A Saint in Cincinnati

Amanda Chappell, Section Editor

 

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity of representing Saint Martin’s University’s Kappa Upsilon chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, as well as presenting a personal essay, at the society’s International English Convention. The experience was both nerve-wracking and exciting; I learned far more than I imagined I would from my fellow student presenters.

On Friday, March 23, a roll call was taken, to see how many of the over 900 chapters were in attendance, and the total was 210. Following the roll call, several awards were given out to chapters for their acts of service, events, and various other categories. Saint Martin’s chapter was awarded with a plaque celebrating 50 years since the founding of the local chapter in 1968. Astoundingly, the longest running chapter exceeded 90 years. I was honored to be present to receive this award, as I was unaware that our chapter had been active for so long.

As this event was a first for me, I wanted to document my experience, and it proved to be very beneficial during the chaos of the weekend. Although there were several outstanding sessions and impromptu nights of exploration, I thought to share only my experience leading up to my presentation, of which I was most fearful. The following is the emotional rollercoaster that was the first two days of the convention.

A plane descends onto the landing strip at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, white sheets of snow cover the cool pavement. It is 10 a.m. on March 21, eight hours until the convention officially begins. I acquire my suitcase at baggage claim, load into the airport shuttle, and cross the Ohio River into the beautiful city of Cincinnati.

The hotel is packed with college students from across the nation; I catch snippets of accents from every region. Some stand alone, like myself, seemingly uncomfortable in such an ornate lobby. Others mingle in small groups about their excitement regarding the coming workshops and sessions. I accept my room key, step into an overflowing elevator, get off at the 15th floor, and push open the door to my lonely hotel room.

The spacious pavilion is slowly filling with nervous students. Chairs in the very back are the first to be occupied. A woman approaches the podium and addresses the crowd to move closer, and we follow suit. I sit alone, awaiting the signal to begin the session: The ABC’s of Convention. I am surrounded by other first-timers, but my anxious heart continues to beat rapidly.

Soon after, the official start of the convention begins: the opening ceremony. The crowd of about 200 quickly multiplies, and soon 1,000 students fill the once-empty space. I politely smile as the seats adjoining mine fill, and shake the hands of those who introduce themselves.

“Welcome to the 2018 Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention!” a woman on the English Society Board bellows into the microphone. “We are so glad you all could join us here tonight!” Applause erupts, cheers are shouted. “Everyone in this room shares the same interests as you,” she goes on to say, “these are your people!”

A special guest is introduced to the stage, the Site Manager of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Christina Hartlieb. The convention theme, “Seeking Freedom,” was brought to life with a PowerPoint by Hartlieb, that detailed the history of Stowe and how she sought freedom. Her presentation ends, and over 1,000 pairs of hands clap.

The next events are announced: a reading of the society’s publication, followed by an open mic night. I retreat to my room, already feeling overwhelmed by social interaction. The following day, when I would present, looms in the back of my mind. I need sleep.

8 a.m., six hours until presentation, my alarm goes off. Groggily, I search in the darkness for the cacophonic sound emitting from my phone. Successfully, I find the device and tap the snooze button. It’s too early.

10 a.m., four hours until presentation, I suddenly awake from a painful burst of anxiousness in my chest. “I can’t do it,” I think to myself, “I’m not going to.” I lay in my dark room staring at the ceiling, the only sliver of light coming from the parting in the curtains. I toss and turn in the suddenly uncomfortable bedding, fighting the urge to get up.

11 a.m., three hours until presentation, I finally get out of bed. I switch on a lamp and increase the partial opening in the curtains. “Daylight,” I convince myself, “daylight will help. I can do this.” I sit on the floor, leaning against the wall, doubt creeping in once again. Eventually, I dress myself, leave the hotel, and walk around the block to Starbucks. The fresh, crisp air slowly awakening my senses, the coffee filling my aching stomach.

12 p.m., two hours until presentation, I change into my blazer and slacks. With my heels strapped tight, and my great-grandmother’s necklace around my neck, I pace my room, essay in hand. Final remarks scribbled in pen appear on my paper; quotes of comfort written at the top.

1:45 p.m., 15 minutes until presentation, I board the crowded elevator. Focusing on taking deep breaths, I miss what the man in the elevator has said.

“I’m sorry?” I offer.

“Are you presenting soon?” he asks, noticing my attire.

“Oh, yes, I am.” I reply.

“Well, good luck.” He’s off the elevator as I mutter a sheepish “thanks.”

1:50 p.m., ten minutes until presentation, I arrive at my session. All but one seat at the table has been occupied, mine. “I’m late,” I think to myself, “all because I wallowed too long.” I take my seat, introduce myself to the others on the panel, and take several large sips of water. The session chair reminds us of the order – I am presenting first.

2:00 p.m., presentation time. The session chair introduces the five presenters on the panel, and I am motioned to take the podium. One final sip of water, a deep breath, I walk to my spot. I clear my throat and begin…

I read my essay with as much emotion as I could summon, confidently answered the questions following the presentations, and graciously accepted the positive feedback as the session came to a close. I fought a proud smile that threatened on my face as I stepped on the elevator, pressing the button for the 15th floor. “I did it,” I told myself, “now it’s time for a nap.”

 

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