Josephine McCormick, Bloomington High School South graduate and Monroe County Youth Council alumna, served on the cross-sector team for the local Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge (HCCC) effort. She is a freshman at Indiana University. She shared her experiences at the American Public Health Association (APHA) national conference in Atlanta in November 2017. Check out her post about the Atlanta adventure below!
The most impactful benefit of this conference was an inadvertent one: it allowed me to experience aspects of adult life valuable in determining my future. What I mean by this is that through this opportunity to present at the APHA annual meeting, I discovered how to tip on Lyft, what a morning commute into a big city feels like, how long to reuse takeout Indian food bowls, and where water bottles can typically be filled These may not seem like significant accomplishments, but for a nineteen-year-old who has never left her hometown without her parent’s company, these small tasks became substantial takeaways in terms of self-discovery. I feel more confident in my ability to navigate an alien environment, present in front of complete strangers, complete homework even when eight hours from home, and, most importantly, live as the professional I hope to become will live. Imagining myself as some semi-important woman, gallivanting from conference to conference and working in subways seats and cafe booths is an excellent dream, but never before have I had the chance to test this possible future before adopting it. Going to APHA gave me the first real opportunity to see if I would be suited for a career entailing this type of travel and presenting preparation. To me, that was the most impactful aspect of this conference.
Besides the reflective elements of this conference, I gained an insight into the physical side-effects of marijuana on the teenage brain and how college students interpret digital consent, among other fascinating sessions. I appreciated learning about new research topics which I likely never will study in my formal education. I enjoyed sharing this information with friends and random people in my dormitory. I experienced the novel sensation of absorbing new knowledge without any looming pressure to regurgitate it at a later exam. Not only was the conference interesting, but attending others’ presentations was interesting in its rarity. Seldom are the chances to explore diverse and unfamiliar topics on this massive and informed scale. I realized that this is another value of mine: the ability to discover new ways of thinking about our world, or simply to gain a fresh perspective on a subject. Now that I am aware that this is crucial to my continued passion for whatever work I am embarking on, I can start to narrow options for my paths of study and future career.
One final part of attending the APHA annual meeting and exposition which was a significant takeaway was that it was an enormous presenting opportunity. I can include this experience on my resume, which is a wonderful addition, but what that really demonstrates is that I was able to hone my public speaking abilities and present in a completely unfamiliar environment. This was the first roundtable presentation I had ever done without knowing anyone in the room, let alone the table, and with such brief time and several rotations. This was also an opportunity for me to learn how to balance preparing a speech for an unfamiliar audience in an unfamiliar space with all the demands of college and family. Once again, this is a struggle most all working women have to adapt to, and so it was a valuable lesson for me to try to navigate.