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Hospitality at its best: ‘It opens up the world to you'

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HIM-Hotel Institute Montreux. Photo: Swiss Education Group
10:57 CET+01:00
Switzerland has a reputation. Sure, they've got chocolate and cheese and snazzy watches – but that's not what brought Mette Aalund Hagelskjær all the way from Denmark when she was 20.

“Swiss hotel schools have the reputation of being the best in the world,” Hagelskjær tells The Local. “It has made all the difference for me. And it still does.”

Today Hagelskjær is Sales Manager for BC Hospitality Group, the largest congress centre and event venue in Denmark.

Years ago, her teenage dream was to become a journalist. That all changed after a visit to Switzerland, when Hagelskjær fell in love with an international lifestyle.

“After I finished high school I went to work in a ski resort just to make some money and to ski in Switzerland,” she recalls. “I didn't have any thoughts about joining the hotel industry.”

She loved it, even working as a waitress.

“The whole international environment, meeting people from all over the world – that was quite appealing to me,” she explains.


Mette Aalund Hagelskjær. Photo: Private

After that she travelled in Asia for six months – and had an epiphany of sorts.

“I realized that this was what I wanted to do, to stay within the international environment,” she says. If I studied journalism in Denmark I wouldn't get that. I realized I wanted to go back and study in Switzerland.”

She opted for the prestigious Hotel Institute Montreux, part of what would become the Swiss Education Group- the largest network of hospitality management education with its five schools, extensive internship opportunities, and priceless alumni network.

It was a life-changing experience.

Find out more about the Swiss Education Group

“It definitely has made me the person I am today,” she says. “I met people from all around the world and created an international network. A diploma from Swiss Education Group really opens up the whole world to you.”


César Ritz Colleges, Le Bouveret Campus. Photo: Swiss Education Group

Tuomas Laakso, Vice President of International Development at Marriott International, had a similar experience back when he graduated high school.

“I actually wanted to be a pilot,” he laughs. You know how it is with boys and toys.”

As a student in Finland he was determined to join Finnair, but at the time there were too many unemployed pilots and the airline's school shut down.

“It was really a coincidence,” he says. “I happened to read that one of the main directors of Volvo used to be a hotel manager, and I thought that might be a good base education.”

He never looked back.


Tuomas Laakso. Photo: Private

“I thought I would do something else after finishing my education – but I fell in love with it and did really well,” he says.

Laakso attended César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, another of the esteemed schools in the Swiss Education Group, with a focus on luxury, excellence, and innovation within hotel management.

“At the time the school was very small,” he recalls. “It was a family environment – but also very international. I was 18 and it was all very exciting.”

He adds that the network he created back then, during his days with the Swiss Education Group, is still priceless.

“The network really helped. After you study with SEG, you know people all around the world. Even nowadays from a career standpoint it's beneficial and enjoyable. It makes the school quite special.”

Unlike Laakso and Hagelskjær, Swede Elisabeth Thomsson always knew she had a passion for hospitality.

“It's like asking a doctor why they chose to become a doctor,” she remarks. “It's somehow in my genes.”

And just like Laakso and Hagelskjær, her dreams came to fruition with the Swiss Education Group when she studied at the IHTT-School of Hotel and Design Management, Neuchatel.

Today she is Vice President of Hotel Operations at Gothia Towers in Gothenburg, Sweden -  one of Europe's largest hotels.

She agrees that one of the best parts of studying with Swiss Education Group is the exposure to other cultures while learning from the best of the best.

“You could do a similar programme in your home country; you don't have to go to Switzerland. But it's important to have that international background – and studying in Switzerland really gives you an advantage in this branch.”


Elisabeth Thomsson. Photo: Private

While the world is increasingly globalised and most or all lines of work are influenced by the rest of the world, Thomsson argues that the hospitality branch is uniquely international.

“In many hotels 80 percent of the guests are from abroad,” she says. “Having international experience makes a huge difference and shows you are serious about the business.”

Hagelskjær agrees.

“There are hotels all around the world, and the ability to travel and work at the same time is incredible,” she says. Studying to be a lawyer, she notes, does not come with the same kind of freedom.

“Once you cross a border the laws are different. But with this kind of education you can go anywhere.”


Photo: Swiss Education Group

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Swiss Education Group.

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