For all returning CONA delegates, it should be easy to recall initial feelings at your very first conference. Many were filled with anticipation, and perhaps fear, that they would be lost in  a sea of people. As you settle back into life in the Blue Ridge Mountains, pass the torch off to the 2010’s incoming first years. Several delegates, presiding officers, and other conference goers passed on a few of the tips that they picked up over the years.

1) For ladies: ALWAYS BRING A PAIR OF FLATS! Those heels may appear super cute on flat ground, but in case you didn’t notice, we are on the mountain. Heels plus the mountain equals feet in major pain, and no one likes that.
2) Carry deodorant around. It is a fact of life: get hot, and sweat. That’s not fun for anyone. So, please, deodorant is a must.
3) Speak up! It is an exhilarating experience to speak in front of people. You might even inspire someone else to speak their mind, too, and you never know – you might change someone’s perspective on a major issue.
4) Drink water! North Carolina is known for its humidity. This lovely addition to the atmosphere will make you even more dehydrated and exhausted. Carry water bottles around all the time: it’s cool to fall because of the dart game, but not so much when you’re dehydrated.
5) Keen an open mind. Your opinion matters a lot, but you won’t grow as a person if you don’t listen to other’s ideas, especially different ideas. You don’t have to agree, but it’s good to acknowledge difference and even accept that some contrasting ideas are true.
6) Be sure to keep your schedule and watch handy! The day is so hectic and busy, and if you don’t have the schedule to tell you where to go, it’s easy to get flustered. One thing to do is to highlight or circle all of the events that are relevant to you, that way it’s easy to find it when you need it quickly.
7) Make new friends. Some people brush off the idea that friends you make at CONA will be your friends forever, but it’s the truth. With social networking sites like Facebook and the wonderful invention known as texting, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with new friends. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll have a job interview with a new company in a new state, and your potential boss will be a CONA alumni.
8) Use those Spirit Fingers! True, they might look slightly out of place back home, but here they are a symbol of agreement and comraderie.
9) Delegates agree that you have to try the Eureka! This frozen treat is similar to a blizzard, with candy goodness blended into ice cream. Nothing served in the cafeteria can compete with the sweetness of this savory treat.
10) The most important aspect of this week is to live without regrets. The worst thing you can do is walk away from this experience wishing you had taken a chance or a risk. Live it up at CONA; these experiences will carry you over until next summer.

~ Caroline Tambling