Editor’s Note: This post was written by Lionel Barzon, a member of the Sigma Lambda Chapter at Calhoun Community College in Alabama. He served as a Social Media Intern during the 2016 Honors Institute, June 20-25 at Wake Forest University.
I recently traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as both a first-time attendee and a social media intern for Phi Theta Kappa’s Honors Institute. The overall experience was so powerful and life changing that I’m still in awe of the events that transpired.
In summary of this amazing event I was a part of, here are five things you’ll experience at Honors Institute.
1. Making new friends. MANY new friends. SOOOOO MANY new friends.
When you experience Honors Institute for the first time, you’ll feel like you’re the new kid on the block who’s trying their best to fit in. Walking from your dorm to the main events, forums, cafeteria and socials throughout the day, you’ll notice that PTK members from all over the nation are with you wherever you go. However, what initially feels overwhelming and intimidating is quickly replaced by attraction and a sense of belonging. These very same faces that were once strangers quickly become your new friends who develop strong bonds with you and can’t wait to see you every day.
The atmosphere within Phi Theta Kappa events, such as Honors Institute, is always one of welcoming and belonging, so take full advantage of this and make new and meaningful friends that you’ll most definitely value for life!
2. Meeting the PTK leadership team and realizing…they’re humans just like you!
Maybe it’s just human nature, but there’s always a sense of intimidation whenever you’re in a position to meet and talk with Phi Theta Kappa’s executive staff members at events like these. Right before you meet them for the first time, you’ll think to yourself, “Oh no, they’re probably all super crazy smart and use words so big I’ll need a dictionary to understand whatever they say to me. And they will definitely ask me a deep philosophical question about how our world works on a global scale…why me?! Why me?!”
I’ll be completely honest and say these were my actual thoughts right before meeting Phi Theta Kappa’s President and CEO, Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, on the first day of Honors Institute. But once I mustered enough nerve to accept my supposed fate and introduce myself to Dr. Tincher-Ladner, the craziest thing happened: she responded in the most normal and down to earth way! Dr. Tincher-Ladner thanked me for being one of the social media interns for Honors Institute and told me she was incredibly excited to see how this week would play out. Just like that, I realized Dr. Tincher-Ladner and all the other executive Phi Theta Kappa staff members were fun-loving and approachable people like the rest of us.
It is such a comforting and inspiring notion that our leaders are just like us and have our best interests at heart.
3. Those guest speakers, though…encore, please!
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the pins in a game of bowling when someone gets a strike? The caliber of guest speakers you’ll hear at Honors Institute will knock you off your feet in the same way. Just hearing the guest speaker’s life stories and incredible testimonies of success are enough to inspire you to achieve only the best for your future.
Throughout the week, we listened to the first female photojournalist from Palestine, heard from a cultural arts professor explaining the societal influence of Disney, learned of the cultural myths and realities in America, sang as an entire group in two-part harmony to some powerful songs, heard from a science evangelist about the impact of technology on humans and witnessed an illusionist who stunned us all with his mind-bending presentation.
Yes, the guest speakers you’ll hear at Honors Institute, in one way or another, will greatly influence and impact how you view the world in which we live.
4. Incredible educational forums to help your chapter and region grow BIG.
Being part of the world’s largest honor society, you may feel like a small cog in a roaring engine at times. When analyzing what your part can be when contributing your time and effort toward your local chapter and region, Honors Institute has your back. For regional officers, there are sessions that teach you the most effective and proper ways to carry out your duties in office over the region you represent. For chapter officers, there are insightful lessons on how to recruit new members from under-represented groups within your college. And for all members, you can learn how to construct your Honors in Action project from a multi-linear approach, ensuring a top-notch result.
In essence, be prepared for multiple forums and sessions on different ways to educate yourself with key knowledge and facts that help you return to your chapter and region armed with compelling information to pass along to those who need it most.
5. Sights, sounds, travel, food, memories and the whole nine yards.
For those of you that read both my business blog and my travel blog, you know first-hand how much I advocate for expanding your horizons by traveling whenever you get the opportunity and learning from your travels on how to better yourself. Honors Institute fits perfectly into this category. During the week, you’ll be provided with a daylong opportunity to explore and adventure the surrounding areas as you (and your newfound friends) see fit.
For my group, this meant a morning hike on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains to see beautiful rock formations, a heavenly lunch at Guy Fieri’s personally recommended seafood restaurant Krazy Fish and a historic stroll through downtown Charlotte to admire the early 19th– and 20th-century housing architecture. All of this, plus many smaller adventures on the side, made for a day of thrilling excitement and lifelong memories.
Honors Institute is a trip like none other you’ll experience as part of Phi Theta Kappa. It’s intimate enough to challenge you personally in ways you never imagined, yet broad enough to expand your personal network of close friends and global perspectives. If you are presented with the opportunity to travel and be a part of next year’s Honors Institute, take it. You’ll never regret it, but you will forever cherish it.