Study Abroad – A Life Changing Experience!

I hope everybody has had a great summer and is ready to get back to Purdue!  My summer has been really busy but exciting as well.  I received an internship with Starwood Hotels & Resorts as a Revenue Management and Sales Intern at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois.  From the Revenue Management side, I was able to learn how to forecast the occupancy and average daily rate for the hotel so that all the departments could schedule employees appropriately and so that the management team could prepare to sell rooms at certain rates.  From the Sales & Marketing side, I got to observe how to handle a new piece of business coming to the hotel to have meetings and events.  I sat with the Sales Managers throughout the whole contract process and then worked with Event Managers to actually carry out the event.  The last portion of my Sales & Marketing experience was dealing with corporate accounts for the hotel.  I assisted one of the Sales Managers in setting up a business strategy for corporate accounts for 2013.  After setting up the strategy, we met with the different companies to negotiate a new corporate rate for any employees of their company.  Overall, the experience was a great learning opportunity.  I have a concentration in Sales & Marketing, so it was nice to be able to practice real life skills that I will need to apply once I graduate.

In between my internship, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Europe.  This was a 6 week program that was sponsored by the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.  Myself and three of my friends actually went to Europe a few days early and went to London.  We were able to see some of the major sites of London such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London.  We also were able to see the setting up for the Olympics.  After London, we went to Paris, which was where our program began.  We were there for 10 days and learned about the geography and tourism of Paris including the classification of the tourist and why people go there.  We took two unique side trips from Paris to the Palace of Versailles and Normandy Beach.  Seeing these two attractions I believe was the highlight of Paris for me because there is so much history behind both of these that it was great to finally see them in person.  Walking through Normandy and imaging what it was like to be there during the bombing was mind boggling.  It was really hard to believe that something so horrid could take place in a place that looks so natural and peaceful.  After Paris, we made our way to Lyon, France, which is where we spent the majority of our time.  While in Lyon, we learned about the different wine regions of France and what types of wines each area produces.  As part of the course, we learned the proper ways to taste wine and got to tour a few wine vineyards to see how wine is produced once the grapes were in the factories.  These educational objectives continued when we went to Reims, France.  This city is in the Champagne region of the country.  It is very close to Moet & Chandon, which is the world’s largest producer of Champagne.  Also as part of the class, we were able to tour this facility and see the wine aging in the cellars.  Among some of those aging were Dom Perignon Vintage blend.

Being able to study wines in America is great, but being able to study in France where it is a major producer made the trip such a great experience.   After Reims, we went back to London for a day to catch our flight home.  It was perfect timing for us because we were leaving as the Olympics started.  On the way to our hotel, we were able to run with the Olympic torch while it was on its way to Buckingham Palace.  It’s not very often that a person can say they were in Europe while Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the European Soccer Cup, and the Olympics were going on.

The great thing about study abroad is that there is an opportunity to travel to other areas when not focusing on school.  My group decided that we wanted to go to Marseille, France, which is on the Mediterranean, Heidelberg, Germany, Barcelona, Spain, and Geneva, Switzerland.  In Marseille, we had the chance to experience the beaches in rock form.  They do not have sand beaches in that area.  It was a great experience to jump from the rocks in to the sea.  Heidelberg was a completely different feel then France.  It was very modernized in some areas and very medieval in others.  The food was great especially the bratwurst and sauerkraut.  While there, we went to a castle that has been in tact since the early medieval era.  Barcelona was also very different from Germany and France.  It was extremely crowded on the beaches since Barcelona has some of the best beaches in the world.  A majority of the city was inspired by Gothic art and a majority of their landforms were built with that inspiration.  A really unique feature of the city is the Sagrada Familia church.  It was designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi.  However, he never finished it before his death.  Every year, a new architect adds different features to the church based off of the original inspiration of Gaudi.  They are looking to have it complete by 2026, which is the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  Our last city we went to was Geneva, Switzerland.  This city is really well known for Rolex watches, Mont Blanc, and chocolate.  We only had a day there, but it was great to be able to stand in the warmth by the lake and still see the snow up on the Alps.

Partaking in study abroad was definitely a life changing experience for me.  It gave me a better perspective on different cultures of the world.  I am a guy born and raised in the Midwest, and I have never been outside of the United States so going in to this I was very nervous about what I was going to encounter.  At first, it was hard to overcome the barrier of not being able to understand French, but in the end it helped me grow as a person.  It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone.  Overall, this trip was a success, and I would recommend everybody go on a study abroad trip if they have the chance.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Michael Nalezny, Hospitality and Tourism Management

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