I arrived in Washington D.C. on Friday to attend a 2-day pre-conference workshop (training for work). The workshop let out around 1p on Saturday, and the opening session for FNCE was at 4PM. Even though I really wanted to attend the opening session, I knew I would benefit from some outdoors time to decompress and rejuvenate my brain before launching into the next few session-filled days. I took myself on a running tour of the monuments and have no regrets in doing so. Not only was it a gorgeous day to be outside, I know this simple act of self-care helped me to get the most out of the main portion of the conference.
On Sunday morning, I arrived at the Washington Convention Center for my first session on Competency Based Education. On my way there, I picked up the first of many freebees to come: a poop emoji stress ball (lol) and some V8 coconut watermelon water. My second session was "Demonstration Program Innovations in Educating Future Practitioners," which I ended up ducking out of a little early as the latter portion of the presentation covered some topics that didn't so much pertain to me. What I REALLY wanted to do was hustle my way down to the expo floor and see what that was all about.
The expo was a force to be reckoned with. It was over-stimulus to the max but I felt energized by all of the exciting vendors and, of course, food samples :) I spent a solid hour+ wandering around the expo floor checking out the different products and/or foods that were being marketed and there was no shortage of snacking options. Now I understand why one of my colleagues said that many people skip lunch in favor of expo snacking. I knew I wasn't going to be able to hit all the vendors on that first day so I scoped out who was there and made notes and which ones I wanted to come back to. One thing I lucked into was having my headshot taken by a photographer at the KIND Snacks booth. What an awesome idea on their part! Apparently there was a sign-up sheet, but since they were ahead of schedule they slid me in within a few minutes. I am thrilled with how it turned out!
Sunday afternoon featured two more educational sessions and by the time I made it to the last one, I was ready for a nap. Note to self: a midday coffee is definitely a must for these long conference days. After the last session of the day, I went to the student internship fair which was pure CHAOS. There must have been 75+ schools crammed into this small room (2 programs per table) and there was barely room to walk around with the number of students that were in there. I can see where it is a great event for students investigating prospective dietetic internships, especially since you have the opportunity to speak with a number of different program directors in such a short amount of time.
After the internship fair, I made a quick stop back at my hotel, then made my way to the International Spy Museum for the SCAN (sports, cardiovascular and wellness nutrition dietetic practice group) social. I was invited by one of my colleagues, and even though it made for a longer day I am glad I went. I was able to enjoy a glass of wine, meet a few new people, catch up with some former Virginia Tech students, and of course eat more great food! I am also thankful I made the smart choice of switching into my sneakers for this event, because my feet were sore and tired from all the walking I did and I still had another long day ahead of me.
Monday was an even longer day than Tuesday! It started for me at 6:30 am with a breakfast for the NDEP group (Nutrition Educators and Preceptors). Afterward I attended three more educational sessions, the first which was on the topic of "Engaging LGBTQ Clients in Nutritional Counseling Through Cultural Humility." This was by far my favorite session of all those I attended. Not only were the speakers dynamic and engaging, but they based their presentation on the development of skills, rather than just the dissemination of knowledge. I left the room feeling more confident in my ability to effectively reach and counsel the LBGTQ+ population, and excited to pass on those skills to my students.
After the morning sessions, I made a quick trip back to my hotel for a computer charger and to pickup lunch, then hustled back to the convention center just in time to join a midday round table discussion with the NDEP group. The round table discussion was a last minute addition, but I'm glad I decided to make it happen since it was really beneficial. I was able to attend one more session in the afternoon ("Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Empowering Patients to Make Meaningful Change") and took another whirlwind tour through the expo hall before ducking out early to help prepare for the Virginia Tech Alumni Social.
With FNCE being held in Washington, DC, our department decided to host an alumni reception at a local restaurant (Bus Boys and Poets) on Monday evening from 5-7 PM. My main role (other than to socialize!) was to take pictures. It was such a wonderful event and opportunity to see past graduates of from HNFE and our two dietetic internship programs. It was a FULL house with over 140 VT alumni there! JUST WOW. After the reception, I joined fellow VT HNFE faculty for dinner around the corner at Farmer's and Distillers, which I highly recommend. By the time we wrapped up dinner, it was 10:30 PM and I was oh so thankful that my hotel was only a quick jaunt across the street. By the time it was all said and done, Monday was a 16 hour day.
Thankfully Tuesday was a short day as I was exhausted. I set my alarm for as late as possible (7am) to make the first session of the morning (8am). The plan for the day was to attend one session, make a final visit to the expo hall, then hit the road around 11am to get ahead of traffic in the drive home. Technically the conference did not wrap up with the closing session until around 3:30 PM, but I am honestly not sure how I would have made it through another full day. With that, my first FNCE was a wrap. My feet were achy, my brain a bit fried, but my heart was happy. I am thankful for the opportunity to finally experience FNCE and cannot wait to see what next year's conference has in store!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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