Inside the DECA Internationals


Day -1.

Internationals. Florida. Five days. It seems a little surreal to be totally honest. As a member of DECA going as part of the leadership program, I am unsure of what is in store for me. As for the competitors, there are members who qualified due to a stock market simulation and the members who competed in the 2019 State competition. As a whole, Clements DECA has 69 students students going to 2019 Nationals. The competitors will take a written test and present themselves in front of a judge on two different days. I’ll learn more about the Leadership Position when I arrive.


Adding on to that, Universal Studios is reserving the park for only DECA, and that will be absolutely incredible. A whole amusement park, just for us?! Our director, Greg Eppes, informed us that there will even be DJs and concerts around. On the first day, we will even be seeing Blue Man Group, with seats in the front.


It sounds like there will be many memories to make on this trip, and I don’t know everything that’s in store. I do know, however, this trip will be amazing and become a lifelong memory I will look back on for many years to come.


Day 1:

Finally, the day came to begin the trip. Although the flying process was long, Florida is definitely worth it.


Right when we got to the hotel, we dressed up in our professional clothing, awaiting the opening session. When we walked into the convention center, immediately the sounds of nonstop chatter and joyous laughter rang through the entire building. With 22,000 students at Nationals, there was a new face from a new place everywhere you could look. The amount of cultural diversity in just one place was just outright incredible!


There were students from each of the 50 states, including all the way from Hawaii and Alaska. Outside of the country came students from Canada, Japan, the Dominican Republic, China, Korea, Spain, Pakistan, and Malaysia.


The opening session even included a new record for 2019 DECA: the most members to have ever been a part of the organization, at an astounding 222,113. This organization has impacted so many lives for many years, and will continue to influence countless young lives for years to come.


After the initial introduction and traditional flag ceremony, the Blue Man Group made their appearance. As they began, drum beats vibrated in your chest. The show continued, and wild colors flew every which way. It was definitely an amazing kick start to the trip, and I know it will only get better from here.


Day 2:

Let the games begin! Today, most students took their written test for the competition, while my group and I went to our first Leadership Conference, Thrive.


At first, we started in one giant group of about 600 people. At every table sat 10 people, each one from a different state or country. We were able to socialize and get to know the people around us, who would soon become our designated Thrive group.


Soon, the room was split into 4 different sections: Blue, Green, Orange, and Purple. I was a part of the Blue Group. When we all split up and parted into 4 different rooms we followed behind our “Flag Leader” who was holding a giant blue flag.


In the first room, we sat back down in our small groups and met our first speaker. There was screaming and cheering when prompted, and when needed, the room would quiet down and listen to what the speaker had to say.


He told us that throughout the conference, we’d be competing  for the Enthusiasm Award, so we would have to be the loudest and proudest group of them all.


Every group made a cheer, and ours was in the tune of Old Town Road: “We’re gonna take blue team all the way to gold, gonna Thrive till we can’t no more. I got blue team on my tag! Wooooo!” I thought it ended in a really odd place with the whole “blue team on my tag” thing, but I didn’t say anything about it. It was still a pretty cool cheer all in all when everyone sang it.


Then, our group leader told us the secret to winning the competition: every time any leader said the word “blue” on the microphone, the entire team would go crazy, jump up, start screaming and clapping. Throughout the day, we kept that up.


When we moved to our second room, we immediately erupted when the leader said, “Hey Blue Team!” Other leaders were used to it, but since she was new, it scared her just a tad.


When the room calmed down, we had the opportunity to learn about the type of leader we are. According to my results, I’m a Mediator. Basically, that means I am the type of leader who focuses on other people around me and getting to know what my group needs. Other leaders, such as the Entertainers, enjoy fun and focus on the big picture.


Afterwards, we went to lunch, where the lines were crazy long. At least we had an hour and a half! I walked up and down the convention center looking for food for about an hour until I realized I was walking in one giant circle. At that point my feet were pretty upset with my heels and all, so I just took a break and sat down for the rest of my down time.


After lunch, we went to our third room. Here, we paired up in our groups and played somewhat of a game. We were each given $10,000, and received the task of making more money for our employer. In order to do this, we had to work with everyone else at our table and put our trust into them. Countless times, our trust was broken and our money was lost. At the end of this game, the room leader told us that this doesn’t just happen in games; people break your trust all the time in real life. So, basically, that room taught us Trust No One.


The last room that we went to was a college room, where we learned how to successfully make a good first impression on colleges. We were talking to a College Admissions Counselor, and he told us something…interesting.


Everyone should know, when making a first impression or going to college fairs, you should make yourself look presentable. Apparently, it is quite common that many students do the exact opposite.


So, every year, there is a college fair he hosts with his fellow admissions counselors. At these fairs, the admissions counselors have a behind-the-scenes game of Bingo. On their bingo cards, each counselor had squares that said, “The girl wobbling in heels”, “The girl whose clothes were too tight”, “The guy who checks out all the girls” and so on. Eventually, one of them would get a bingo, and send, “BINGO” in their counselor group chat.


From that, I learned that people are always watching and taking a mental (or physical) note of what you do, whether you’re aware of it or not.


After the last session, we were dismissed back to our hotel around 4:00. Immediately when we got back, we had to prepare to go to Disney Springs, where we’d shop for an hour and then go eat.


Disney Springs was a beautiful place, and I wish we would have gotten more time there. We did go to the Coca-Cola building, where we took pictures with a giant polar bear!! We ate out with the entire Clements crew, then we were given a little longer to explore. We were back at the busses around 10 at night, then we were off to the hotel.


That’s pretty much it for Day 2. After a successful day at the conference and a nice break at Disney Springs, I’d say it’s a great start to the trip.


