By Steve Werblow, Steve Werblow Communications
10. Just like my 3rd grade teacher used to say before field trips: “You’re an ambassador.” You represent AAEA and the entire U.S. Take that seriously.
9. Bring a stack of business cards. You are building a world of contacts, and many of the people you meet at an IFAJ Congress could be helpful (or just fun) to know in the years to come.
8. Invest in an overseas plan for your cell phone. Most smartphones work in Europe and many other countries nowadays, and you can typically get affordable day-rate or monthly data and calling plans. If you’re wandering around before or after a Congress, it’s nice to be able to use mapping apps or check transit websites, Google Translate, Expedia, Hotels.com, Yelp or Rick Steeves guidebooks—whatever tools help you get around.
7. Dust off your high school French, Spanish, or German. People are usually excited when you try to connect in their language, and they’re really not grading you on your pronunciation. Honestly, I think most folks are delighted when Americans try anything but English, and they’re happy to meet you more than halfway.
6. Come prepared with thoughts on American politics, trade policy, farm bill and agricultural technology. You’ll be asked about them, and good answers encourage great discussions.
5. Dig deep into what’s different about where you are. What would your readers be able to take away from your overseas observations?
4. Remember: you’re not in America. Timelines, dinner times, whether people stand in line or form a mob to board the train…it can all be different. Roll with it and enjoy it as part of the travel experience.
3. Be courteous. IFAJ events are put on by volunteers who are eager to share their country and have spent years organizing your programs and tours. Cut them some slack if things go a little sideways sometimes.
2. Sit with new people. It’s ironic, but I’ve had to go all the way to Europe or South Africa to see friends from the Midwest or Canada. But the real magic of IFAJ is meeting people from all over the globe, crossing cultures, and gaining insight into the rest of the world. (We Americans will always be able to follow up at the Ag Media Summit.)
1. Especially if you’re not going to this year’s Congress in The Netherlands or haven’t participated in any IFAJ events, take the opportunity to get involved with IFAJ. If you’re an AAEA member, you’re automatically in IFAJ. Use that connection. Enter a contest, sign into the freelance directory, or apply for an AAEA Professional Improvement Foundation (PIF) stipend to help cover some of the costs of attending a Congress.
Next year, IFAJ will be as close as it gets. AAEA is hosting the 2019 IFAJ Congress in Minneapolis/St. Paul in conjunction with Ag Media Summit. That’s a perfect opportunity to showcase our country’s agriculture for guests from around the world and to get swept up in the fun and global insights that make IFAJ such an outstanding organization.
We’ll be having a planning meeting on the morning of Wednesday, August 8, at the end of this year’s Ag Media Summit to work on the 2019 Congress. Sign up to participate!
Freelancer Steve Werblow participated in his first IFAJ overseas Congress in Austria and Slovenia in 2008, aided by a PIF stipend. Since then, he served as AAEA’s representative to IFAJ’s Executive Committee, traveled to Zambia with the federation’s Exposure-4-Development program, and volunteered for a wide range of activities. He currently serves as IFAJ’s secretary-general.