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I came, I saw, I ACUHOI-ED!!

By PoppyHumphrey 02 Sep 2019

We hear from Rebecca O'Hare, former ASRA Northern Regional Representative about her experience of taking part in the  Association of College & University Housing Officers-International Online Community (ACUHO-I) 2019 Conference and Study Tour in Toronto. 

“Look after yourself and practice self-care” was one of the many helpful tips I received in advance of attending the 2019 ACUHO-I conference, and now I understand why. It was an event that had long sat on my ‘conference bucket list’ and as a recipient of the CUBO Residence Life Professional award, I had the pleasure of being a delegate at this year’s conference in Toronto. If you are considering attending, below are my tips to ensure you make the most of your experience.

Do the study tour

I also attended the pre-conference study tour, which colleagues in the sector had long remarked that attending would enhance the overall ACUHO-I experience. I can vouch for that; my own experience is that it’s wonderful and intense all at the same time. Your schedule is busy, but having the opportunity to visit and engage with accommodation and residence life teams from nine universities in the greater Toronto area was of immense value.

I gained insight into how key student affairs theories are applied, listened to challenges from a North American perspective, and learned about how approaches to providing a supportive, relevant, connected and evaluated student experience are embedded. It was also great to explore the incredible facilities of many universities including Western University, University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo.

In addition, the friendships you form and camaraderie you encounter with your fellow delegates ensures the experience becomes a special one.

Beware of the shiny things

The level of conference content available to consume is of an enviable standard. The research and data underpinning each session is some of the best you’ll encounter and you will leave motivated and ready to rock your student accommodation world for the better. It’s easy to be attracted by the bright, new and shiny things. There will be plenty of ideas, policies and approaches that you will take, adapt and no doubt implement the moment you return home.

However, be mindful that not everything will automatically translate and easily slot into the UK sector. As an example, our North American friends are more advanced and experienced in delivering Living Learning Communities and evaluating Residence Life programmes. We can learn from this and more, but remember to focus on tailoring relevant solutions for the challenges you face and UK sector at large.

Network, network, network

The opportunity to meet experienced student housing professionals from around the globe at ACUHO-I is endless. My advice? Don’t be afraid to reach out to as many as possible, either in person, online or both! Remember, social media is your friend. Utilise it by following Twitter and LinkedIn conversations and contributing to them too. If you meet someone and discover you have professional shared interests, exchange business cards and follow up with a LinkedIn request or an email.

Equally if you spot someone you always wanted to meet, be brave and say hello. While the above may read like the most basic of advice, if you are keen to expand your circle of professional relationships, making the most of this opportunity will serve you well. Being an international delegate will aid you too. Others will be interested in your role, how you contribute to supporting students and the general landscape of UK Higher Education and the challenges it brings. Arrive ready to answer many, many questions!

Professional Development - invest time now, thank yourself later

The conference itself and the experience of attending will add to your professional development. If you are still hungry for more learning, as well as providing masses of educational sessions, the clever folks at ACUHO-I provide personal professional development sessions  too. These range from ‘career connections’ presentations, evening receptions for women in housing or professionals of colour, how to tackle imposter syndrome and even the chance to get a free headshot. Take advantage of attending as many of these sessions as you can. It can be your reward for all those study tour early wake-up calls.

Rebecca is the Head of Partnerships & Resident Experience at Student First Group

For more information about the Association of College & University Housing Officers-International Online Community (ACUHO-I) Click Here


PoppyHumphrey is ASRA Communications & IT Officer. Based at Manchester Student Homes
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