This all changed when I recently attended the 2012 Forum on Education Abroad Conference in Denver, CO this past March. I was fortunate enough to also attend the Standards Institute in addition to the regular conference activities. All I can say is that this is a must attend for all those in the Education Abroad field. In total, there were really only 1-2 sessions that really didn't resonate with me but every other session I attended created so many ideas that I wanted to incorporate into my work that the conference actually became overwhelming. I have page after page of notes from the sessions I attended. The worst thing that happened was that I kept thinking about all the new concepts I wanted to incorporate but then had to stop to think about how I would be able to incorporate them all given the short staff situation I am currently in and already being overwhelmed and overworked as the new Director of an international education office. In the long run, that is a good problem to have. I haven't had that happen in years, in terms of going to sessions that generate so many new concepts I want to being using or attempting.
Some of you may ask what makes this conference different than all of the others out there that we in the international education field get asked to attend. There are several things that I think make this conference worth attending. One is that it is focused on just education abroad rather than the entire international education field. Additionally, the caliber of the sessions is extremely high. As a mentioned earlier I only attended 1-2 sessions in a 3 day period that didn't really resonate with me. (I won't mention what those were so as to not pick on anyone and those sessions may have resonated with others.)
Another factor that plays heavily into this conference is while, yes, you do get a chance to meet with partners and other colleagues that is not the purpose of most people's time there. The conference gives you plenty of time to network with extended coffee breaks and several receptions so you don't have to worry about missing sessions to talk with people. Plus the exhibit hall is only open for one day which means you have to focus your attention on the sessions.
I can't say enough about the high caliber of the sessions; what I also want to mention is that this conference is a must for education abroad professionals to attend, it is also a great opportunity to bring faculty and others that work with education abroad to assist them in understanding everything that goes into making programs run. It would be great to get these individuals to this conference especially those that have been involved for years in running programs but don't necessary understand why offices have some of the policies they do.
While I haven't talked about individual sessions since what may resonate with me may not resonate with you I would still encourage everyone to try and make this conference every year and make it a priority for your budget to attend this conference. Also consider the Standards Institute, which would have been enough for me in terms of generating ideas, but seems to hit on some of the most relevant topics in the field today.
I will say it would be great if they covered a few more technology topics related to education abroad, especially more than the typical blogs that have been around for awhile and focus on a few more of the newer technology but that is just from some that is fully integrated into social media. :)
If you attended the Forum Conference in Denver I would love to have you comment with your thoughts on this event as well.
Hope to see you at the next Forum on Education Abroad Conference in Chicago in 2013.