Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twitter + NAFSA’s Advocacy Day: A Perfect Match

The following is a guest post by Frank J. Merendino who is the NAFSA Region VI State Rep-Ohio.  I got to know Frank only a few short weeks ago as I was following the NAFSA Advocacy Day activities via Frank’s live tweets of updates and photos he took.  I like what Frank was tweeting so much that I invited him to serve as a guest blogger to share his experiences during NAFSA’s Advocacy Day.  Frank’s post follows:

When David asked me to be a guest blogger on the IHEC Blog I was thrilled for several   reasons. 1) IHEC Blog is such a valuable resource for international educators—it’s a great site for one stop shopping about past and current events in international education so I am honored to be a contributor, 2) I have the opportunity to share my wonderful experience at NAFSA’s Advocacy Day with a larger audience, and 3) I get to blog for the first time ever!

Yes, you read that correctly. I am on the boundary line between GenXer and Millennial (born in 1980) and I have never written a blog post before...hard to imagine, eh? Speaking of blogging, let’s stick with the new media conversation and talk about the benefits of Twitter. Live tweeting is also something I have never really done until Advocacy Day 2010. I’ve had a Twitter account since 2008 and been following a few people for a while (I have even made an occasional tweet every once and a while about nothing important), but it was my interaction with Twitter on my mobile device during Advocacy Day that allowed me to truly understand what all the fuss was about.

I’m certainly not comparing the importance of my tweeting during Advocacy Day with what Iranian citizens were doing a few months back when they made their voices heard during the election protests in a way their government couldn’t block (at first).  However, there is some similarity in that I was able to share a live event I was participating in while it was happening with interested followers. It was a very empowering feeling. Thank you to all my “tweeps” for their encouragement and feedback throughout the Advocacy Day event. Tweeting about what was happening throughout my brief time in DC greatly enhanced my own experience and also allowed me to feel like I was sharing something important with colleagues.

This was my second year attending NAFSA’s Advocacy Day and my hope is that I am able to continue to attend throughout the years. If you only take one message away from this post, it’s that you should absolutely attend Advocacy Day at some point in your career. I’m dead serious. I have had several different NAFSA “experiences” so far in my relatively short time in the field--attending state, regional, and national conferences, attending a regional leadership team meeting, and in my new position as the Region VI State Representative for Ohio, I am currently experiencing the joys of planning Ohio’s state conference—but bar none, Advocacy Day takes the cake as my favorite NAFSA event.

I spent a whirlwind 32 hours in our nation’s capital cramming information into my brain about immigration reform, the ACTION Act, and why lifting the travel ban to Cuba is in our best interest. When it was all said and done, and I had given my pitch about the many benefits of international education to two Senator’s aides and one House staffer, I was exhausted...but it was well worth it. Advocacy Day is a great venue to increase your overall understanding of international education. Seeing the “big picture” and where your own specialty in international education fits into the spectrum is just one of the rewards. You get to listen firsthand to public policy wonks speak about current issues affecting student visas, meet and interact with international educators from across the country, share your stories about the positive impact of studying abroad, and most importantly, take an active role in the democratic process and help to determine the future of international education policy by letting your voice be heard.  Regardless of your role in international education—whether you advise domestic students on studying abroad, help international students and scholars maintain their visa status, teach English, or work in recruiting and admissions—attending NAFSA’s Advocacy Day is an incredible opportunity to help make a difference for students, fellow international educators, and hopefully the United States of America.

I’ll see you in Washington DC in 2011!

If you have any questions, or would like to chat more about why NAFSA’s Advocacy Day is a worthwhile experience, feel free to drop me a line at


Frank J. Merendino
International Student Advisor

My thanks to Kari Lantos and NAFSA’s Public Policy team on all of their hard work in putting together another great Advocacy Day.

Photo Credit:  All photos were taking by Frank via his mobile device and posted to TweetPhoto (via Twitter).  To see all of Frank's photos from NAFSA Advocacy Day please visit here.

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