The Student Volunteer Experience, Part Two

The Student Volunteer Experience, Part Two

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Written by: Fernando Sarmiento

The Face of an Organization:

Last week I got the chance and privilege to represent the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College for Global Hospitality Leadership as one of 18 student volunteers for HITEC 2022 (June 27-30), the world’s largest and oldest hospitality technology and finance conference. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the event was held at Orlando’s iconic Orange County Convention Center, where over 6,000 attendees and exhibitor gathered to discuss solutions to key challenges our industry faces, as well as put forth the newest products and services, with the aim of making our customers and working lives a little better.

As a seasoned event-goer myself, I was humbled by how much I learned and gained from the experience. My earnest gratitude goes to HFTP, their strategic partners, and the HFTP Cougar Chapter, of which I am a member. It is thanks to them that I got to make new friendships and professional connections, and continued to learn outside of the classroom.

The Work and the People:

We were asked to assist as the welcoming face of HFTP by orienting and assisting both attendees and exhibitors throughout the conference, providing general assistance during sessions, and of course, keeping the organizers informed of anything relevant.

Although the student volunteers had been trusted with a very important task, it never really felt like work because the leadership behind the event were all truly enthusiastic about our role and put in great effort to make us all feel welcomed, prepared and involved throughout.

Likewise, I was surprised by many of my fellow students’ etiquette and knowledge of the industry. But it was really their sunny disposition and kindness towards everyone that made them such a memorable mix of people to work alongside with. These extraordinary students from hospitality-related fields came from different schools across the country, such as San Jose State University, Northern Arizona University, New York University, as well the Valencia College (to name a few).

The Substance:

We were encouraged to attend sessions of our interest, converse with experienced professionals from the hospitality industry, and wallop HITEC exhibitors with questions.

With this event being HITEC’s 50th anniversary, the organizers and their partners were sure to include some interesting activities in the program, such as the HITEC Opening Party at SeaWorld Orlando presented by Venza and CyberTek, where I got both my feet and phone wet; the HFTP Young Professionals (YP) Meet-up at The Tin Roof, which was a meet-and-greet over light drinks and snacks, hosted by HFTP and AAHOA and sponsored by Aimbridge Hospitality (pictured above); and a special “Fireside Chat” session with hotel mogul Mr. Harris Rosen as part of HFTP’s 2022 Leadership Excellence Series.

Overall, volunteering at HITEC was an inspiring experience for me, and I would invite other students to consider volunteering at the next opportunity they get. It is a chance for students to get a sense of working on the front lines of event-planning, learn more about the hospitality industry and its technological and financial components, work on your networking skills and make new lifelong friends and professional connections. It is very much worth the try.

Fernando Sarmiento is a student at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College for Global Hospitality Leadership and student volunteer at HITEC Orlando 2022.

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