We recently sat down with Hotel School student Cindy Van der Wal, to chat about her time at the university so far.
What year are you in at the Hotel School?
I’m in my final year, so in my third year, and I have about a week to go until my final exams, which are next week and then I’m done.
Wow congratulations, that’s exciting.
Yes, thank you, it’s very exciting. I’m a little bit nervous but it’s good.
And did you go straight to The Hotel School from high school?
I did, yes. So I knew that I wanted to go to The Hotel School when I was about in Year 11. One of my careers advisors at my high school mentioned it to me; he knew I had an interest in the establishment at that time. So I went on the insights program, which was a two-day thing and we got to go to the Intercontinental Hotel, and that sort of just made up my mind, I was like, yes you need to do this, and I finished off my HSC and then I went straight to The Hotel School, which was great.
Oh wow. And what was your first impression of the school when you started?
Everyone was very approachable, friendly, and everything was very professional as well, just the whole lay out from the login area going up the stairs and in the classroom, very professional.
That’s great, and over the time of the degree did you make some good friends, are you still friends with students that you go to school with there?
Yes, definitely. So I think when I really made my friends was about halfway through the first year; group of us had the chance to go to Singapore. So we went to Singapore for about ten days, it’s a field trip that The Hotel School does and the girls I met there a few as the guys as well are still friends. In fact, one of them is having her 21st this weekend and they’re all going, unfortunately I can’t go as I have work, but we still keep in contact and everything, so it’s good.
That’s great that you got to go on that trip, and did you learn a lot on that Singapore trip?
Yes, it was a bit more fun than learning, but we went to various different hotels there and just experienced a bit of the culture as well which was great. We went to places like the frog farm, how frogs are important to businesses in Singapore, their lifestyle and everything. As well as some of the most iconic hotels like Raffles. We had a tour of the Raffles Hotel and everything like that and one of the hotels threw us a bit of a hotel party on their roof, just The Hotel School students, which was just great, a completely different world, and that wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone to another school, because they have all the connections. It was fun.
That’s fantastic. And what’s been your favourite course at uni?
I’ve had a few, but I think the ones that kind of jumped out was in the very first semester we had introduction to tourism and that one was really interesting. It just taught you about how to juggle external forces and internal forces and how important they are to a company, so that was really good. Then I think in the second year I did a course “Research and Analysis” and that sort of opened up my interest to academics so that kind of laid out the foundations for me to go and do my honours next year.
Thank you, yeah it’s all in the process now, so I’ve just sent in my application, if everything goes well.
Is that through Southern Cross University?
Yes. I’ve expressed interest throughout the course about studying a bit further and doing that sort of thing with more corporate style in the tourism institute, and they’ve been incredible to help guide me and everything, from both camps; The Hotel School as well as Southern Cross. They’ve just been guiding me and everything which is great.
That’s so good. So are you working in the industry at the moment?
Yes, I am. I’m working at Mejico restaurant and Tequila Bar in Miranda.
And have you had that job the whole time you’ve been at uni?
Pretty much. Once I started at Hotel School I was still in retail, I had worked in retail for around 5 years before I transitioned to hospitality and then I did a couple of catering stunts, worked in a restaurant for about three months and then I moved to Mejico, I’ve been working there about two years now.
That’s great. So your plans next year are to do your honours year and then what about after that, what’s your plan?
After that hopefully I’m going to take a bit of a gap year and travel, see the world. But after that I’m thinking of trying to get into consulting. So for the tourism hospitality industry, so doing that.
And what kind of consulting would you do, at what kind of topics or areas?
At the moment I’m interested in everything and I think that’s my issue at the moment, trying to choose an honours topic as well. But I think I’m leaning towards human behaviour at the moment, like helping out with staff attention and their motivation rates and everything like that. So I think more towards staff, like HR department, at the moment is my biggest interest.
That’s fantastic. What would be some advice you might give to current year 12 students who are considering studying at The Hotel School?
I would probably say going in, don’t worry too much, but just ask as many questions as you like but don’t be afraid. They have a couple of open days and people are quite shy, which is understandable, but just ask away and make those connections, they are there to help so don’t be hesitant to ask questions and everyone loves helping you, so definitely do that and it’s a big industry so it’s good, I think that would be my main thing.
Ok so can I just ask you generally, what is it about the hotel management and tourism industry that you like?
I’m more into restaurants at this point in my life, but It’s just such a big industry and there’s so much flexibility, so you can move from one area to the next and you’ll always have a position. But not only that, you get to meet some of the most incredible people, from knowing the customers and the people you work with as well. You just meet some of the most incredible people. I’ve worked with people from London, Paris that sort of thing, also I’ve met like Canadians and it’s great to see the perspective and you get to work with them and learn from them and also the customers that come through the door as well. Everyone kind of turns into a big family which is great. I think that’s why I like my work