When you think of the typical learning environment in college, I am sure it usually consists of lecture halls, chemistry labs and internship sites. But lately I have been finding more and more opportunities for learning experiences that are outside the box. On October 6, I had the opportunity to travel down to Philadelphia with a couple of classmates for a few days to the national dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, also known as FNCE. There was not only a plethora of learning, but we had a blast, too! I encourage all of you if you have time, and equally important – money, to try to make it to a national conference in your area of study. Believe me, you won’t regret it! Bonus: the professors were more than happy to accommodate the days we had to miss! Just to give you a little insight into our Philadelphia adventures, I am going to give you a quick recap of the weekend’s events!
Saturday October 6, 2012
- 4:00 am – Leave my house in Ontario in the pouring rain.
- 5:15 am – Pick up two other dietetics classmates and we are officially on our way! Still raining.
- 9:00 am – I get to experience my first time at Dunkin’ Donuts. (Yes, I know there is a misconception that all of America runs on Dunkin’…) Still raining.
- 12:15 pm – Sitting in traffic in the outskirts of Philadelphia. No longer raining!
- 12:45 pm – Finally arrive at the parking ramp at our hotel, temporarily become quick-change artists, and jog in high heels seven blocks to make it in time for our first pre-FNCE event. (Practically “plowing down” everyone in our path).
- 12:59 pm – Arrive in time, and out of breath, to listen to our first lecture on the Mediterranean diet and find out that hors d’oeuvres still go on for another half hour. At this point we got to enjoy perfectly grilled vegetables, Mediterranean-inspired appetizers, and wine (for those who were of age). By the end, I won a free “walnut” t-shirt, too, but that’s a story for another time.
- 3:00 pm – Pick up our official FNCE badges and a 200+ page schedule of the hundreds of seminars, culinary demos, and other learning opportunities we can attend.
- 4:00 pm – Opening FNCE Ceremony complete with seeing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ president run in with the “Olympic Torch.”
So that was a small window into the first few hours of our trip to the conference, but it is one of those experiences that is impossible to describe. Besides the fact that the expo was complete with hundreds of vendors giving out free food and products (the size of three football fields), the best part was listening to seminars in almost every area of nutrition one could imagine. From patient care and eating disorders to motivational counseling and exercise science, the conference had it all! I even got to attend one on food and nutrition blogging!
Instead of just taking my word for it, I asked a few students to share their experiences and what they enjoyed the most about FNCE or the seminars they attended.
Tiffany (’13) - “My favorite part of FNCE was seeing all sorts of dietitians in one place. There are so many different career paths that a dietitian can take. To be able to talk to so many different dietitians and companies to see what each of them do was a great eye opener. All of the free samples and giveaways were pretty great too!!”
Nicole (’14) - “Everything about FNCE was great. From the 7 hour car ride, the run through downtown Philly to our first seminar, the huge expo hall of free food and the friendships built. There were so many seminars to go to that it was a challenge to pick just one at a time. One of the seminars that was memorable to me was called “Non traditional career paths in dietetics”. The speakers made me feel comfortable with using my dietetics knowledge and also tapping into other passions in my life. I’m interested in teaching dietetics and doing personal counseling in weight loss and healthy cooking. This seminar made me realize why I fell in love with dietetics and nutrition in the first place. Thank you FNCE!”
Mameni (’14) - “My favorite part of FNCE was the seminars. The seminars were wonderful for networking with others in the field that have similar interest. It allowed me to explore different focuses of nutrition and dietetics that could most likely influence my decision in choosing future jobs. I also met dietitians who may be potential 5th year specialty rotation preceptors.”
Katie (’14) - “One seminar that was particularly interesting for me was “Improving Nutrition and Food Environments of Children through Policy, Advocacy and Creativity”. Presented by a dietitian and a lawyer, the seminar discussed issues relating to setting and implementing nutrition policies, as well as ways to overcome challenges. Policy is an area of interest for me, and being able to attend the conference gave me the opportunity to learn more about that specific aspect of dietetics.”
Here are more photos from the weekend:
Have you ever had the chance to attend a national conference in your field of study? Do you have plans to attend one in the future? What are some other non-traditional learning opportunities you have experienced while in college? Let me know what you think!