Internships – where, what, how?

on March 5 | in Alumni | by Joan Tuaño | with 6 Comments

I studied at Enderun Colleges in the Philippines where I worked hard and got my Les Roches Certificate in Hospitality Operations.

Since my grades were good, my parents supported me to transfer to Les Roches in Switzerland to obtain a Swiss hospitality management degree.

I still remember checking in for the first time at Bluche for the Hospitality Operations III (HOIII) Program. I was handed a coupon for a free drink at the lobby bar, but having come straight from the desert, I asked if I could get a bottled water instead.  Apparently, Switzerland has the cleanest tap water in the world straight from the Alps!

To transfer to Les Roches, I needed to finish one six-month internship. I recall the process like it was yesterday- listing all my favorite hotels in Abu Dhabi, calling human resources departments, asking for their training managers’ emails and then finally applying for internships (should they have had any!).

FOOD & BEVERAGE AT SHANGRI-LA

I finally got an internship in the food and beverage department at the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi.

My training manager mServer Lobby Lounge Shangri-Laet with me on my first day to discuss how exactly I wanted to tailor my training. I told him I wanted to gain experience in every section within the food and beverage department. And so I did.

I started first at restaurant reservations, which I absolutely loved. I then moved along to the Lobby Lounge, Chinese Restaurant, Vietnamese Restaurant, French Fine-dining Restaurant, Banquets, Arabic Seafood Restaurant and last but not least, In-Room Dining.

I especially liked In-Room Dining because it reminded me of McDonalds. You just take the ticket, and load your table with everything you need in the kitchen!

At the end of the internship though, I discovered that my strength was in restaurant reservations. I found it so satisfying to market restaurants, and realized that after I actually ate at our restaurants, I was able to sell the product better.

SALES AT LOUIS VUITTON

Then I transferred to Les Roches in January 2011. How amazing it was! The Alps are absolutely breathtaking and gave us the best view, especially when studying got challenging.

Thanks to our Career Development and Industry Placement (CDIP) Department at Les Roches, I managed to secure two internship offers: one in Ritz-Carlton Rooms Division, Penha Longa, Portugal, and the other with Louis Vuitton in Paris, France.

When you are choosing internships, it is important not to simply take what is there, but rather to look at your resume and decide what shape you want it to take. For instance, it is difficult to get a job in a sales department after graduation if all your internships were in the food and beverage department. Experience is what internships are all about, and your experience should point to the job of your dreams.

Since I wanted to steer away from being a restaurant manager, I decided to take a chance and join Louis Vuitton at the Galeries Lafayette; a historic luxury shopping center in the heart of Paris.

My French was until then quite basic and all I knew of the language was good grammar and vocabulary. Learning a language does not come from listening to a CD and filling out workbooks but rather speaking to others (preferably in the language), ordering in a restaurant, making a reservation on the telephone, and so on.

I was in for a treat when I attended my orientation at the headquarters of Louis Vuitton at Pont Neuf and the entire training was in sophisticated French. We learned how to label each part of all the leather goods in French, and I was in the Rare and Exceptional Leather Team, which meant a lot of labelling. It was amazing!

Daily Briefing Louis Vuitton First day Louis Vuitton Copy of Bastille Day 2011 Paris

You learn a lot about cultures during your internships (well, if it is in another country). I had to steer away from minding my own business and assuming that mistakes can be made without having to deal with them. I had to greet each and every colleague in the boutique every day. I learned to double check, be flawless in my dealings with guests (at times, smile even though you just had a difficult client) and work as a team.

At the end of my internship, I was making entire sales to French locals and international tourists at the shopping center and my French was actually professional.

One of my prized achievements was when a guest I sold shoes to called me from her home in Africa and asked for me specifically so I could arrange a transfer of shoes for her purchase when she got back to Paris. This is why Louis Vuitton falls into the hospitality industry. If you offer this sort of added value when you sell your product, you are working in hospitality.

At one of our staff parties, we had a quiz on the history and heritage of Louis Vuitton. The team with the highest score (and a bowling competition) won dinner at Le Meurice, one of the most prestigious hotels located right next to the Jardin de Tuileries, which is just behind the Louvre Museum. I came back during my midterm break the next semester just to have this dinner!

