If you’ve never been to a genealogy institute, you may not know what to expect. The first time for anything is always a little mysterious. I hope some items in this post will help dispel some of the mystery and give you a good idea of what to expect throughout your week. These tips are from my personal experiences at GRIP and IGHR. Some of the other institutes might work a little bit differently and have some aspects that I am not aware of yet. If you have been to one of the other institutes and would like to share something that I have missed, please feel free to do so in the comments.
Generally registration and check-in occurs on Sunday afternoon. This is where you will be given your name badge, meal tickets, keys to your dorm room, your class binder and any other items necessary for your week. If you are not staying on campus, this is a good time to find your hotel, get acquainted with the area for any amenities you might require such as a grocery store, a coffee shop, restaurants and the like. Some institutes have a Sunday evening dinner with an orientation session. This is where you will learn about specifics for the week, what optional evening sessions might be available, any changes to the schedule, and other details about the campus or the institute. This is a great time to get to know your fellow classmates and institute attendees. In your binder will also be a schedule for the week, a class roster with contact information so you can connect with your classmates, and other informational pages in addition to your lecture notes for the week.
Plan on being in classes all week. There will be slight variations in starting and ending times depending on your course instructor. Throughout the day there are planned break and lunch times. Sometimes in the afternoon there are coordinated breaks with free snacks and drinks. Depending on the course, you might be expected to do homework. Of course this is optional, but you will get so much more out of what you are learning in class if you do the homework. Later in the week there might be a banquet with a dinner, a speaker and any awards or honors the group gives out. You may also experience the joy of class pictures day. GRIP especially loves the class picture and sells their own polo-style shirts for students to wear on picture day.
One of my favorite features of attending an institute is that the pace is slower than you might find at a state or national conference. There is time to speak with your instructors and fellow students. No one is rushing to get to the next lecture. The size of the classes is small enough to allow for very insightful discussions and meaningful relationship building. These are amazing networking opportunities and a great way to meet people at a similar experience level or who share specific interests as you. And of course, at the end of the week you earn a certificate for all of the hard work you put in all week.
I enjoy getting to learn from these distinguished instructors in a more intimate setting and I love seeing all of my genealogy friends and meeting new ones. I love attending institutes for all of the reasons I described in this series and probably some that I didn’t. The most important thing to remember is to have fun! I hope that you will try an institute in the future!