One of our students came to see me this morning. He is hoping to go to TechEd 2008 in Orlando and wanted me to write a supporting letter for his visa application.
You bet I will. I'm actually going to TechEd 2008 myself (I'm giving a session on the .NET Micro Framework) and I know what a great experience it is. Particularly if you are a student.
I've advised him to prepare carefully before he goes to make sure that he gets as much as possible out of the trip. He should be able to get his session schedule sorted out in advance of the conference, and he really should make use of the Hands On Labs to play with the latest toys. There are also discount Microsoft Certified Professional tests that can be taken on site, but for me the most wonderful feature of the event is the "Ask the Experts" bit.
It continues to amaze me that Microsoft puts its absolute top dogs out there for the public to harangue. Perhaps it is because they are too cheap to hire "booth babes", but I like to think that it is because the really want their developers to meet up with the people that use their stuff.
When you go and talk to someone on the XNA, or Micro Framework or Sharepoint or whatever stand at "Ask the Experts" you are actually talking to the product managers and developers that make the product. They aren't just customer support people, they are the authors themselves. Most delegates at the conference just use this opportunity to see what swag is being given away at each booth. But a few have cottoned on to this part of the conference and take the opportunity to get deep answers to hard problems.
I've told our student to make sure that he goes around the experts and has a chat with them, from my experience they love talking about the stuff they make and why they think it is the best in the business. I really hope he makes it out there, I just wish more students could get to go.