The American Occupational Therapy Association is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia this year! This will be my first time attending a conference and what better year to be a newbie than at the centennial celebration! My classmates and I are extremely excited to get to experience all things OT-related and to get to connect with others who share our passion to help others. Here are my top five reasons YOU (OT students) should not miss out.

  1. MINI VACATION! Grad school is tough. We all need a break from the hustle and bustle of research papers, presentations, fieldwork and everything in-between. Conference time is a great time to get away, explore a new city, make new memories, try new food and meet great people. Cherish every second of the experience.
  2. NETWORKING! Personally, I am excited to meet up with some of the OT connections and mentors I have been talking to over the internet. Conferences are a great time to put a face to the name of those whose articles you have been reading or work you have been admiring. It is also a great time to meet up with friends who you have met at other events or friends from other schools. There will be a lot of opportunities to meet others, so don’t be shy! The conference will be a great way to get to know others who have similar interests as you and to find possible mentors.
  3. FREE STUFF. Need I say more? There will be plenty of vendors, schools and businesses promoting their products and services. This is a great way to pick up a few (or more) pens, key chains and other goodies to use throughout the year and to remember the awesome time you had! Keep a folder or something to keep flyers and brochures organized. These contacts will be useful at some point.
  4. MEET THE LEADERS OF OT! There will be people at the conference who have already been in our shoes, as a new student, ready to learn. Those textbooks we have were written by some of the great OTs who will be speaking to us. So many learning opportunities and so many role models and leaders in our profession.
  5. IT IS THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION! This is a must-not-miss event. Come celebrate the history of OUR amazing profession. For 100 years, OT has been helping SO many people regain independence and getting their lives back. It is a time to learn, reflect and take action. It is time to look forward and decide how far we want to take our good work!

If you are going, I asked some former professors, mentors and current Gannon faculty if they had any tips to share. Here are a few.

Wear comfortable shoes, dress to impress (but stay comfortable), don’t overbook activities, poster sessions and short courses, go with the flow, attend student networking events, take a pen and notepad, don’t be afraid to talk to anyone, pace yourself, be confident, don’t forget headache medicine, bring small snacks, don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t talk negatively about anyone (everyone knows each other!), carry some cash and small amounts of change, bring a backup phone charger and a nice tote bag to carry all your stuff, don’t forget gum and mints, stay hydrated and most importantly, have fun!

I hope to see you all there!