Most important reasons hospitality students should study abroad
It’s a small world, after all.
From Disney World to the Eifel Tower, hospitality is a global business, and one which necessitates an understanding of how the world works to be successful at it.
For college students on track to follow a hospitality career path, study abroad experience is invaluable, according to experts.
“To be an effective leader in today’s globalized business environment, students must develop intercultural competence beyond that which is normally acquired through the on-campus experience,” says Makarand Mody, assistant professor of hospitality marketing in the school of hospitality administration at Boston University.
“There is sufficient evidence to show that study abroad, even for a short period, can impart significant intercultural awareness and communication skills that students can subsequently leverage in their careers. It opens up career horizons that students may not have considered before; for example, it may spark an interest in working in a foreign country. And, with a majority of the large hospitality brands (hotel and restaurant) having extensive international operations, this presents students with an excellent platform from which to launch their careers,” says Mody.
Today’s hospitality employers are actively seeking graduates with such experience as well, says Mody.
“Even within the U.S., there are significant opportunities for students to use their experiences. For example, the large influx of travelers from the emerging economies – the BRICS countries – means that the hospitality industry requires students who are not skilled in the business aspect of hospitality, but also the intercultural aspect,” says Mody.
In addition to understanding people from across the globe, “Study abroad also helps students understand the meaning of hospitality in different cultural settings,” says Mody. “It enables them to explore the manifestation, symbolism, and cultural significance of hospitality that cannot be understood through reading alone; rather, it requires students to be immersed in a particular setting. For example, I’ve interacted with American students who truly understood the Indian hospitality philosophy of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' (The Guest is G-d) after spending several weeks working for a large, Indian hospitality company, in India.”
Beyond professional growth, “Study abroad stimulates personal development. It makes students more confident, self-sufficient, and independent,” says Mody.
While study abroad can be daunting, presenting challenges (culture shock) that students must overcome to function effectively in a foreign environment, however, at the end of their experience, a majority of students find that they are able to draw on reserves of resourcefulness that they didn’t even know that they had. Today’s hospitality business professional faces a similar dynamic and challenging environment that requires them not only to function effectively with teams, but also to work independently, addressing business challenges using reserves of cognitive and effective resourcefulness, says Mody.
As for the networking and peer-bonding benefits of international study, “Such bonds las a lifetime. The world of hospitality is very small, and it is highly likely that a student may end up working with these peers in different companies and/or different parts of the world. Study abroad thus becomes a good opportunity to develop strong personal and professional networks,” says Mody.
At Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management, hundreds of international programs are available, says associate professor, Dr. Daniel J. Mount, CHA.
“We have four hospitality-specific study abroad programs, where students are able to take classes that fulfill some of their HM requirements,” says Dr. Mount.
The most popular destinations are Florence, Italy, Gold Coast, Australia, Mallorca, Spain, and Hong Kong. While two locations offer generally unpaid internships, the others are set up to offer full academic loads.
For those who take the plunge, “Study abroad demonstrates a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, to take risks, to explore new things and discover the world. All good traits in a potential leader,” says Dr. Mount.
For potential hospitality hiring managers, “They are looking at students who have demonstrated primary character traits in making a study abroad decision – traits that are generally considered valuable by recruiters,” says Dr. Mount.