Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Convention Stories

Sarah Faulkner
Far Western Region Student Representative, 2011-2012
Chapman University

I was thrilled when I heard that my critical paper had been accepted to the 2011 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. I was even more excited when I confirmed that the papers and creative works of thirteen of my peers had been accepted as well, and that eleven of us would be flying to Pittsburgh in late March. This would be my first Convention, my first presentation of an accepted paper, and my first experience in such a large community of driven and talented English scholars.
The preparations were hectic. Trying to find funding, helping people book flights and hotel rooms, and comprehending that Philadelphia was not the same place as Pittsburgh consumed much of my time prior to convention. When I showed up to my group’s meeting spot at 4AM on March 23rd to wait for our taxi, I was nervous about the week ahead. The flight was long, and we landed into chaos. Pittsburgh was in the midst of a great storm, and we were delayed on the tarmac for an hour and a half, only to be welcomed into the airport by TVs flashing with tornado warnings. After another grueling hour of collecting bags and waiting for our shuttle, I was having my doubts about the wisdom of going to the convention.

We were awed on first emerging from the airport into Pittsburgh. Its impressive skyline and high population of yellow bridges struck me as different from anything I’d seen before. We were shuttled to the Grand Wyndham in Downtown, a beautiful and extremely accommodating hotel. With so much travel trauma, we had missed that day’s registration and decided to venture out in search of food. We stumbled upon Primanti Bros., where I experienced a sandwich containing two fried eggs, cheese, coleslaw, and fries. I was officially in Pittsburgh.

The week quickly turned into one of the best of my life. The Student Leadership Workshops were extremely useful and fun, and I discovered many brilliant ideas and people from across the nation.  We then did more exploring of Pittsburgh, including riding the tram up the hill to Mt. Washington and exploring Station Square. It was also on this day that I attended the unofficial regional caucus and debated if I should run for Student Representative and was, of course, persuaded to do so by the amazing opportunities and possibilities for growth.

On Friday, I attended the Scholarship/Awards Ceremony to discover that I had received the Far Western Regent’s Scholarship, a very pleasant surprise. We then moved to the Regional Caucuses, where I was elected Student Representative  for the Far Western Region. As all the representatives met for lunch in the Executive Suite (which I had been eyeing from the 24th floor for a while) I began to get truly excited about the Student Representative position and its potential. The day continued with an amazing trip to the Andy Warhol Museum, dinner with my chapter, and hearing Kay Ryan read her soothing and inspiring poetry. 

Saturday opened with the nervous excitement of presenting my paper. After listening to my best friend read her creative piece at 8:00AM, I felt a little easier, and we presented next to each other at the 20th Century British Lit. Critical panel at 9:30AM. After my paper on Yeats was delivered, I traveled all around the Wyndham with my chapter to see  five different presentations, including the brilliant panel on Harry Potter.   

The women from my chapter and I then got ready for the Gala, putting on our finest black and red dresses.  We sat at dinner with our chapter, awaiting the announcement of the convention winners. One of the graduate students from our chapter won second place in original fiction, news which was met from us with a great roar of cheers.  We enjoyed the sense of community and accomplishment felt throughout the room filled with over 1000 dedicated leaders and scholars. After the Gala, we heard Dave Eggers give a marvelous talk about his life and work, and the Convention was officially ended. I said goodbye to the wonderful new friends I had made throughout the week and prepared to make the trip back to California.

The four days I spent in Pittsburgh at convention were amazing. The week was filled with opportunity, knowledge, growth, and truly inspiring people. I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend, and I look forward to implementing the positive ideas and attitude I gained into my own chapter and my own life. I am very much looking forward to the next convention in New Orleans! Until then, I will remember convention as one of the best experiences of my life.

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