This week we met with Mette, a dedicated and buoyant Danish student with an undeniable passion for hospitality. The now president of César Ritz Colleges’ Student Ambassador Forum, Mette aspires to one day open a hotel of her own.
In this Interview, Mette talks about her program of international business in hotel and tourism management, life in Le Bouveret and her future plans.
Hi Mette! What’s it like living in Le Bouveret as a student?
I really love the atmosphere here because it’s such a small and cosy town and everyone knows each other. Even if you go to the local park or a grocery store, you are always going to see familiar faces. And I think it’s a really great place to study also because you don’t have too many distractions. Well… Maybe apart from the spectacular views of the lake and the mountains that I can admire right from my window. It’s super nice.
What does your day look like?
Usually, I am quite busy… I feel like there’s always something to do! I have one to three classes a day and in between I either study or plan ahead for work at the Student Ambassador Forum (SAF). Being a president at the SAF takes most of my time. I enjoy the responsibility, though, because I like to help out and to be a part of a community. And then, of course, my friends and I try to travel around Switzerland and enjoy it as much as possible while we are here. So it is safe to say that my life here is just amazing!
What kind of work does the Student Ambassador Forum do?
So SAF is the connection between the students and the teachers of the faculty. As the president, I am managing the entire team, namely, the so-called ambassadors who each are responsible for different areas of work at school. There are, for example, event ambassadors, who are planning all the events on campus. The social media ambassadors, of course, manage our social media accounts and inform the students on what’s important, and so on. Then we have academic ambassadors who will make sure that the students are doing well and are always ready to help in case there’s an issue with a teacher.
It’s great to know you have a safe place to express your honest feelings!
Exactly. That’s what makes our work at SAF meaningful.
Is Switzerland a popular destination for students in Denmark?
Actually, not at all. In terms of holidays, for example, it’s typically either sunbathing in Greece or Spain, or skiing in Norway or Austria.
Why do you think that is?
I don’t think they know how beautiful Switzerland is! It is as simple as that. My friends and family at home are constantly commenting on how stunning my social media posts look!
How then did the idea to study in Switzerland come about?
At some point, I learned that Swiss education in hospitality is well recognized internationally. I then got in touch with the Swiss Education Group (SEG) and went on a visit during the open days (right before the lock-down).
What made you finally decide on enrolling?
As you may know, higher education in Denmark is free. So you can imagine that deciding to study in Switzerland was a very big step for me. But I had a very strong feeling that this is exactly the path I want to take, so I was very confident about it. It is an investment into my life and I honestly believe it’s worth it.
And what is included in your study package?
Besides the education itself, the tuition also includes daily meals, great individual accommodation near school, the uniform and a lot of various student activities. That is so convenient because I don’t have to worry about it ever, it is all covered by the school.
How do you think studying hospitality is different from other programs?
Well, since I just mentioned food, I think we have a pretty unique situation regarding that. We have three types of restaurants on campus: a typical buffet-type of a restaurant, a fine dining restaurant and a superfine dining one. They are designed for culinary students to learn how to cook in a restaurant environment, and for hospitality students to understand how to provide the highest level of service. Everyone can see the students cooking, and students can also sign up to serve the restaurant’s customers, i.e. students, lecturers and university staff. I don’t think you’ll find this in other types of programmes.
As a hospitality student, what sort of things do you learn in classes?
The first half of the year is more about the front-office, service, wine and beverage, fine dining, and such. Right now we have a lot of mathematics in macro- and micro-economy, financial accounting and so on. My all-time favourite class, though, was room division because that’s the direction that I expect to go in. I’m however also super excited about the strategy-related courses coming up next.
Now that you’ve recently done your first internship in Zurich, how do you think Swiss hospitality culture is different from Denmark’s?
Culturally, the countries are quite similar. But when it comes to the hospitality I feel like Switzerland is just on the next level.
Are there any limitations as to where you are allowed to do your internships?
Not really. The businesses don’t necessarily have to be partners of SEG, so the options are wide. Of course, if a company is an SEG partner, it helps, but if you have your eyes set elsewhere, you are welcome to pursue it. The school, however, needs to approve it to ensure their students receive a quality learning experience.
What are the internship arrangements like, usually? If you’re doing an internship in a hotel, for example, do you get to live in one of their rooms?
It really depends. For example, when I had my first internship, I had really great conditions: I got a high salary, received lots of tips, and also had accommodation in the hotel. Moreover, they had a staff restaurant with great food and lower prices. In my case, the conditions were probably better than for a typical internship elsewhere.
I know, for example, that Switzerland is one of the places where you can actually get a paid internship. If I go to the Caribbean, for example, I’m sure that I could intern a whole year without getting any money at all. But then maybe they would cover some of the expenses such as food and accommodation. Whereas in other places you may get a salary, but then you would have to find your own place.
What are your plans after graduation?
After my bachelor studies, I would like to get out into the real world right away. I am thinking of getting a job as a receptionist at a better-known hotel brand and then working my way up to the front office and, eventually, a hotel manager’s position. I am also thinking of doing a master’s program.
My long-term goal, though, is to start my own hotel. I can imagine having a small family-run place with a personable atmosphere and great relationships with the guests. I think there is a lot I could learn working at a big hotel chain, first, though. So my main plan is to gather as much experience and learn from the best before opening my own.
Many SEG students are specifically interested in the luxury industry. Is that something that you are drawn to as well ?
Absolutely. I feel like the luxury segment is one of the reasons why I’m here at César Ritz.
If I was, say, studying hospitality in Denmark, I could, of course, work as a receptionist for some hotel chain. However, studying here, I have the possibility to work for the best luxury brands. For that alone, I would want to use the unique opportunities available to me and get professional experience in this industry.
What would you say to the students who are currently deciding whether to enrol on the SEG?
I would say that if you’re passionate about the hospitality industry, then César Ritz Colleges is the perfect place. Also, because you are studying abroad, I think you get so much more experience and you mature so fast compared to studying in the environment that you know so well already. For me, it’s such a life experience to be able to experience another country as beautiful as Switzerland.