By Nicolle Merrill

We all know that networking is key to getting the things that we want—new jobs, new ideas, new partnerships. Yet when I ask students or colleagues about their networking efforts their answers fall somewhere between “networking is so awkward” and “OMG I hate it.”

Networking, at its simplest, is about conversations. Talking to strangers can feel awkward, no doubt, but your willingness to push through and engage strangers and actively listen can open the door to potential. And with a bit of preparation—a few opening lines and a dash of bravery—anyone can be a conversationalist. You never know where a conversation might lead. It may be a hint about an unadvertised job opening, or an invite to a coffee chat about your new idea. Conversations can lead to insightful career advice, or maybe even a fantastic travel tip.

So here are six ways to network at the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference & Expo. Use the opening lines below to get those conversations started.

1. Find Your People
The key to good conversations is finding commonality with other people. The NAFSA conference is huge but it is extremely easy to find people with shared interests through the Knowledge Communities and Member Interest Groups. Look through the list before you get on-site. Find a meeting with your peers, show up, locate the host, and introduce yourself.

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By Clare O’Brien

If you have the opportunity to arrive in Boston before the NAFSA conference starts, there will be plenty of things for you to see and do over the Memorial Day weekend. Here are a few suggestions:

Visit the Massachusetts Military Heroes Garden of Flags. Come see an amazing display of 37,000 American flags on the Boston Common. Each flag represents one of the Massachusetts service members who have given their lives for their country, dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Attend the Memorial Day Parade in Cambridge. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Harvard Square as you line up to see the parade go by. The parade will start with a cannon salute at 9:30 a.m. on the Cambridge Common.

Remember our heroes as you listen to a free concert. Honor & Tribute, Boston’s second annual Memorial Day concert, will take place at Christopher Columbus Park from 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., with performances by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Children’s Chorus.

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By Tiffany Harrison & Kayla Patterson

With over 200 million monthly Instagram users, 288 million Twitter users, and 347 million active LinkedIn accounts, it’s safe to say that social networking is here to stay.

As international educators, most of us are now aware (or we hope you are aware!) of how important tapping into these social media numbers is when it comes to marketing programs to students around the world. All you have to do is look at recent data to see that these numbers continue to grow. According to Expedia’s Future of Travel Study, 49 percent of millennials plan and book trips using their smartphones, while 40 percent are likely to share a travel experience on social media during a trip.

What about using social media to market yourself as a professional within international education? How do you create an online name for yourself, or enhance the digital footprint you’ve already established? What kind of skills should you be highlighting? What platforms are the most relevant? And, the biggest question of all: why does any of this even matter? Your students are the ones who are going abroad, and it’s them we should be focusing on, right? Not quite. In this day and age, it’s just as important to be thinking about your own social presence, for more reasons than one.

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By Mitch Gordon and Brooke Roberts

Nearly every established organization began as a new, innovative, and sometimes controversial concept. From the dawn of commercial air travel in the 1950s to the development of the Internet in the 1990s, a review of the New York Times archives from those periods will unearth more than a few skeptical editorials about the purpose, value, and role of the new startups of the time.

The world of international education is no different. AIFS may have celebrated their 50th anniversary as a leader in our field last year, but they were a small startup in the 1960s with big aspirations and a concept and mission that were relatively untested. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of the international internship. Providers like Global Experiences, CRCC Asia and EUSA were innovators in the internship arena. Today, we see nearly every major provider and university building an international internship program.

What’s next on the innovation horizon for the world of international education and study abroad? Below are a number of categories we feel are in need of innovation or where innovation is occurring.

Program Design and Structure
With more and more summer study abroad, faculty-led programs, service-learning experiences, J-term, Maymester, and other similar programs being offered, we’re certainly seeing an increase in shorter-term program options. How can innovation help ensure that students in shorter-term programs walk away with a deeper understanding of the academic topic as it relates to the host country without having experienced the deeper interactions that a longer-term program often provides? Leaders and innovators in our field are continuously evolving study abroad program designs.

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By Carol Crosby

At the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference in Boston, MA, I will serve as a résumé reviewer in the Expo Hall. Below, I share my insights on planning for the conference experience, tips that were adapted from an article I published on LinkedIn.

Through the years, I have attended and worked at a number of national conferences. I have seen the good, the bad, and the horrible. Preparation and professionalism are the keys to a successful networking experience; thus, heading into a conference in jeans and flip flops, hoping to grab a few stress balls from the exhibit area and hang out around the food table will not work. You will not be able to network this way. Period.

Instead, consider these strategies ahead of your conference experience.
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By Melissa Vivian

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best everyday? This is the first of many questions that Global Experiences staff asks program participants in order to get a better sense of what kind of internship placement will be the perfect match for them. Unfortunately, most individuals struggle to honestly answer “yes,” which reflects the dismal rate of engagement among U.S. workers. In fact, only 1 percent of employees in the United States report loving their jobs. Given that we spend more than 40 hours per week for more than 40 years of our lives at work, shouldn’t that number be higher? Surely, there must be a better way to approach career decisions that results in a more satisfying and sustainable work life.

