IFTM Around the World Main Headline

Living within a different culture a bonus of overseas internship, says student

Coco Chow (pictured, front centre) and some fellow workers at the Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa, in Surat Thani Province, Thailand

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa, in Surat Thani Province, Thailand, recently took on IFT Hotel Management undergraduate Coco Chow as an intern. Coco says the internship at the luxury property – part of her study programme at IFT – gave her a chance to experience a new culture and become more independent.

“I realise now that I was not as independent as I thought,” she says. “But I could not make my parents worry… I needed to solve problems by myself and handle emotions.”

Living away from her hometown was not something new to Coco: she had already moved to Macao from her home in Hong Kong, to study at IFT.

The culture and language in the two Special Administrative Regions are however similar. That cannot not be said of Thailand compared to those places. “It is not only the language, but the living standard, food, working culture, that are different” in Thailand, Coco says.

IFT students studying for a bachelor’s degree are required to complete a 6-month internship in Year 3. They can opt for a placement either in Macao or abroad. Other examples of the latter destinations available to IFT students include the United States, France and the Maldives.

Coco did her internship in the first semester of the current academic year. Since she already had some work experience as a part-time employee in hotels in Hong Kong, she decided to make use of her internship placement to venture abroad and gain some insight on working in a different culture.

“There are big cities abroad as well, but if they had a similar culture to Hong Kong, it would be somehow meaningless for me to do my internship there. Therefore, I chose Le Méridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa,” she explains.

Coco says her choice proved fruitful. “The internship provided me with a chance to explore the world, so that I could learn how hotels in other places operate,” she explains.

Coco highlights the differences in work environment between the hospitality sectors in Macao and Hong Kong on the one hand, and Thailand on the other. “Samui is a relaxing place for tourists… We can have time to provide good service to customers; we can even have opportunities to have in-depth conversations with them.”

The IFT student says that despite the differences in culture and working environment in Thailand, the knowledge and skills she learned at the Institute still proved very useful during her internship.

“We had practicum courses in the first year [at IFT], and the knowledge and experience obtained from these courses actually can be applied in most cases,” she says. “When I was in Thailand, I just needed to combine what I had learnt before, with the local culture.”

One additional advantage of doing her curricular internship abroad was to allow her to expand her professional network beyond Macao. Coco also had the opportunity to interact with many of the resort’s clients.

“Many famous and important people stayed in the hotel,” she says. They ranged from a professional football player to the chief executive of a plane-engine manufacturing company. “And I like to talk to others and meet new friends.”

A meeting with one guest proved fortuitous for Coco: the person was the regional manager of luxury fashion brand Coach. “She even said that if I would like to work in Coach, she could offer me a position when I graduate,” recalls Coco.

The IFT undergraduate says that, upon graduation, she plans to build her career in the hospitality sector in either Macao or Hong Kong. Nonetheless, she thinks that her internship experience abroad – despite some difficult moments – was very valuable in terms of professional development.

Coco recommends that her fellow students at the Institute take advantage of the opportunities IFT offers, in order to do an internship beyond Macao’s borders. “Do not ever feel it is a hard task,” she says. “Find the fun in it, enjoy it, and chances will come to you.”