Here’s our guest post from Marc, National Leadership Council (NLC) Social Media Coordinator. Marc attended ScholarCon & kept his detailed account here…thanks Marc! Reading this takes us back…
As I got off the plane, a warm tropical air breathed into my grey sports jacket, and my cotton khakis clung desperately to my skin. Maybe I should’ve dressed lighter, I thought. Gazing around the Orlando International Airport, I nervously tapped on my smartphone opening up the Scholarcon app. Strangers filled the status wall with excitement, questions, answers, and unrelated but amusing pictures of their cats (naturally). My shuttle arrived and I head off to the hotel. I was nervous, estranged, and unsure. Unknowingly, as I gawked at the dauntingly enormous hotel, Scholarcon was exactly what I needed.
Day One: ScholarConverge
Everyone came to Scholarcon with different intentions: some expected to make new friends and connections, many wanted to learn new skills and insights into their careers, some looked for adventure in Orlando and Universal Studios, and a few even pursued the promise of seeing John Legend in person. Whether it may be a picture with a Grammy Award winner, or just helpful advice to kick start our NSCS chapters back at home, everyone wanted to come out of the convention with something fresh and new, and that’s exactly what we got.
I trickled into the registration table along with some new faces. A couple of officer training sessions, led by the friendly staff and joined by one or two NLC members, were held in the convention rooms. Those sessions were generally informative, and the staff were eager to answer the questions that we threw at them.
I learned about the new techniques, programs, and solutions that might be able to help my home NSCS chapter evolve and grow! NLC also had their own panel where they answered questions about who they are and what they do for the society. Then things started to get crazy! At one point, at the unveiling of the new NSCS Portal, a giant Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament ignited! This was an incredible way to get everyone in the mood for a little small talk. There was some HYPE squad dancing involved, though many of my peers were still very hesitant!
But it only gets crazier from there! We had contests, more dancing, and chocolate desserts! Tom Deluca, an eccentric hypnotist by no exaggeration, seized the center stage and mesmerized us with the mystery of hypnosis and the power of suggestion. Some golden catchphrases instantaneously became inside jokes in the convention, classic hits like: “So niiice, so very niice, I never want to let go!” and the ever echoing “Dare, Dream, Discover, Baby!” It was honestly intriguing. Tom even slipped a nice lesson into the show about how our subconscious is powerful, and how negative and positive outlooks can change the course of our actions. We were told to get out of our comfort zone to truly experience this convention and our lives. “Get uncomfortable” was the theme of the whole celebration. Volunteers had to openly step outside their bubbles to participate in the incredibly interactive soiree. By the end of the show, everyone has had their fill of laughter and bonding. New friendships were slowly planted and almost everyone was exhausted from exploring the hotel, which deserved its own zip code, and socializing with strangers.
Day Two: ScholarConvene
Breakfast began with a running start. As Scholarconnies (I’m coining that term) are munching on their breakfast bagels and recharging with coffee, representatives from NSCS’ Partners tabled around the food area to provide information, flyers, advice, and free car insurance quotes. The room was alive! I looked around and saw people, who literally just met each other the previous night, interacting like old friends! The partners had smiles on their faces which set a very fresh inviting tone to start day two.
The Hype Squad, NSCS’ own cheerleading armada, rolled into the stage bouncing with vitality and gleaming with optimism. They started the Summit with the “Cha Cha Slide”, a signature staple of last year’s Summit in Houston. Of course, those who were comfortable showing their line dancing prowess, and those who just wanted to enjoy themselves, leaped out of their seats to join the menagerie. After loosening up the audience, it was time for the meat and potatoes of the convention. Mr. Steve Loflin entered the stage and said some very inspiring words for everyone. With over a million members and two decades, NSCS’ founder explored where the society is headed to next. Along with that, Grace Bush and Jullien Gordon inspired us to pursue our passions and to reach beyond that 4.0 GPA. Though Grace and Jullien shared their amazing success stories, it was eye opening and humbling to have them share almost the same struggles, anxieties, and pressures we were all facing. I realized my dreams were reachable if I strived enough for them; that “goal” would be incomplete without “go”.
After the Summit, everyone prepared to dress in their best business casual suits for the Honor Gala Luncheon. There, fancy food was enjoyed, photos taken, and conversations exchanged as Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond STAR Statuses were awarded to their respective chapters. Though, there was a bit of a mix-up with the trophies’ names, when all was said and done, everyone left the Gala satisfied. Scholarconnies later broke off to enjoy the rest of the afternoon, either to explore Universal Studios’ rich theme park, or to enjoy the rest of the hotel. I headed off to Universal Studios with my newly acquired friends, and geeked out at the almost life sized versions of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. Looking at the Scholarcon app, I assumed everyone else who stayed behind in the hotel had their share of new inside jokes, pool parties, and late night Pokémon games. As expected, at the end of the day everyone was drained yet again from the craziness. No hour was wasted and no calorie was left unburned, day two ended as fast as it started. Day three, however, would be much crazier.
Day Three: ScholarConnect
I was especially excited for day three, industry celebrities and entrepreneurs such as Eric Kuhn, Jerry Greenfield, Jenna Bush, and Russel Romanella from NASA, just to name a few, were there to give us secrets, advice, and business cards! There were so many exciting panels to visit; I unfortunately couldn’t listen to them all. Some of us even got the chance to sneak in a picture or two with some of the speakers to “humble brag” to our friends. There were countless of new insights, stories, and ice cream, courtesy of Jerry Greenfield, which each and every one of us at Scholarcon would take to heart during the presentations.
The musical genius of John Legend and his call for humanitarians inspired the rest of the evening. While talking about his life story, “The Opposite of Love is Fear”, and his struggles with his parent’s divorce, John amusingly sneaked his song lyrics into his speech. Legend swooned the audience with his soulful timbre and classic R&B hits like “Tonight” and “All of me”. After the concert, Scholarcon 2015 was announced. The starting price wasn’t bad at all. If the quality of next year’s Scholarcon will be the same as this year’s, then I’ll be sure to bring friends!
But the party wasn’t over! Minutes later, music, food, dancing, and glow sticks galore invaded the lower exhibition hall! A crowd of sugar infused scholars danced like they never did before around the performing duo Side Project. Scholarcon was coming to a close, but beach balls, bass drops, and conga lines dominated the dance floor as friends, who were previously strangers, shared sweat, dance moves, and tears of farewell. The music carried on until the last dancer was exhausted and final goodbyes were exchanged. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride that brought on new friendships, new ideas, and new stories.
Looking back at all the hours spent exploring, dancing, screaming, and networking, I realized that three days wasn’t enough for me to take in the overwhelmingly “uncomfortable” convention. My new friends were spread across the country and I probably won’t see many of them for a very long time. But it’s bittersweet. I’ve learned many life lessons that I’m surely going to take when I come back to college, and I’ve made many friends that I am surely going to contact when I have access to Facebook. In the next couple of weeks, I’m probably going to laugh and cry at the hilarious and awespiring photos I’ve taken at the convention. Maybe I’ll check on the app every now and again, as a reflex, just to see the random pictures people posted of food and John Legend. Through it all, Scholarcon was a heck of an adventure, I never thought I could’ve gotten this much fun from a convention focused for scholars.