Going to Chicago? Stay in a hostel!!!!

our Reasons why you should stay at a hostel for the TESOL 2018 Convention in Chicago.

by Nicole Decoteau, NNETESOL Social Media Coordinator & ELL Program Director at New England College, Henniker, NH

Did you even consider staying at a hostel for TESOL 2017?? I initially didn’t, but after doing a quick search of local hotel accommodations, and not finding anything less than $150 per night within walking distance of the convention, a hostel became my first choice. Each time I saw the Dean of Humanities, he would tell me that cheap accommodation wasn’t necessary, “We can find some extra budget if you need it.” “You’re not 22-years old backpacking through Southeast Asia.” “You can stay at a hotel.” But that “extra budget” could only be found in the field trips section of my very limited ELL Department budget, and I wasn’t going to make my students sacrifice cultural exploration trips for my comfort.

I was really secure and comfortable in my choice, until I got into the ride share service from the airport and quickly realized I was the only weirdo heading to the hostel. As someone who routinely wears a college-branded sweatshirt to classes, gets mistaken for a student quite frequently, and eats at the dining hall kind-of a lot, I began to think that perhaps I needed to begin increasing my overall standards of professionalism.

At check-in, I found out that the hostel was completely booked for the week. I doubted any connection with the convention and assumed it was coincidence since the hostel was located at the entrance of Pike Place, and also had a smoking room for patrons to take advantage of Washington state’s legal marijuana sales. But on Tuesday afternoon, as people began to trickle into the common area for a well-deserved rest and free tea, I began to notice purple and pink tote bags littering the floor, the owner’s faces buried in gargantuan books with highlighters, post-its, and scrap papers all around. By the evening, it was apparent that I wasn’t the only cheap-o staying at the hostel. Over the course of the week, I had fantastic conversations in that common area, and the one question I asked each person was, “Why did you choose to stay at a hostel.” From those answers, I have come up with these four reasons why a hostel is the best place to stay when attending a convention.

1: Location, Location, Location

Several TESOL members said that they ALWAYS stay in a hostel, and one big reason is location. The location of the hostel in Seattle, The Green Tortoise, was right outside Pike Place, but also only seven blocks from the convention. I was told that hostel locations are generally centrally located within a city’s main tourist district, which makes seeing the local sights very easy. In Seattle, we were fortunate that the convention was also close, but when planning for TESOL 2018 in Chicago, I would recommend making sure the hostel is within walking distance of the convention. No one wants to stay at a hostel, but then make-up the price difference in taxis and transportation to the convention.

2: Kitchen Facilities!

This is a picture of the hostel in Seattle. As you can see, there are large fridges and restaurant quality kitchen facilities available to all patrons. In fact, this picture only shows about 1/3 of the kitchen space available. I was able to purchase ingredients at the Target on the same block and cook lunch/dinner. This greatly reduced my food costs for the week, and because I was able to cook and pack a lunch, I didn’t have to wait in that GIANT Subway sandwich line.

As if cooking facilities weren’t fantastic enough, we also had a really great daily breakfast spread. We were given eggs to prepare, cereals, oatmeal, breads, fruit, juices, tea, and coffee. As Maslow says, before we’re ready to learn, we need to meet our physical needs. I went off to the convention each morning full and ready for my scheduled day of lectures, workshops, and networking.

3: Networking and Socializing

When you stay a hotel and head back to your room at the end of the night, that’s just where you stay – in your room. But at a hostel, since your room is just a bed, most people opt to bring their computers, books, magazines, etc. to the common area. As someone who was at the convention alone, this was a great opportunity for me to ask how other people’s days were; who they saw speak; what they’d recommend for the next day; what books they’re teaching with now; any new ideas for classroom instruction; advice from more experienced teachers; and so much more. When asking why people had chosen to stay at the hostel, the networking opportunity of the common areas was mentioned by every single person.

In fact, I am starting a PhD program this summer and met someone who is currently in her second year of coursework at the same program. She invited me to a special dinner for alumni and current students. Through this dinner, I was able speak to people about their experiences in the program, and now feel a great deal more secure in my choice of graduate university.

4: Cost

The last reason, which was my motivating reason before attending, is cost. As previously mentioned, I couldn’t find a hotel within walking distance of the convention for less than 150 USD per night. I just couldn’t justify spending nearly 1,000 dollars for six nights of sleep, especially knowing that 90% of the time I was in the room, I would be unconscious. So, I spent much, much less for a bed that had a privacy curtain, individual light and outlet, and a locker that fit my entire suitcase with room to spare. In total I spent…….$199.49!!! That’s right, for less than two-nights fee at a hotel, I stayed from Monday afternoon to Saturday evening. And, for no extra cost, I was able to leave my baggage in the secure baggage room while I toured Seattle all day on Saturday.

Overall, the hostel experience is something that everyone should consider when planning TESOL 2018.

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