In 2013, Global Experiences partnered with Gallup Education to offer the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to all interns, as well as our own staff members. According to numerous research studies, knowing and understanding your strengths enables you to focus on doing what makes you happy at work and in your personal life.

This makes sense, right? When you have work tasks that you are able to perform well, you feel proud and accomplished. No one likes to spend all day doing something they are bad at. For me, that would be math. Oh, and anything related to computers and routine office administration. Luckily, we have a finance director, an information technology guru, and an office manager! But understanding and using your strengths in your career is much more nuanced than simply matching skills and interests to positions. It takes much deeper self-reflection and an evaluation of what gives you a sense of “flow.”

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BostonBy Clare O’Brien

Hopefully you have had a chance to check out the blog posts covering all that you can see and do in Boston as you attend the upcoming NAFSA Conference and Exhibition. Here are a few last minute pointers to help make your conference experience even brighter.

Attend the Opening Celebration at the World Trade Center. I know that many of you may be exhausted from your journey to Boston, but don’t miss out on the beautiful views of the Boston Harbor during the walk over to the World Trade Center after the opening plenary. With a beautiful sunset in the background, enjoy some food and drinks with your colleagues and start your networking early. Each conference registrant will receive one drink ticket and there will also be a cash bar on hand. Let this memorable evening set the stage for a successful conference experience.

Review the transportation blog (or just coordinate your travel plan ahead of time). If you are staying at a hotel in the Copley or Back Bay area, remember that there will be shuttle service to the Boston Conference and Exhibition Center (BCEC) throughout the day and into the evening. That being said, Boston traffic can be a challenge—a shuttle ride can take up to 30 minutes during rush hour. Also keep in mind that the dates of the conference coincide with several university graduation ceremonies. This will increase the level of traffic and the number of drivers on the road who don’t know their way around Boston. Be sure to take travel time into account when planning out your day.

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By Carol Crosby

At the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference in Boston, MA, I will serve as a résumé reviewer in the Expo Hall. Below, I share my insights on the role of the elevator speech in networking, tips that were adapted from an article I published on LinkedIn.

Has a stranger ever approached you at a social event and asked you, “What do you do?,” and you stuttered and stammered and looked the fool that you are definitely not?  Yeah, I raised my hand too.

You need to create a 60-second speech that tells strangers who you are—a verbal statement otherwise known as the “elevator speech.”

Why is it called an elevator speech? Imagine that you are at the site of your dream job and you are going to a meeting on the fourth floor. You have decided to take the elevator and just as the doors are closing, the director of the international center runs in and hits the third floor button. This is your big chance to network with her, and you have two floors—or 60 seconds—to sell yourself, which you hope will lead to an informational interview, which will lead to an entry level job in her office, which then will lead to a position as associate director…and so on…and so on.

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By Clare O’Brien

As you prepare for the NAFSA conference, I imagine you have been researching websites and guidebooks to figure out the places and activities you have to see and do in Boston. Given the scope and history of Boston, it can be overwhelming, but here are some great hidden, neighborhood gems you should add to your itinerary for that native Boston experience.  

For the best live, just-off-the-boat lobster try James Hook & Co. Located within walking distance from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, this family-owned establishment has been a major distributor of fresh seafood to thousands of retailers in the area since 1925. This seafood stand is not big on formality, but once you get a taste of that delicate sweet flavor of fresh lobster, you will appreciate the simplicity of the rustic picnic tables overlooking the beautiful Boston Harbor.

Where can you go to see art from several different time periods and cultures, enjoy a moment in the sun as you sit among hydrangeas in an outdoor courtyard, and get $2 off your admission when you wear Red Sox paraphernalia? The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum! Located in the Fenway Park area, this hidden gem offers visitors beautiful views of master paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, and even a French Gothic chapel where an Episcopal mass is celebrated daily.

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interviewBy Pamela Rodriguez Otten

I’m getting old. I just realized that I have been working in higher education for almost 20 years now. Although my age may sadden me, I can tell you that I have gained valuable experiences along the way. Higher education is a great profession for so many reasons, and international education, specifically, has enriched my life and the lives of my family members.

I am grateful for all of the students and staff who have helped me grow as a professional and a person. So many of them have taught me so much. I have also learned that I have a lot to offer and I wanted to share my thoughts in this blog.

I started as an academic advisor and worked my way up to assistant dean. I have held roles in enrollment, financial aid, advising, recruitment, registry, and the international students office. All of these are student service roles and I have gained valuable knowledge in the field. I am now in a recruiter role with the PIE, a specialist executive search service for the global international education sector, because I do know what hiring managers are looking for.

There have been many articles, blogs, and websites telling you what you need to do as a newbie in the field. This may be no different, but I hope it gets you to start thinking about how you can improve your position in your quest to get a great job.

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