Day 3:

Today was probably one of the best days so far!! This was the last day of the Leadership Conference, where we graduated and found out who won the Enthusiasm Award.

Before that, however, we went to a session of our choice. I decided to go to the room that would discuss how to further my success in DECA.


As a competitor in DECA, you have to take a written test over your area of study (i.e. Marketing, Hospitality and Tourism, Food and Service Management, etc.). Then, you must perform a roleplay in front of your judge, of which you are given 10 minutes to prepare.


So, in this room, we were taught how to better our roleplays. Although, not only did we learn about DECA, we were able to expand our knowledge into real life. For example, the techniques used to communicate with a judge are used in real life throughout an interview with the boss of a company. We learned the main techniques of making a good first impression on a judge/boss, such as a handshake and consistent eye contact.


In these specific rooms, we were not with our designated groups or colors. So, I had the opportunity to meet a few new people. I actually made a couple friends that I stuck with throughout the day named Jonah and Omar, from Colorado.


After the room was dismissed, we left to the big DECA convention. We took pictures with minions, danced and sang on the big karaoke machine, and ventured around the incredulous place.


When I say they had it all, I mean it. At all of the tables that were set up, there was all kinds of beef jerky, sunglasses, rubber duckies, pens, photo booths, karaoke, everything.


On our adventure around, we talked to so many people. We’d force each other to go up to someone random and strike up a conversation just for the fun of it.


After we’d had our fun, we headed back to closing ceremony. We sat back down in our color groups and competed back and forth for the enthusiasm award, jumping up and down and screaming when told to. Then, the time came to find out who won.


(Drumroll please……)


Blue team!!!! My team won, but it wasn’t any surprise:) The entire team erupted and people screamed and cheered, sending a rush of adrenaline through us all.


After everyone calmed down, pins were passed out. We had a ceremonial pinning, where each and every one of us took a pin and put it on our lanyards. Then, we were officially graduates of Thrive!!


After bidding farewell to my friends, I headed back to the hotel, ready for DECA Night at Universal Studios. Everyone was hyped and ready to go, restlessly waiting for the evening to arrive.


Finally, we all loaded the busses and left for Universal Studios (not to mention, Universal was visible from the view in my hotel room). The ride felt longer than it really was, but when we arrived it was definitely worth it.


As we walked through the gates, I took a moment to take in everything around me; the roller coaster flying overhead, the screaming passengers on board, the smell of popcorn and dip n’ dots in the air, the countless DECA students running from place to place. It was absolutely incredible.


Considering the entire park was reserved for only DECA people, I knew I had to make use of my time. Along with my friends, I started venturing around the park.


The first ride we rode was the Fast and Furious, which was actually really cool. It was a virtual ride on a bus through somewhat of a movie, with smoke and a little bit of water.


Afterwards, we went to our next stop: Harry Potter World. I had to wait a minute or two, but I was able to capture a video of the dragon breathing fire.


Then, we headed over to the Simpson portion of the park where they sold giant donuts. Of course, I HAD to get one of those.


Then, we were off to the minion ride. That was another virtual ride, and personally I liked that one a little better.


We ventured around the park for a little longer until it was time to go, and there was nowhere near enough time. There was a whole section of the park we didn’t even get the chance to see!! I suppose that’s just all the more to look forward to next time.


So, that’s the end of Monday, Day 3. Right when we got back to the hotel, curfew was moved up to 11:15. Everyone headed back to their rooms to go to sleep, until the morning of Day 4.


Day 4:

Today was the day of the award ceremonies. That means many hours of sitting in one spot, hearing name after name.


It was slightly depressing when Clements, one of the largest DECA associations, was only called up a few times. The people who were called up to the stage received a series of medals, white and blue. However, only the students who received blue medals advanced to the finals. The students who moved up went immediately to compete again, to see where they placed in the world.


Arnav Sethi won a blue medal in Principles of Hospitality and Tourism, and stock market competitors Asad Budhwani and Arshan Ali were able to take a blue medal home, too.


Before going back to the convention center at night for results on the three students who competed again, we had quite a few hours to kill.


Although we were unable to swim in the pool, we were allowed to be around it. A few friends and I went out to soak up a little bit of sun and wound up finding a pool and foosball table.


For a couple hours we were competing with each other on both tables, then we went and took a nap on a few of the pool chairs. There was even a volleyball court we were able to play at for a while afterwards. The hotel we stayed at was really nice, and it was nice to have some downtime before the end of the trip.

Back at the convention center, we found that, sadly, we didn’t place in the world. But, all that matters is that everyone tried their hardest. Not to mention, it’s an incredible accomplishment to have gotten this far in the first place!


During the second awards ceremony, hundreds of students were outside trading and selling pins and items from each state or country.


In total, starting off with five Texas pins, I ended up with pins from at least 25 different places.


One of our very business minded clements students, Armaan Mitha, set up shop outside with a variety of pins, caps, bags, and everything he’d been able to trade for. He ended up receiving over $100!


It’s crazy what people will pay you for some otherwise pretty useless things. It was something really fun in the moment, though, seeing all of the next generation business men and women earning money for themselves.


That was pretty much it for Day 4. For the last full day in Orlando, it was a nice time. Several people were starting to be sad today knowing we’d be leaving tomorrow, but that doesn’t erase the memories we’ve made!


Day 5:

Today, Wednesday May 1, was the day we had to say goodbye to Florida. After eating ice cream at the hotel shop and playing a few more games of pool and foosball, we headed to the airport.


Spirits were a little down and all, but all I can say is that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a member of DECA on this incredible trip. It was filled with countless smiles and unstoppable laughter, new friends and unforgettable memories. Now, as this school year comes to an end, at least I can truly say that this year feels complete.


A huge shoutout to Mr. Eppes; none of this would have been possible without him!