Tennessee, the state of rolling hills, clusters of beautiful trees, and humid hot weather! This is the state I recently traveled to and absolutely loved it! I got the luxury of attending the 2010 NICE (National Institute of Cooperative Education) Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee for five days. I earned an expense-paid trip to attend this conference and had the time of my life. Not only do I miss Tennessee, but it became a place I would love to live in the future!
Being a farm girl from South Dakota, I don’t get to see big cities, huge amounts of people, or exciting landscaping and outdoors very often. So traveling here was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The first thing I noticed as I got off the plane was the humidity! Now it’s hot in South Dakota, but the air is beyond muggy! But, once we got in the car and the view of the countryside, leading to city was an incredible sight. I can’t even describe in words how beautiful the scenery was. There were green trees everywhere hiding the city, houses, or even busy roads around a hill.
Then, we arrived at the University of Tennessee, a college I have only dreamed of visiting. I am a huge Lady Volunteer fan including Pat Summit and Candace Parker, so being on the ground they lived on was beyond my dreams. Now, in South Dakota at the biggest college in the state they have 4-story dorms. Here, we were living in a 14-story dorm, something I had never heard of before! On the campus, the leaning trees, unique sculptures and buildings, spraying fountains, and ancient buildings make it a popular place not only for students during the year, but tourists around the country.
As we got into the conference, I got to take in the college atmosphere, walking back and forth to buildings for meetings and speakers. Not only did I learn a ton of valuable information about cooperatives and how these types of businesses actually function, but I made so many new friends from all over the country. Even though I might never see them again, the memories I have with all of them will stay with me forever. Between stupid games that put you face to face with a stranger or dancing with someone you didn’t know, it become one week I will never forget.
Now, learning about cooperatives wasn’t the only thing we did while at this conference. On one day all 160 scholars throughout the country attended Dollywood! Talk about an exciting tourist/theme park hidden within the hills of Tennessee. There are so many cute shops and eating places, spending way too much money would have been very easy. The food selection is beyond appetizing and the attractions there took my breath away. Being a kid, of course my favorite part of Dollywood was the roller coasters and water rides with my friends, but there are attractions for all ages!
At the end of the conference, saying good-bye to all my new friends was one of the hardest things I have had to do. Although it was only 5 days, the relationships I had built with various types of people throughout the country would last forever. No, this trip wasn’t to the ocean or a beautiful European city, but the experience I had is one I will never forget. The friends and relationships I made and the scenery I took in will be with me forever.
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