NAFSA’s Advocacy Day was held March 14-16. It is a two-day conference on how international education impacts your state and district, and why we need a more globally engaged United States.
This is going to be a two-part blog reflecting and contrasting the pre and post-conference experience of the team of Clarkies both graduates and undergraduates that is representing Clark at the conference. Here is the pre-conference piece!
This year, the Clark contingent consists of three Clark students: William Chen, Rodrigo Saavedra and, Emily Zhang. The team will be lead by Amanda Connolly, who joined Clark this July as the Associate Director of the International Students & Scholars Office.
I had the opportunity to attend the team’s pre-departure meeting where everyone discussed and finalized their plan of action. I then went ahead and asked them few questions.
First, I just asked everyone to just briefly introduce themselves and state what motivated them to apply for this opportunity.
William, who is originally from China but spent his high school years in Switzerland, started off the discussion. “I feel that every international persons here, whether they be students or professionals should take the responsibility to voice their concerns and opinions. I applied for this conference because this is a unique and valuable opportunity to be able to meet the congressmen.”
Adding to that Rodrigo, a political Science major and Clark senior said “ I felt that I have a certain skill set to advocate properly for Clark. I wanted to learn more about the process of advocacy, it’s an opportunity for growth.”
Emily Zhang, a graduate student who moved to the U.S. with 6 years of professional experience, talked about how her expectations didn’t quite match the reality. “I want to talk about all the issues concerning international students and get help.”
I further inquired about the topic that was on the top of their advocacy list and what they expected to get out of this experience. Some of unanimous points of concern that came up were the transparency of the visa system, addressing and obtaining help for mental health issues for international students, and more work and education related opportunities for the international students.
Amanda, who had previously represented Tennessee at the conference, said “I am looking forward to represent a state that actually believes in education. I am excited to talk to senators and representatives who know and care about education, both domestic and international.” She added, “I hope to be able to talk about what is important and get heard, hopefully there is some impact and we can do meaningful things that affect these guys’ lives.”
The entire team seemed extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the conference and the issues it addresses. Having been to the conference myself, I can say that it is a great experience for anyone to have and offers great exposure. I hope the Clark team has a great time at the conference and is able to get out all that they expect from this trip. Stay tuned for a post-conference reflection from the squad!