ideas.
After meeting with our institutes, we went to dinner. We had to sit with the certain colored sticker that was on the back of our name tags. Personally, I absolutely loved this idea. Although it may be awkward to sit at a dinner table and make small talk with strangers, it’s also a ton of fun. I sat at the black sticker table, and I felt the energy radiating off of the people from the minute I sat down. We had no problem at all making conversation, and I got to meet people who are studying the same exact program and major as I am. I love making new friends and branching out, and that’s exactly what I had the opportunity to do!
After dinner, we had a few hours of downtime to check out the waterpark. My roommate Allie and I went down all of the waterslides and had a BLAST doing so. We walked around the water park and got to float down the lazy river and relax. After going to the waterpark, we had leadership “Speed Dating” in the conference room. This was an activity that pushed you out of your comfort zone and required you to introduce yourself to new people and find out some really cool things about your new friends. Speed dating wrapped up the end of the night, and we danced to music and then headed to the lobby to hang out. Instead of just going straight to bed, I got to sit down and chat and catch up with a few friends from my cohort that I didn’t usually get the opportunity to talk to. I was so genuinely happy while talking to everyone, and it made me smile to see everyone sitting around the fireplace, listening to music, sharing jokes, and watching videos. I felt so much closer to my cohort, and that was such an awesome feeling.
In the morning, we went to breakfast and then headed to two different sessions. The two I had before lunch were called, “The Dirty Dozen” and “Netflix and No Chill”. “The Dirty Dozen” was an interactive presentation that listed the twelve excuses we tell ourselves while making immoral decisions. Both presentations were fantastic, interactive, and super informational. I felt so inspired after these presentations, and I could honestly say that they were my favorites of the day. We then moved on to lunch and two more sessions. The third and fourth sessions I attended were titled, “Leadership Through the Eyes of Disney” and “Leaders In Action: Implementing Emotional Intelligence Strategies”. I thoroughly enjoyed the Disney presentation, and I was left singing Disney songs for the rest of the day.
After all of the presentations were completed, we did a debriefing session with our institutes, packed up our bags, and headed back to CMU. Most of us slept on the two hour ride home, and a few of us watched the movie that was being played on the TV screens.
Now What? Reflecting back on Connections, I had an amazing time. I learned so much and took away valuable information that I can apply to my other classes and to my community at home. I also got to talk to friends in LAS that live on different floors that I rarely get to talk to, and I am so thankful that I was able to go. I am excited to take the skills that I learned from this trip and apply them to activities in the classroom, such as intertwining leadership skills with things we do in our everyday lives while also presenting things that people can relate to. I love learning about new ways to be leader, and I love meeting new people. Connections really helped me branch out and -dare I say it?- kindle new connections!