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Story #Alumni#Student Story#Tourism and Leisure Management#Forschung

Science against all odds

Business graduates rarely end up in the science sector. David Bourdin is an exception and impresses with a highly committed research career.

Porträt von David Bourdin

David Bourdin impresses with a highly committed research career. © Photo credit: FHWien der WKW

Vienna-born David Bourdin was the first in his family to go to university and overcome “educational heredity” that is typical of Austria. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management (now Tourism and Leisure Management) at IMC Krems, he went on to complete a master’s degree in Marketing & Strategy at the University of Warwick and a PhD in International Marketing at the University of Vienna. Today, in addition to his job as a scientist, he is a part-time lecturer at the transnational IMC location at the Tashkent State University of Economics, Uzbekistan.

What was the decisive factor that made you choose the bachelor’s degree programme Tourism Management at IMC Krems?

The excellent reputation of the degree programme and IMC Krems as a whole but also the strong international orientation were decisive. At the time, it was the only degree programme in Austria with these three features: a) entirely in English, b) an optional exchange semester and a compulsory internship abroad as well as c) two compulsory foreign languages from the first to the last semester. I chose Russian and Spanish.

What were the emotional highlights of the degree programme for you?

There are several. First, we were such an international cohort. Apart from the “incomings” every semester, some regular students in our cohort, for example from China, Thailand, the Bahamas, or Georgia, came to Austria specifically for the three-year bachelor’s programme. A highlight was the social life and camaraderie in our year and the friendships that developed. Hardly anyone in Krems has friends or family members at the beginning of their studies. This welds the first-year students together very strongly. Due to the manageable size of Krems, it is nice to run into fellow students again and again. This team spirit and the friendships that developed have lasted until today – eleven years after graduation.

And what inspired you professionally?

My personal highlight was my Practical Training Semester (PTS) in Toronto, Canada. The job with a tour operator was fun and I had the opportunity to travel a lot and get to know the country. Canada became my favourite country as a result; and a few years later I did a 7,000km solo road trip through the country.

What did the education at IMC Krems do for your career?

The education at IMC Krems is generally at a very high level. It helped me a lot that we were taught a solid foundation in statistics in the bachelor’s programme. You can’t get around statistical methods in an academic career in my discipline. However, the master’s programme in the UK lacked statistical training. Without the bachelor’s programme in Krems, I would have had to start from scratch at the beginning of my PhD studies. So, I could fall back on my good basic knowledge from Krems.
Secondly, after graduation, the practical experience you gain through the internship at IMC Krems is highly valued by employers. Since the internship takes place abroad, you profit from intercultural enrichment in addition to the transfer of professional knowledge, especially through different approaches to challenging situations, in dealing with business partners or in internal corporate communication.
Last but not least, I also benefited very much from my Erasmus stay at Linnaeus University in Sweden, mainly from the different learning methods and models with critical reflection and structured argumentation in essays. But there are also cultural differences in the interaction between students and teachers. These experiences broaden horizons and improve cultural adaptability in later life.

What is special about IMC Krems?

In addition to the outstanding quality of teaching and the strong international orientation, for me it is the team spirit during and after my studies. This happens by itself due to the situation, but also thanks to the efforts of the alumni team, who manage to keep the commitment and involvement of the alumni high even years after graduation.

You also teach as a lecturer in Tashkent. What experiences have you had here?

The cultural differences compared to Austria are enormous. The personal distance between students and teachers is greater than in Austria. Uzbek students are very polite and formal in their communication, but at the same time rather shy and passive. You first have to “squeeze” interaction and cooperation out of them in class. I also found out that some things are different at second glance. I learned that some students do almost all their studies on their smartphones because they cannot afford a notebook or share a bedroom with several siblings. This made me more tolerant and understanding of cameras turned off in Zoom lectures or papers submitted late. I find it very exciting to get to know the country and the culture.

After your education, you embarked on a career in science. How did this decision come about?

A major reason was curiosity. The idea of working on questions for which there are no answers yet or testing possible models for phenomena for which there is no explanation yet was very appealing to me. I like the scientific process, this eventful path from a research question to a finished article. My fascination for it was already awakened at IMC Krems and then intensified in the master’s programme because I was lucky enough to have outstanding supervisors for both my theses.
Originally, I didn’t intend to pursue an academic career. Then I started a PhD programme at the University of Vienna because I was attracted by the fact that you have so much creative freedom in research and can largely decide freely what you research and at what pace. For me, the potential for self-realisation is simply higher in research than in the private sector.
A second – but not primary – reason for studying for a PhD was honestly to prove to myself that it is possible. I had very poor grades at school and was completely disoriented after high school graduation. When I did my military service, I had time to look into degree programmes at universities of applied sciences (UAS) and found the right one for me. Moreover, I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school, so I wanted to try out whether, with enough motivation and perseverance, it was possible for me to overcome “educational heredity” that is so strong in Austria.

What are your scientific focus topics?

Cultural stereotypes, international brand positioning, customer involvement in services, interactions between employees and customers, and cognitive distortions in the perception of numbers.

Where do you see yourself in ten, fifteen years?

Still in academia, still doing research, as a specialist in one or two areas.

What advice would you give to a young person who is aiming for a scientific career after a UAS degree?

Graduates of a UAS master’s programme may have to adjust to two things if they want to start a PhD programme: They have to catch up on achievements from the university master’s curriculum, which is normally possible parallel to PhD studies. In many cases, a confirmation of supervision is necessary prior to the PhD studies, for which potential supervisors must be contacted independently. Since there are only a few post-doctoral researchers at most chairs, the competition for supervision is rather high. I therefore recommend that UAS students look for a scientifically experienced supervisor at the UAS and work out a solid empirical research design. You can submit a high-quality scientific paper to a conference and prove that you can do research at a high level.

TO THE BACHELOR DEGREE PROGRAMME TOURISM AND LEISURE MANAGEMENT