What was your reaction when the Hyatt offered you a place to study in the Netherlands?
I knew I was very lucky. Back then the Hyatt was planning to send many of its staff on study programmes in The Hague, but as the crisis came they changed the scheme so I was lucky to get the placement when I did. There were staff from three of our hotels studying there; from Paris, London and Moscow. The hotel pays for your studies there in exchange for a three year contractual obligation when you return.
Did your studies then lead to a promotion?
Yes, they did. The course was really useful for the job I have now, it really helped me be able to be a revenue manager and was an integral part of my career development.
What was the course like?
At The Hague the studies are very much practical skills orientated – this is the benefit of being at a vocational institute. The things we studied had solid connections to real life situations, it wasn’t all just theory. We were focused on consultancy, analysing, advising etc. The most important part of our programme was our practical project which for us was helping a hotel plan to open in a new Dutch town. There was a lot of group work, which is great for learning how to work in a team – and especially in an international team with students from other cultures. We also had to write a lot of long reports in English which was fantastic for my English skills.
As a foreign student that must have been challenging…
Our project was really exciting and of course challenging and interesting given that as a foreigner I didn’t know so much about the Netherlands. We had to do a lot of research and focus groups, which was of course tough not being Dutch speakers! But the main part of the project was there is no right and wrong. You just write your report and provide the proof for your ideas. That’s a skill that you really use all the time in the real world of business.
What were the staff of the university like?
The staff at the university were fantastic. It was a very small school so everyone knew each other. Some of my tutors were so helpful in finding gaps in my analysis and pushing me in the right directions, I am so grateful to them, some of them will really stay with me for life. The feedback that they gave was so finely tuned, they were really pointing out carefully things that you could never notice yourself.
What were the other students like?
We had students from all over the world, although most people were either German or Dutch. The Dutch students didn’t really integrate so much with international students socially. If you invited them to some parties or events of course they would come, but generally they stuck together, which I guess is natural when Dutch is your native language. Having said that, I did have a Dutch boyfriend so I also spent a lot of time with Dutch people and obviously was well integrated.
What was your accommodation like?
Before the course started we had a five week summer course where we lived on campus, but it wasn’t really long enough to sort out our accommodation before term time. We didn’t know what areas of the city were nice or expensive etc and we didn’t realise that August is a really tough time to search for accommodation. This made finding a place to live pretty tough – especially given that many landlords in The Hague didn’t like to rent to students. I had tried to look things up online before I came but getting advice from people actually living there is a more effective method. In the end we did find somewhere nice to rent that wasn’t too expensive and near the beach, which is lovely in the summer.
What did you think about the city itself?
The Hague is a wonderful place - I really loved it, much more than more famous cities like Amsterdam for example. It’s smaller, quiet, there’s a beautiful clean beach and always a lot of different cultural things going on, it just took some time living there to find out more about the place, but for sure I really grew to love it.
What other things about life in the Netherlands did you discover while you were there?
There are lots of places where you can buy decent cheap second hand furniture and so on for your home, finding that out really made the home life abroad much nicer and helped me keep within my budget. I of course got a second hand bike as well, even though before I went to The Netherlands I didn’t even know how to ride a bike at all! That’s another good piece of advice actually – get a cheap bike, don’t get a fancy one, it will only get stolen! Obviously everyone in Holland rides a bike and it is a great way to save money on transport, which is more expensive than in Russia. About the general Dutch mentality and way of life – well you just learn that along the way.
What value do you think your time studying in The Netherlands adds to your CV?
In Russia it will always look fancy, our hospitality institutes are just not recognised internationally. In my industry this Dutch qualification looks very impressive, it is a very respected school. Of course if you just want to study hospitality abroad only for ‘image’ then by all means spend a fortune and go to Switzerland. But if you want really high quality international education for a very good price I would absolutely recommend Holland.
Have you been back to the Netherlands since you graduated?
I live in Moscow with my Dutch boyfriend so we have of course been back to visit many times. I have also been back to my institute to give a lecture on revenue management which was a great privilege. I was of course nervous going back to talk about what I do in my job now in front of all my old teachers that I respect so much, but I really enjoyed it. It really showed me how much I had grown. I also lecture sometimes at my school here in Moscow which I really enjoy.
Would you ever consider further studies?
At the moment I am really happy in my career and I think there are good opportunities ahead for me, so I am ready to take things as they come.