As I take off on the plane…..a day late, drowsy on three hours of sleep I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I was on my way to the nation’s capital for NCCWSL, the national collegiate college women student leaders conference held in D.C. each year. I knew that I was in for way more than I was prepared for and that I was in over my head but I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to break out of my comfort zone yet again. After a couple hours of travelling, we found ourselves at a disadvantage, the shuttle running from the dorm we were staying at and where the bus left us off was finished for the day, so we got to experience a 10-15 minute hike to the hall. All sweaty and tired, I was still excited to have finally arrived. We got our things settled and started getting ready for the weekend of activities. From speakers to workshops to sight-seeing it was difficult for me to figure out what I was the most excited about. The first night we were graced by our “Women of Distinction”, four lovely ladies from Government positions to slam poetry that just ooze the word “inspirational.” As each woman approached the podium, I was floored by their poise and ease as they stood in front of a thousand people and just spilled their life stories. I smiled as there were cheers and screams and a “YES GIRL” after about every sentence. My favorite thing about the ceremony was that the women made it clear that this was not all about them, the future of women leadership and bridging that gap that separates us from equality between the sexes…was up to us. They showered us with exceptional compliments that i’m quite scared I won’t live up to but I will strive for. After the ceremony, we talked over cute little DIY desserts I swear I’ve only seen on tumblr and watched as mobs of people flocked these women for a moment of their time. When I woke up in the morning I was more excited than ever, because today was our jam packed day of full on conference shenanigans. We got dressed and sat in the alumni center where we awaited our speaker, Maysoon Zayid. We first got a wake up call from the very talented and entertaining all-women african drum ensemble that got everyone moving and clapping. Then Zayid took the stage, to say this woman is flat out hysterical is merely an understatement. Listening to Zayid speak, it made me realize that I could achieve anything that I work for, even with my downfalls…because everyone has them. Just because she was born with Cerebral Palsy, leaving her without the ability to walk, did not mean that she ever gave up. She was overwhelmingly motivational in a way that I admire most, through comedy. My motto is if you can’t laugh at yourself, you aren’t living, you aren’t smiling, you aren’t in tune with yourself. Maysoon has all the characteristics of a beautiful and strong woman leader that I will never forget. After an already incredible morning, we were pushed on our own to go to four different workshops of our choice. This was so much fun because I learned how to become an Activist on social media….in the correct way, how to dress for success, how other powerful women lead and how to captivate an audience just using my voice. I learned so much in such a little amount of time from brilliant professional women. As I shoved dozens of business cards into my small purse, I met up with my group back at the dorm. -It was sight seeing time. We walked forever around this beautiful city and saw the monuments, MLK, Lincoln, WWII….all in the beautiful lights of the D.C. night life. We snapped dozens of pictures, took a few taxis and ate at an Irish pub/restaurant where I naturally didn’t get anything authentic and ate chicken tenders and fries like the 12 year old I truly am. We finally and quite literally fell into bed that night, knowing that we’ll be doing it all over again in the morning. The next morning, I got my pitch perfect live action moment when “Capital Blend” took the stage and energized us with girl power songs and amazing vocal ranges. I adored them and fangirled over them the majority of the day after. After, Nancy Hogshead-Makar took the stage and talked about women in sports as well as spreading sexual assault and rape culture awareness. I was moved by her ability to speak about her own story of sexual violence and how she overcame, to now making sure that women in colleges everywhere are one step closer to being created equal in sports and speaking up about sexual assault on campus. She spoke from the heart and took so many questions from budding women leaders that we almost went over our time limit! After Nancy, they closed the ceremony with some sweet words, reminding us to reach for the stars and encouraging us to attend again next year. We got to participate in a photo opt in one room and then in the next we answered a question on the given pieces of paper and made almost a timeline of advice and memories across the room. The rest of the time was ours to spend, so we walked around D.C. again, stopping in cute stores, charging our phones in the cutest starbucks ever, waltzing around the Smithsonian portrait gallery, hanging with the prez outside the white house and even taking the time to participate in a peaceful protest. The streets were so full of culture and life and the streets were never ending. I felt a pull on my heart as I reminded myself that we were leaving in the morning as I went to bed. NCCWSL and D.C. were out of this world but I know that if (when) I attend next year there are things that I would do differently and that if you, my one reader decide to attend (you totally should)…..should do as well!
- BRING YOUR BUSINESS CARDS: There are so many fresh faced 20 somethings like you and professionals that want to stay in touch with you and network with you as soon as possible so this is an easy way to do so!!
- BRING SUNSCREEN AND COMFORTABLE CLOTHES: D.C. is huge and if you don’t come equipped with great walking shoes and clothes that you can breathe freely in, sightseeing is going to suckkkkk!
- SPEAK UP: Ask the speakers questions and take business cards, make yourself memerable….you never know who could be your future employer!!!
- HAVE FUN: No matter what, cancelled flights or sweaty armpits you get, don’t get discouraged! Take in this opportunity given to you and use it to better yourself and have a great time. Let go and smile for a little bit 🙂
This conference was brilliant and you know that next year around this time….D.C., i’ll be comin’ for you again. ♥
Fight, for your right, to leeeeadd,