Professional Conferences as an Intern: A Reflection by Hope Freeman

Being an intern is not what it used to be. An internship doesn’t mean fetching coffee, making copies, and filing – it includes meaningful experiential learning opportunities that can advance a student’s career. In addition to adding value to an organization through tangible projects, some interns get to attend board meetings, client consultations, and more. Below is a post by Hope Freeman, a 2018 Fellow, on her experience attending a professional conference for the first time as an intern:

Professional Conferences as an Intern: A Reflection

Written by Hope Freeman, Communications Intern, American Home Furnishings Alliance


As a Communication Studies student, I was initially a bit nervous that the 2018 WithIt Professional Conference, held in Charleston, might not have a lot to offer me. WithIt is an organization for women in the home furnishings industry that provides professionals with networking and professional development opportunities.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), where I’m a Communications Intern this summer, sponsored 22 students (including myself) to attend the WithIt conference this year. When looking over a list of the other student attendees before the conference, my suspicions were heightened— I was the only student attending the conference that wasn’t studying something interior design or product design related.

Once we arrived though, I knew I was wrong. Presentation topics were extremely relevant to professionals of all career types and experience levels. Topics included: “Emotional Intelligence (EQ),” “Creating Your Competitive Advantage,” “Crafting Your Social Media Strategy,” “What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self,” “Compensation Negotiation,” among a variety of others.

Photo of Hope and all the student attendees who were granted scholarship to attend by AHFA.

The networking opportunities were plentiful with opportunities including group dinners, social receptions, and even a “disco after-party.” I was able to not only get to know more about the home furnishings industry, but also make connections with experienced professionals. These networking events led to connection with marketing and PR professionals currently working in the home furnishings industry. I was even able to set up a lunch meeting with a marketing and PR professional whose office is right across the street from AHFA’s.

The professional conference experience is one I would definitely recommend to my peers— all thanks to WithIt and AHFA.