The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: NACURH 2014

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season (if you started singing that song you get my reference), but I love this time of year as well!  It all started in 1987 when I attended my first NACURH conference at Central Michigan University.   It was a blast!  At that time, believe it or not, I was a junior in college and active in my hall government.  I was recruited by the MACURH Director to serve as the regional secretary.  This was long before computers – we addressed paper newsletters by hand and phone calls were the norm vs. texting or e-mail.

I remember running down a hill at NACURH’89 with all of my regional besties lined up to do our roll call dance to Grease Lightning.  I also remember hours of van rides and airport delays anticipating the fun that we were going to have at the conferences.   Fast forward to 2014 and I’m working at OCM preparing for NACURH 2014.  I still anticipate the fun travels that will ensue and now being a NACURH veteran, I look forward to seeing many people that I have met during my time with OCM.

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Now before you think I’m ancient, I share my NACURH history with many friends who have chosen to serve students as a profession, so I’m not the only one with memories of past NACURHs. And, I want to you to know that the adage of “the more things change the more they stay the same” holds true.  There are some cool traditions in NACURH that still exist (some with a twist).  There is still the fun (and drama) that comes with traveling with your schoolmates, co-workers, and friends.  There are the happy travelers who revel in the fact that they are getting to go on a trip. Then, there is the “are we there yet?” traveler who wonders what the heck they signed up for when saying yes to a 14 hour bus ride followed by 3 days of non-stop cheering and extrovert overload.  NACURH continues to provide the excitement of meeting new people, presenting a program, wearing matching outfits 3 days in a row, cheering until you lose your voice, bidding and winning awards, opening ceremonies, roll call, board meetings and the closing banquet.   There have been some tweaks to all of these things – the cheers are more inclusive, the outfits are probably a little cooler, the presentations are much more high tech, and attendees have most likely already met via social media prior to the conference starting.  What hasn’t changed? That feeling you get arriving at the conference knowing that something great is going to happen! 30 years later, I still have that feeling.

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NACURH 2014 is going to be a great experience for everyone involved.  Forming friendships during regional travels and expanding that circle to the national level is one of the highlights.  There’s nothing better than that surge of school pride you have when seeing your logo or mascot on a screen. Not to mention that moment where you hear your school name being announced along with one of your friends who won an award. These unique and special moments continue to be the wonderful moments that NACURH brings year after year.   NACURH provides a time for celebration to honor a successful year while also creating a venue for new leadership opportunities. Students and advisers from across the country get the opportunity to collaborate ways they can continue meeting the needs of the next group of students coming to campus in the short following months.  To me, this is about as close to the holidays as you can get!

My Work Experience at a Horse Farm Last Summer

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I’ve always loved horses and wanted to travel, so last summer I decided I’m going to put these two together and go work on a horse farm in Australia. Yes, in Australia, in the Victoria area in the south of the continent, with a great family and beautiful ranch with horses, cattle and sheep. Perfect! So I’m going to try to share some of the best moments I had while working on this farm.

I found this Australian family online through a work and travel program. They were looking for some help around the farm and in their beautiful garden. The family I lived with, run their own activity-based school camp with a flying fox and lots of fun activities like playing in their own lake. Other people were also working and volunteering there. Since my job was mostly on the horse farm, I spent a large part of my time with three girls from France who were there on a horse apprenticeship. We enjoyed the time on the job so much that we also hung out in our free time.

There was a little staff house built on the farm where all volunteers and workers lived. The house had everything, except a kitchen; the farm owners were preparing the food by themselves, and that was the best part because their food is absolutely delicious. They knew how to cook and everything was fresh right from the garden, just real organic vegetables.

My job was mostly helping around the farm taking care of the horses, but we also had lots of other chores like building fences, feeding the dogs, rescuing kittens, etc. Personally, I was skeptical about working with cats. I know because I have them and noticed that they always got in some kind of trouble. I also noticed that farm work is never done. I always wanted to have a horse farm, but I never thought that it would be so much work and fun; we were painting houses, riding in tractors, riding the horses and just relaxing in the rural countryside with our visitors. It was great taking care of the animals on the farm. I spent lots of time playing with the baby horses and those were some of the best moments; they are so fragile and their deep eyes were absolutely amazing. One night, while I was there, a foal was born. Alice, one of the French girls, found out first and we all got there, standing behind the door, waiting for the newborn and witnessing the miracle of life. It was an unforgettable moment for all of us.

Aside from the work, in our free time we also had lots of things to do on the farm and in the camp. I had a chance to learn how to fish in the lake (trust me, that’s a very hard task to do). We also went canoeing and hiking in the near mountainous region. Peter and Marry organized us a trip to Canberra, the capital city of Australia, which was in the same region as we were. We once went to Sydney too, but I personally enjoyed Canberra more. Unlike other capital cities in the world, Canberra is built in a gorgeous valley and the natural surrounding is so amazing that it feels like the whole city is located inside a large beautiful park. We visited the National Museum of Australia, Capitol Hill, and of course, one of the most impressive war museums in the world, the Australian War Memorial.

Overall, I was so happy with my work experience at the horse farm last summer that I decided to repeat it once again this next summer, except that this time, instead of Australia, I’ll be heading to some European country. Being on this farm made me realize how wonderful it is to connect with nature and the “simple life”, so I guess I’ll be looking for some similar experience, like Normandy in France. What do you think?