During the tough times in mandatory military service in Finland, Felix pledged to join a cheerleading team if he ever succeeded in getting into the university of his dreams… and he did. Halfway into his bachelor degree in business administration, the now proud Hotel Institute Montreux student has both some dance moves and life experiences to share. In this interview, Felix talks about what it is like to study in Switzerland as a Finnish person, reveals his formula for a well-balanced lifestyle and shares his passion for sustainability.
First off, congratulations on making it to the finals of the Sustainability Competition this year! Could you tell us about your experience?
Thanks! I was taking part in a Sustainable Hospitality Challenge. There were a total of 36 hospitality-based universities at the beginning of the competition, my group being the only one representing the Swiss Education Group (SEG).
Being elected to the finals was such an honour for us. We had such a great time meeting new people and exchanging our ideas! We didn’t win, but the experience was so rich and we showed that Hotel Institute Montreux belongs among the top hospitality educators in the world.
Is sustainability important to you?
Having grown up in Finland, sustainability to me is very important. Since childhood, we were taught the importance of taking care of our environment as well as taking responsibility for our actions. Now that I am an adult, I want to make decisions that I am proud of. I believe we all have to work together to fight climate change.
Does the university encourage a critical approach when it comes to sustainability and marketing?
Yes, definitely. There are many businesses guilty of greenwashing, but I feel like Hotel Institute Montreux makes sure we can recognise that. Here I feel encouraged to think for myself.
I remember, last year, for example, we had a task to come up with ideas for the opening of a new environmentally friendly hotel. Having fellow students from different cultures, with different perspectives, it is very interesting to see what we come up with as a team. The university encourages us to explore, analyze and come to conclusions ourselves. They are there to guide us and not tell us which is the correct way because there are none.
What motivated you to study hospitality?
I’ve always wanted to see the world, and the hospitality business, I believe, is the key to fulfilling this dream of mine. Studying in Switzerland especially provides those opportunities.
The biggest stimulus to get out there was, perhaps surprisingly, the mandatory military service. I remember seeing a story on the SEG Instagram account about their cheerleading team and thinking I would rather be a cheerleader than in the military. So I pledged to myself that if I made it to the SEG, I would join their team.
Did you keep your word and join the cheerleading team?
Of course! I was the only male person on the team. The captain asked me what I was interested in, but I had no dance background. In fact, I was terrible at it. However, I was curious to try everything from lifting my teammates to swinging the pom-poms. After the military service, I was very excited to get my education and everything that comes with it. I couldn’t wait to experience the world.
How did your friends react to your decision to study in Switzerland?
My friends were very surprised, to say the least. Finland is known for having good education opportunities, which are also free as they are covered by taxes. So to any Finnish person, it does sound crazy that you would want to go study abroad, leave your family and friends behind and on top of that pay for all of it.
What are some other differences between Finnish and Swiss education?
For one thing, getting accepted into a university in Finland is very hard, but once you are in, you are in. Whereas in Switzerland, it is the other way around – you get accepted almost immediately, but if you don’t do well along the way, you have to drop out. You are given a chance and you have to prove yourself over and over again, and for me, it is much more motivating that way.
Another thing is that Montreux, in particular, is a very small city, which means fewer distractions and more focus on your studies.
How was the application process of getting into the university?
It was rather straightforward. Pretty much the only thing I had to figure out in advance was the financial sourcing of my studies. The amount I needed was substantial, but I had no problems as the Finnish bank covered it fully. I will only need to start paying back once I graduate and find a job, so I am very happy to feel independent and not a burden to my parents.
Could you tell us what the tuition fee covers?
The tuition covers almost all the expenses you can imagine a student might experience in a foreign country: everything from food (3 meals a day) to gym membership and access to various sporting activities and teams, to accommodation (I even get housekeeping services every week!). Most importantly it covers the high-level education and the possibility to study abroad with all the different people of different nationalities.
What do you like about the way classes are taught at Hotel Institute Montreux?
We Nordic people are very shy, and normally we don’t want to embarrass ourselves by saying or asking something silly, especially in front of many people. Therefore, I appreciate the Hotel Institute Montreux system of having small classes and lots of interaction. I think it is very important for hospitality studies in particular.
What are some things you enjoy doing in Montreux besides studying?
To me, it is very important to do something other than just studies to have a good work-life balance. It has always been necessary for me to keep myself strong: not only physically but also mentally. Sports I am truly crazy about, though. I’ve played ice hockey for 15 and American football for 5 years before coming here.
Does the school offer good opportunities in sports?
Yes, there are many sports teams you can join. The school provides you with access to the gym, you can also play football, volleyball, badminton, basketball… there’s plenty to choose from!
What is your advice for future students to make the most of their time in Hotel Institute Montreux?
Come with an open mind, stay positive and learn how to do time management. Look after yourself – mentally and physically. That will make your life and studying much easier.