Interns at a Five-starred Hotel to One Day Open her Own

Interview with a Swiss Hotel Management School student from Sweden

An internship is essential for every student who wants to gain a head start on their professional path. Currently interning at The Oberoi Beach Resort in Dubai, Maja Nylundh, a hospitality management student at Swiss Hotel Management School, has big plans for her future. Everything she does, Maja says, is driven by a deep sense of purpose and enthusiasm, and to one day open her own hotel is what motivates her to learn from the finest. In this interview, Maja tells what it is like to live and intern in the United Arab Emirates as a Swede, discusses studying at one of the top hospitality schools in the world, and shares her dreams for the future.

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In front of the school building in Caux, where you can see Lake Geneva from a breathtaking vantage point.

Hi Maja! What are you like as a person?

If I were to describe myself, I would say that I am very passionate about what I do in all aspects of my life. I have big plans but I mostly take life as it comes. I don’t bother stressing over the future, cause as long as you have passion and you know what you want, everything will be fine in the end.

Why have you decided to study in Switzerland at SHMS?

I choose to study in Switzerland at SHMS because of the reputation it has. It is known worldwide that some of the best hospitality schools are located in Switzerland, especially our school which is ranked the 3rd best in the world.

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My favourite teacher and I.

What is it like studying at SHMS?

I love studying at SHMS, it’s better than I ever could have imagined. I have never before been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals which are really inspiring. The teachers are incredible and their knowledge and experience are so interesting to take part in. The campus is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, it feels like you’re living in a fairy tale. I can, without doubt, say that the decision to study here was one of the best I’ve ever made.

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My roommate and I at the School Gala.

Describe the role that SHMS had in helping you choose and get your internship.

As a student at SHMS, you get a ton of help to both decide on and get your internship. We have a whole office full of career coaches passionate about finding the perfect fit for us. We have weekly sessions where these career coaches help us with everything from how to use Linkedin to how to write a CV, practice for interviews, and how you accept or reject an offer.

Why do you believe the school puts such a high value on internships?

I believe the number of internships we have is the key to a successful education. You can read hours and hours of theory, but not until you are placed in the actual situation and have to figure out how to handle it will you be fully prepared.

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At the concierge desk at the Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah actioning emails.

In what ways does your internship decision correspond with your long-term career goals?

I am doing my internship in Dubai at The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah as a Front Office Assistant. The Oberoi is a small but well-known 5-star brand primarily based in India but also has a few international properties. I chose Dubai to get some experience of the country’s culture.

I don’t believe I would necessarily work here in the future, but wherever I do end up working in the future, it is a big possibility that I will have a lot of guests coming from this culture. Therefore spending six months here will help me interact with these guests in the future. I believe having an understanding of different cultures is a vital part of hospitality.

How are the United Arab Emirates and your home country Sweden different or similar?

I have so far not found any similarities between the United Arab Emirates and Sweden, only differences, which make living here a truly interesting learning experience. Of course, the most striking difference between the two countries is the weather; I have never in my life experienced this kind of heat, it’s awful, but it’s also kind of cool.

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On my days off, I usually go to the beach.

As I mentioned earlier, the culture is also very different. Especially since religion is such a big part of the residents day to day life, something I am not used to being a Swede. The call to prayer that goes out several times every day for everyone to hear, Ramadan that made the whole country run at half speed for a month, and the fact that the whole country went on a month-long grieving period when the president of Abu Dhabi passed away are all very unique and new experiences to me.

What is it like to intern at the Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah?

To begin with, all the interns get placed in some position within a department for a few weeks, and then we rotate. The management is very flexible, though, and if you want to try out a specific role or, perhaps, to stay in the one you are in, it can usually be organized.

The HR team here is very diligent and hosts several training sessions every week (they sometimes host competitions and games for us to have some fun, too). I always feel encouraged to engage and ask questions, even if it’s not related to my specific department. As soon as we don’t have anything to do, they ask us to teach each other so that all the knowledge gets charged throughout the hotel.

How much free time do you get and how do you spend it?

We work nine hours a day, six days a week. Most of the time, I go directly to work and directly home again. Sometimes I stop at the huge Dubai Mall (which is a dream!) on my way home, but only if I have the morning shift. Otherwise, there’s not much time for that. Most days, I’m really tired after work and am excited to go home and get some rest before a new day.

On my days off, however, I like to go to the beach to take advantage of the incredible weather. I’ve also already been on a Safari where my work friends and I rode camels and got to experience a little bit of the Arabic culture. Mostly, I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity to be in a whole other country and make memories I will never forget.

Do you both work at and live in the hotel?

All the staff lives in the same apartment building, about 20 minutes from the hotel. A bus goes every hour from and to the hotel so that you can get to work and then home again.

What have you learned thus far during your internship?

Never having worked in a five-starred property before or even visited one as a guest, every day is such a learning experience for me. The Oberoi Beach Resort is an upmarket hotel and its clientele expects nothing less than perfect. Though it takes a full team to create an impeccable hotel stay experience, as the front-desk person and initial point of contact for our guests, I have a significant role in making sure they leave with a great first impression.

It is, however, not easy to impress someone who already has high expectations for the service, and on top of that, every person is so unique… So the most important lesson for me has been learning to better understand guests’ needs and become a better communicator. But because it is challenging, the feeling I get when I know I’ve contributed to someone else having a wonderful experience during their stay is what motivates me to keep doing what I do.

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My very first visit to Burj Khalifa, I have since seen it several times.

What are your career aspirations?

My goal in the future is to have my own hotel. I don’t know what the ideal way to get there should look like. As is fit to my character, I take life as it comes, and I trust I will figure it out on the way. All I know is that is my end goal. I have never had anyone to inspire me; this is a dream that came purely from within.

What kind of impact would you hope to make in your field in the future?

To be honest, I haven’t thought about making a difference in my chosen field in the future. I am so focused on my dreams and what I want to accomplish for myself. But now that I think about it, I guess, that by simply trying to do my very best and following my heart, I could inspire other people with the same passion for pursuing theirs.

Thank you, Maja! Can’t wait to visit your hotel one day and all the best till then!