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How wanderlust can turn into a career

Passion becomes a vocation

Sophia Schmalzer is in her second year of our Tourism and Leisure Management degree programme. She chose the programme because she has always been passionate about travelling and the tourism degree is therefore the perfect stepping stone for her dream career in the hotel and travel industry.

Sophia Schmalzer am Meer in einem Herz-Rahmen aus Treibholz

Sophia Schmalzer is passionate about travelling and sees her bachelor degree in Tourism and Leisure Management as the stepping stone for her dream career.

What she particularly appreciates about her Tourism and Leisure Management bachelor degree programme in Krems is the different countries of origin and cultures of her colleagues. Furthermore, she is convinced that the English language of instruction provides a good basis for the international professional world. From her point of view, one of the most important benefits of the programme is the opportunity to spend some time abroad, even during her studies, in order to broaden her own horizons.

Dream internship in sight

Even though many of her fellow students opted for an internship in Austria due to the Corona pandemic, one thing was clear for Sophia: if at all possible, she would go abroad for a semester. However, due to the corona pandemic, Sophia decided to look for islands or places that are considered part of the European Union. As a passionate diver, the internship destination should also have good diving sites.

She found her current internship provider in our university internship database, because one of our students already spent her internship semester on the Caribbean island in 2011.

Off to an island paradise

For her internship, Sophia deliberately looked for a challenge that would force her to get out of her comfort zone. Since February, the Upper Austrian has therefore been working at a 5-star boutique hotel, the Harbour Village Beach Club, on the small Dutch island of Bonaire. The planning was of course linked to a lot of uncertainties due to Corona. In the end, however, everything worked out and Sophia travelled from wintry -20 degrees to the tropical island paradise.

Corona did not play an important role on the island for a long time, until the British variant of the virus landed on the island and the number of cases increased. The government acted quickly and effectively, however, because the people on this island live from tourism. The residents are therefore also motivated to get vaccinated and the vaccination rate is already high today.

Theory turns into practice

At the resort, Sophia works in the front office and therefore has a wide range of responsibilities: for example, she is responsible for check-ins and check-outs, looks after guests in a multilingual and professional manner, organises activities and tours for travellers and provides information about what the hotel has to offer. She also supports the front office manager in various projects and thus gains additional experience.

In her everyday work as an intern, she has found that lectures such as Multi-Channel Distribution Systems or Hospitality Management have prepared her perfectly for her tasks in the luxury resort. She also values the opportunity to get a taste of numerous areas of work in the resort. "In my internship, I get to know many areas in a resort - this will help me later when choosing my specialisations. I'm sure it will also make it easier for me to choose a career after graduation," comments Sophia enthusiastically on her internship.

In addition to her varied field of activity, she especially appreciates the diversity in the team: the cultural differences, the different languages and life experiences of her colleagues cheer up and enrich the working atmosphere of the tourism student on several levels. "The diversity in the team encourages me enormously in my cosmopolitanism. We currently have 15 different nationalities in our team of 50," Sophia explains.

Bon Bini: Languages as gateways to the world

On the island, Papiamentou - a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch - is spoken. Since this language is very similar to Spanish, Sophia was able to pick it up easily. In addition, it is also easy to communicate in English and Spanish on the island, so she rarely has any communication problems.

Sophia also benefits on the island from her stay abroad in South America after her A-levels. She spent a total of almost four years in the region, two of which she spent working at a diving school in Colombia - first at the reception and then, after her successful divemaster training, as a dive guide.

Diving to preserve the underwater world

Sophia can also pursue her passion for the underwater world on the Caribbean island - not for nothing does it even say "Bonaire - Divers Paradise" on the licence plates of the cars. She, therefore, spends her free time almost exclusively underwater - often for a good cause: she volunteers for the Reef Renewal Foundation of Bonaire, helping to clean up and maintain the coral gardens. When the corals are big enough, the organisation plants them out to create artificial reefs. This activity gives Sophia a lot of pleasure, because it allows her to give something back to the beautiful underwater world.

When she's not diving after work, she gets on her mountain bike and explores the off-road trails in the evening sun, enjoying the peace and quiet, the fresh sea breeze and the breathtaking nature.

Wanderlust, even after graduation

What happens after the internship? Sophia will be back in Austria in September at the latest and will complete her last bachelor year in Krems. After that, she would like to either pursue a master degree abroad or gain further professional experience in the South Pacific.

Whatever she decides - the internship semester was and is a good opportunity for her get to know work and life in the hotel business and therefore forms an important building block for her professional career.

Her tip

Even though she never stays in one place for long because of her wanderlust and is always looking for the next travel adventure, she is aware of where her roots are. That is why she is always happy to return to her large family and recharge her batteries in Austria. Whether in Austria or in the world, one thing is clear to Sophia: "I try to live consciously and in the moment wherever I am."

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