Convention Advice by Vejas Vasiliauskas

From the Editor: Vejas Vasiliauskas is a third-year English major at Loyola Marymount University. When he isn't doing schoolwork, writing articles for his school's newspaper, or spending time with friends, he can often be found shut in his room, writing whatever comes to his mind. He is considered pursuing a paralegal or law career after graduation, and will be interning this summer at Loyola Law School's Coelho Center.

I attended my first national convention in 2004 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of seven, and have wonderful memories of that time. On pre-registration day Mark Maurer, the then-president of the NFB, used his opening remarks to engage children in a brief discussion. It is there that I met my life-long friend, Amena Thomas, and our families really got to know one another. It was also there that I learned something seemingly basic but which many people would not have thought about: when an elevator arrives and beeps once, it goes up, and two beeps means that it will be going down.

I am now twenty-two and have attended ten national conventions total. As the years have gone by, the levels of independence I have obtained have grown vastly. I love being able to attend meetings tailored towards my interests, and the fact that I can try at least one new meeting per year. I enjoy catching up with friends with whom, if I did not have blindness, or the NFB, in common, I would probably rarely see. Most of all, I love how there is no judgment among others, and the fact that we can become and gain new mentors every day.

I know that, for first-timers, convention can be overwhelming. After all, the hotels are huge! (They have to be, to accommodate the thousands of these who attend). But you must be willing to put yourself out there.

Don't be worried to ask for help. Even very experienced travelers can sometimes have difficulties. There are hotel staff, UPS workers and other attendees alike who will be more than willing to guide or point you to the right direction. But you should also do your own exploring.

Check the agenda in advance so that you know where you will want to go each day. Breaks are important, but try to always have some plans. The agenda is usually out by the middle or end of June, and changes from then are rarely implemented.

There will usually be food options from cheap dining to fancier restaurants, and you are obviously welcome to eat wherever you choose. Just know that when making plans with friends, dining may have to be very quick as you jump from one meeting to another.

Last but not least, enjoy yourself! If you can't make it to convention this year, I hope that you will at least consider coming at a later date once you are able.