Finding My Place at ASCA18
Walking into the Los Angeles Convention Center to check in for my first American School Counselor Association conference was surreal. My professors had been talking about this conference and how it can be life changing since I had started my graduate program a year ago and now I was finally here! I had managed to get my trip paid for by my university so I was able to just fully take in the experience of the ASCA conference without feeling burdened by the cost of the trip. I knew that there were so many other people who had not been as fortunate as me, so I planned to take full advantage of the opportunity that I had in front of me. I wanted to attend every session I could and meet as many people as I could. I had my business cards in my bag and was full of determination…and then I noticed the size of the registration line in front of me.
There were hundreds of people in line waiting to register for the exact same conference that I was registering for. I immediately felt overwhelmed but reminded myself that the conference could feel as big as I wanted it to feel and that I should just be grateful to be there. There were probably so many other graduate students who would love to be surrounded by this many school counselors who were all there to get new ideas to bring back to their schools for the benefit of their students. I quickly got in line and waited, a long time, for my turn to register. As I was standing in line, I listened in on some conversations happening around me and realized that there definitely were not a lot of graduate students at this conference and probably even fewer students of color. Most people around me were discussing their caseloads and problems with administration which were things I could not yet relate to. I hadn’t even started my internship yet. I wondered how in the world I was ever going to find other graduate students that might be in attendance and began scanning my ASCA Conference app to see if there were sessions that were applicable to grad students or interns.
Unfortunately, I never did run into any other graduate students other than the ones I had traveled to the conference with and I felt incredibly overwhelmed during the entire conference. Now, I knew it would be a large conference, but I think I assumed that there would be ways in which to network with people in a similar position as you and I was never able to figure that part of the conference out. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, but I did not feel I could find my place at the conference until I attended the session on getting your Ph.D. as a student of color. I walked into the room and immediately felt at ease. There were people who looked like me that were eager to learn how to better themselves through education and when I looked at the panel, I saw people who I did not typically associate with a Ph.D. and it made me feel good. This was the first session where I felt at ease and didn’t spend the majority of the time looking around the room wondering if I belonged. During this session, I realized that while I may have felt alone at the conference, there was a network of people of color that were there to support one another. It was truly an eye-opening experience and when I attend ASCA next year, I hope to find more opportunities to network with this amazing network.