May 19, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Ten Tips for Attending ELI and Other Conferences

I can still pinpoint the day I fell in love with Alpha Phi; the day I knew that this sisterhood was genuine, loving and lifelong. I was sitting with my Silver Circle group at the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) in a small room in the Butler University Alpha Phi house, miles and miles away from my own chapter in South Dakota. These women, who I barely even knew, taught me about sisterhood, loyalty and support in a new way, and that one experience helped me understand the immensity of Alpha Phi.

 Whether you’re attending ELI or another Alpha Phi program, or even a leadership conference through your school, the experiences can be invaluable. But believe me, I completely understand the nerves and anxiety that come along with attending these conferences! So below, I share with you ten tips to succeed and enjoy your experience to the fullest.
  1. Don’t stress about what to pack. See that Alpha Phi shirt in your closet? Grab it. If your favorite shirt isn’t Alpha Phi related? That’s fine, grab it! Believe me, no one will judge you on what you wear….just make sure to bring warm clothes to sleep in, and cool clothes for the daytime and you’ll be set! Also, most conferences will provide you with what attire you should be wearing throughout the event, so that should be a big help.
  2. Go in with an open mind. Chances are most of us have a chapter sister who has already attended ELI or UIFI. Definitely ask her questions if you need to, but remember that this is going to be your experience. Don’t allow anyone else’s opinion shape your vision; in fact, part of the excitement is in not knowing what is coming next, so enjoy the anticipation!
  3. Step out of your comfort zone at least three times. This is my challenge to you. It’s hard, and you may feel uncomfortable, but you will only get this opportunity once, and trying something new is something you will never regret.
  4. Include everyone! My ELI group is still really close, and I talk to people from UIFI every week. It may surprise you, but if you try, you can really learn everyone’s names! If you see a sister sitting alone or notice that someone is quieter than others, be the person who invites her to walk with you to the next session, or sit by her at dinner and ask her questions to get to know her. Those connections are what make people’s experiences really flourish.
  5. Exchange contact information. I have contacted my sisters hundreds of times, and they have helped me through some of life’s biggest moments. I called an ELI sister when I was thinking of transferring, called a UIFI sister when I needed help with a philanthropic event, and have celebrated sisters’ graduations, birthdays, and other momentous events with them from hundreds of miles away. If you think your support system is good now, just wait—it gets better!
  6. Ask questions. At the end of the day, you are attending this program in order to learn and grow, and the only way to do that is by absorbing every ounce of information that you can. Think of yourself, your sisters, and your chapter, and ask any questions necessary so you leave a better-rounded Alpha Phi.
  7. Get to know your facilitators. They are full of love, support, wisdom, and they are some of the best connections and resources you will ever have.
  8. Know your limits. Remember that you’re there to learn and will be expected to participate with energy each day. I encourage you to spend free time with your sisters and new friends, but I also encourage you to get enough sleep and take care of yourself. Too much exertion could cost you your health, and that’s never fun!
  9. Take some time for reflection. Your values and opinions will be challenged. You will be exposed to new ideas, new people, and challenging situations. Sometimes, these concepts will hit you like a ton of bricks. It’s important to take some time for yourself in order to let the material sink in, and to make sure you’re able to understand everything being thrown at you. Afterwards, you may even grab another member to discuss your reflections; what an awesome chance to get to know someone a little better!
Have the time of your life! This opportunity will change you for the better. Step a little out of your shell and let down your walls, and your experience will be filled with fun, laughter, and lots of new relationships that you will never forget.  
If you’ve been selected to attend any type of leadership program, congratulations! I know you will have the experience of a lifetime, and leave a changed woman. I wish you the best of luck. And remember, these opportunities are meant for you to grow and learn, so go in with a positive attitude and remember that everyone attending is in the same shoes as you! 
Cheltzie Miller-Bailey is a collegiate member at University of Northern Iowa (Epsilon Theta). Click here to learn about Cheltzie.

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