The NSC Experience: How I Rediscovered My “Why” And Met My #PTFam
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My choice to attend APTA's National Student Conclave (NSC) this year was a pretty spontaneous decision.
I got an email from APTA about "Getting Weird in Portland," and I skimmed over the programming; it was right then that I decided to attend.
My decision to go to NSC 2017 came with little expectation, and it didn't take long before I was blown away by the entire experience.
I am a student in the inaugural class of DPT students at High Point University in North Carolina, so there were no upperclassmen to tell us about the conference or give tips on travel and hotel arrangements. But it was important to me to break out of the rut of waking up, going to class, and studying, and I wanted to brush the dust off my "why" of pursuing physical therapy and jump out of my comfort zone.
I was extremely determined to interact with students from all over the county, and before I knew it, October was here and I was ready to go. Multiple time zones later, as I chatted with people on the plane about how awesome Portland is, my nerves started to go away. Then I arrived at NSC.
Immediately, I felt the excitement buzzing as I was greeted by lots of other students who were welcoming and friendly. It was amazing to be around a group of students who were on the same journey as me; I felt like I was at home.
Throughout the entire event there was a great sense of community and inclusiveness, which made me feel like I hadn't even traveled by myself. I found myself talking to students from all over the country, in various years in school, and with different career goals and aspirations.
As a first-year student in a brand new program, this experience was invaluable.
I got the chance to interact and learn from second- and third-year student physical therapists and student physical therapist assistants. They shared experiences from their clinicals, how they prepared for exams, and how they discovered their interests and passions.
Not only was meeting other attendees worth the trip, but the programming and speakers were great as well! I left NSC with tons of notes, lessons learned, and insight.
One of the major themes of the conference was, no matter what, make sure that you are traveling on your own path, and you will discover your own "why."
It is so important that you follow and find what you are passionate about in the profession, and it is totally okay if you feel a bit lost on the journey to get your degree. Just make sure that you take time to explore your strengths and interests. Take advantage of opportunities to grow.
Leadership was another major focus of the conference. It was emphasized that you can lead from any role within an organization, and this thought process allows for more people to be empowered and to empower others. We were reminded that true leadership comes from your ability to serve others.
Something else that really struck a chord with me at NSC was that this is in fact a conference for students, designed by students. The presentations, speakers, events, and even the exhibit hall were all tailored for us. How lucky are we that we belong to a profession that hosts a yearly conference exclusively for its students? Not to say APTA's Combined Sections Meeting and NEXT Conference and Exposition aren't great too, but those events aren't just for students. There's really something special and valuable to having such an event.
NSC taught me a lot about what APTA has to offer.
Honestly, I joined APTA based on the principle that I should join my professional organization, but I had no strong understanding of the value of it. After attending NSC in Portland, I can now understand that if you never get involved with the association, you can forget about the value it brings, which is why I'm so grateful that I chose to engage. I think it is amazing that we can have our individual passions, but we are more powerful and influential as a group.
I am honored to share my NSC experience and now be connected to students from all over the nation. Attending alone really shoved me out of my comfort zone and forced me to be much more assertive than I might have been if I had gone in a group. It allowed me to bond with other students who also traveled by themselves to the conference.
I was able to meet students and physical therapists from all over the country and learn from them and their experiences. I honestly wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way.
So my advice to anyone considering going to a conference alone or traveling in a group would be to make sure that you get out of your comfort zone. Engage in conversations with as many new people as you can, go in with an open mind, and keep that excitement with you when you go back home!
Needless to say, NSC 2017 was where I rediscovered my "why physical therapy" and found my #PTFam. If you ask me, NSC is a can't-miss event.
Learn more about NSC and see highlights from this year's conference.
Monifa Williams, SPT, attends High Point University.