Getting tired of the usual 9 to 5 grind? Have the travel bug? Want to see the world, experience an exotic new culture, learn a second or even third language? For most people, living such a whirlwind life will remain only a dream. Marriage, kids, work and a mortgage tend to consume a majority of a person’s life. But if traveling abroad is an insatiable goal, studying hospitality at one of the U.S.’s hotel management schools could be your ticket out.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitality is a growing industry that employs people from every walk of life and level of education, from executive all the way down to maintenance and housekeeping. There are more than 500 training schools across the U.S. from which to choose, starting with top-tier universities like Cornell. To be attractive to employers, it helps to have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or hotel management and to have received instruction in courses such as administration, accounting, foodservice and catering. However, simply holding an associate’s degree can still get you a leg up on some of the competition. Having some education or experience is vital because some hotels will not train you on the job.
Many schools that offer degrees in hospitality also provide opportunities to study abroad. The University of Denver, for example, encourages its hospitality students to live and study abroad for at least a semester to gain an appreciation and understanding of “the differences and interdependencies that characterize our world.” At DU, the Office of International Education is responsible for providing international travel opportunities. A scholarship, Cherrington Global, is available to help offset the costs of travel, but even if you don’t receive it, a few partner and unaffiliated programs exist.
Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management, one of the U.S. premier hospitality colleges, also offers its students excellent travel opportunities. A three-semester program includes studying abroad first in Hong Kong, then in the Netherlands and finally back in the States. Semester-long and summer study abroad programs also exist elsewhere in Asia, Europe and South America. A $300 to $700 scholarship can be obtained through the school.
Once you receive your degree, living and working in a foreign country can become a reality. This is exactly what Pippa Ona Williamson discovered. Like many people, she dreamed of traveling to and living in exotic faraway places, and hotel management seemed like the most feasible way to achieve her goal. For ten years she worked at the luxury hotel management firm GLA Hotels in Paris, learning French and the hospitality trade, before being offered a management job in the West Indies — on a private island with the enticing name Mustique. She’s responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and 82 staff members at the Cotton House. GLA Hotels, which owns the resort, even paid for her moving expenses.
Says Williamson, “It takes me thirty seconds to walk from our house to the office and about two minutes to drive my son to school, so there is no commute… [M]ost of us drive around in little golf carts and there are very few cars here.”
The only drawback is that grocery orders must be faxed to St. Vincent in the morning, and they’ll be delivered in the afternoon.
Sound too idyllic and charming to be true? Granted, Williamson’s example is a rare one, but with the right education, experience and connections, living the dream of seeing the world need not be out of the question.