ROOMS DIVISION AT RITZ-CARLTON

Club Lounge Concierge Ritz-Carlton

As a Club Lounge Concierge I would make all types of reservations for my guests as well as learning their names by heart.

I went back to Les Roches in January 2012 to continue with my bachelor’s degree where I was in the first batch students doing the Event Management Specialization with Mr. Franc Avila. When I mention that year, a beautiful mix of emotions and memories fill my mind. It was the first year that students took charge of the Cultural Night that occurs every semester, and we pulled it off like rockstars. But that’s a different story.

In July 2012, I interviewed with the first hotel to visit the school to recruit interns. I managed to land a second interview and a job offer by graduation. It was for a one-year Rooms Internship with the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas.

Honestly I didn’t even know where St. Thomas was until I googled the place. It seemed like a fairytale for me; studying in the cold and then moving to the beach for a year.

Now I find myself closing on the tenth month of my internship here in St. Thomas and it has been an enriching experience. My first four months were taking the role of Club Level Concierge wherein I performed high levels of personalized service for the crème de la crème of our hotel guests. Then I had to learn how to make a bed and clean bathrooms in housekeeping departments for three months. I also spent some time in the laundry team where I learned scheduling and more managerial tasks.  These tasks were hefty, but mastering all aspects of hotel operations specifically in the back of house is critical to succeed in the future in hotels. I believe having experienced such tasks shall benefit me in being able to empathize with every person I work with and understand the significance of good teamwork. Finally, I am in the Front of the House for my final stage as Guest Services Coordinator (I learned how to drive here and now coordinate the front drive) and will finish as a Front Desk Agent in April.

My, how time flies when you’re having fun!

Family in St. Thomas

Working in hospitality means there is a good reason to make your family travel to where you work. Here is a photo of my family and me sailing on the Lady Lynsey; the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas’ 53-foot Catamaran during their Christmas vacation. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is the only hotel in the brand that owns its own vessel.

My key learnings during this internship basically have to do with the fact that I am growing up. I am not that girl anymore who could not even hold a tray three years ago. I cannot afford to make a large mistake and overlook important information. I must make a name for myself. You never know where you will go, who you will meet today or tomorrow, and what opportunities you will face. I am more than happy to be soon closing this door on St. Thomas for I know many more doors will then be open in return.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions you may have on finding or being on internship!

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6 Responses

  1. Kennedy Miriti says:

    Hi Joan, am Kennedy from Kenya studying Hotel and Restaurant Management in United States International University in Nairobi Kenya. i must say that reading your experience just lights up the fire in me for hospitality experience. problem is that getting international experience from here in kenya is difficult and i would like some help in getting an internship especially in the Middle east.my dream hotel is Marriott especially the Ritz. all the best in closing your door to St Thomas. i know your future is bright 🙂

  2. Joan Tuano says:

    Dear Kennedy,

    What a pleasure it is to hear from you and to know that my words relate to your passion in hospitality! I know it is extremely difficult to get that international experience.. actually it is challenging to even find any experience. Some establishments are always requiring “previous experience required” and are not considerate enough to realise that we are trying to get experience to be experienced. It is then imperative that you find a brand that believes in you.. that looks at you as one with potential and who will give you room to grow. Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton certainly display most of their internship positions in the Middle East including internships. The United Arab Emirates in particular is widely open to different cultures and are familiar with sponsoring visas. There is also a chain of hotels and resorts called Rotana that is offering an amazing new program called TAROT. The CEO of the company is an alumni of Les Roches. You should give that a shot! http://www.rotanacareers.com http://www.marriott.com/

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well said, straight to the point. Thanks a bunch.

  4. Singh says:

    Thank you for amazing post. KEEP IT UP

  5. Jon Llarena says:

    Hi Joan you are amazing! very inspiring journey and it runs in the blood to have such talent you have.
    I was like putting my hats off to you, your Dad and Mom are so supportive and I am very happy and proud where you are right now. regards to Jovy, Janet and Jom – God bless you and your family, keep it up and stay humble.

  6. Khaled Sabet says:

    Dear Joan,
    Impressed by your simple and informative style of writing but before that your personality the way I virtually see reading between the lines of your journey starting from UAE reaching the Caribbean.
    Thanks to Janet for bringing your articles to me but also the blame on her for not making it opportune to have arranged a meeting with you before you become a flying Robin!
    Keep it up and God bless you wherever you are …

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