Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being invited to The University of Kentucky to deliver the keynote speech at the 2019 Graduate Student Life Summit – which was a part of the NAGPS Midwest Regional Conference. It was my first keynote speech and though I came fixated on how to provide value to the audience, I found myself learning from the other speakers in the breakout sessions.

I arrived in Lexington, KY on the Friday before my speech as I was met by my old high school friend, Edward Lo – who is currently working his PhD at Kentucky. After catching up with Ed, I made my way to the Gatton Student Center where the conference had already started. Dr. Grubbs, the UK Assistant Dean and Director began with the welcome address and was followed up by James W. Lincoln, the current GSC President at UK. I was given a warm welcome from Paulina Gonzalez, who not only made my stay in KY comfortable, but also dedicated herself to organizing an excellent conference. Joel Klipfel, the GSC-president-elect also joined me and Paulina for lunch and made my stay more comfortable. Dr. Sue Roberts gave a talk that morning about graduate school for international students, and I shared my thoughts on my parents being international students and immigrants from Ghana. Later that afternoon, I was able to sit in on two excellent breakout sessions – an hour-long speech from Dr. Vanderford about mental health issues in academic trainees and a session conducted by Carol Taylor-Schim about inclusion and diversity.

The next morning I woke up slightly nervous from the anticipation of my speech later that night. My father, Dr. Robert Sarfo, flew in from Georgia and arrived in Lexington around noon. Once he was settled in, we went back to listen to more of the conference and do some sight-seeing around Lexington.

7:30 came around and it was my turn to deliver my keynote speech. Once the initial nerves went away, I was able to share my thoughts on how to “Enhance the Graduate School Experience”. Main topics discussed included mental health wellness and self-care tips as a graduate student followed by a short Q&A session. The video was broadcasted live over my Facebook public page, and will be available shortly in full-length on my YouTube channel.

I was fortunate enough to receive a University of Kentucky sweatshirt and Kentucky bourbon as a gift from the GSC. Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who helped to make last weekend a memorable one – Edward Lo, Paulina Gonzalez, James Lincoln, Joel Klipfel, and the remainder of the U of Kentucky GSC staff. Looking forward to doing more events like this one, and hopefully I get to make another appearance in Lexington.

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