The Convention: 5 Tips for First-Time Grad Student Attendees

As a first-time graduate student attendee, it’s easy to be excited but also overwhelmed by the various sessions of TESOL 2019 International Convention & English Language Expo. I was in your place last March when I attended TESOL 2018. I still remember staying up late in my hotel in Chicago, reviewing the program from the TESOL app for the next day because I had underestimated the size of the convention center and the variety of quality presentation topics. I learned a valuable lesson that being familiar with the schedule could save me a lot of energy and help me utilize my time more efficiently. So here I would like to share with you 5 useful tips that I learned and used from my experience and from other experienced attendees last year.

Yi-Chun Cheng, ESL Teacher

1. Become Familiar With the Convention Website

Refer to the website when you have any questions regarding schedule, transportation, accommodations, or anything at all convention related. Check the hotel list from this website before you make your reservation to make sure you find ones that offer a discounted rate!

2. Attend Preconvention Institutes

Make use of TESOL student member advantages by registering for the Preconvention Institutes. There are many inspiring workshops that might apply to your research/teaching interests. Unlike regular concurrent sessions, these types of workshops provide you lots of hands-on practice opportunities, and you will have the chance to interact with the presenters as well as ask them questions in a smaller group setting.

3. Download the TESOL 2019 Convention App

Discover the features in the app and make connections with other attendees before you meet each other in Atlanta. You can also personalize your agenda on this app. One of the coolest things is that you can search for other attendees all over the world. You might find some familiar faces there, too. Once you create your agenda, you will be able to see other potential attendees of these sessions too.

4. Create an Agenda

Prepare a notebook for writing down your daily to-do list and for creating your personalized 2019 TESOL conference agenda. (You can also try using the TESOL itinerary planner, accessible here when it’s ready.) If you arrive there without any preparation, you might be overwhelmed by the various workshops, presentations, concurrent sessions, and daily special events at the exhibition hall. It happened to me on the first day of the conference last year. I did not pay close attention to the program schedule and I spent too much time at the Expo Hall and ended up missing a presentation that related to my research interest. After this experience, I always set a vibrant alarm on my smartphone to remind me whenever I visited the Expo Hall.

5. Make New Friends With Other Attendees

You will be surprised to see how well you are connected. Now you have your potential to-do list for the TESOL 2019 convention. You are excited to attend different sessions and explore the field you are interested in. Remember, the most fascinating part of this convention is the people. Try to have a short conversation with the person sitting next to you before the session starts, or engaging in the discussion during the presentation if the presenter invites you to do so. It might be intimidating for you to start a conversation with a stranger, but trust me, you never know, you just might make a good friend or friends who will want to stay in touch even after the convention ends.

Now you have my 5 tips, and it’s time for you to prepare for your TESOL 2019 journey. Hope to see you in Atlanta soon!


Author Bio
Yi-Chun Cheng is an ESL teacher at Brandeis Elementary School in the Jefferson County Public School District in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. She received her master’s degree in applied linguistics and TESOL from the University of Mississippi. Her research studied the use of board games to reduce language anxiety and improve speaking. Yi-Chun’s teaching experience includes EFL in Taiwan and ESL in the United States for a combined 10 years. She now concentrates on implementing push-in and pull-out models for guided reading for refugee ELLs in public schools.

About TESOL Ambassador

TESOL Ambassador
TESOL Ambassadors are TESOL members just like you who have agreed to share their experiences at the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo. Watch for them on TESOL social media, and feel free to comment on and share their posts with friends and colleagues.
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One Response to The Convention: 5 Tips for First-Time Grad Student Attendees

  1. These are helpful tips for first-time attendees. I’d like to add that it also help to create a back-up agenda. Some sessions at the TESOL Convention are so heavily attended that the rooms fill to capacity. If I go to a room and see it’s overflowing, I look at my back-up agenda which already has another session (my 2nd choice) selected. I can usually arrive at that session on time if they are fairly close together.

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