Rachel Soon is currently in her penultimate year pursuing a bachelor’s in hospitality at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland. Hailing from Singapore, this 22-year old says she chose to study abroad because she felt it was time for her to experience the world and leave her small city state.
Most of all, it’s to make people happy. Below we talk to Soon about her classes, internships, her favourite Swiss cuisine and her most memorable trips thus far:
Do you think it would have made a difference if you studied hospitality at a local institution?
Definitely, I would probably not have stepped out of my comfort zone as much. To further add, Singapore does not really offer a bachelor’s in hospitality, mostly diplomas only.
What has been your most memorable class so far?
It would have to be “Human Behaviour and Performance” as back then, I was still adjusting to the school. I am inherently bad at public speaking and presenting on my own in front of the class, but I managed to face my fears. I remember choosing to talk about my family for my topic so it was fun to introduce them to everyone.
Do you have any fond memories with teachers at your uni that stood out for you?
I remember having a little breakdown because of my academic writing. I was unsure of my topic so I went to the professor for help. He talked through my points with me and steered the essay towards the right direction.
Do you get to apply knowledge gained at uni to the real world?
Most of the skills I learnt were applied in my internship. There is a correlation to the soft skills we learn in theory during lectures. During the internship, I was expected to already know how to operate certain systems and do certain tasks with the specs that I provided.
What skills have you acquired thus far?
My academic goals would be to gain an in-depth and integrated approach towards the industry. Prior to this, I idolised the service industry because it seemed somewhat untouchable and impeccable from the outside.
Having been involved with it, learning the ins and outs of the management behind the scenes, there is a cause-and-effect to all decisions made. Learning to apply the skills gained in this course really proves the efficacy of the EHL education. Some of the skills include cost control, Excel spreadsheets and statistics, creating marketing plans, and coordinating social media and public relations.
Do you plan to progress into further study with your hospitality degree?
After graduation, I plan on working for an events management company. I’ve always been interested in events planning and management and I’d like to prioritise the pursuit of this interest. After, I would like to take an MBA or a master’s in a subject I’m keen on!
Moving onto your life abroad, what do you love most about Switzerland?
I love the country for its weather, it’s way too hot in Singapore! The weather here is perfect on some days — sunny enough to not button up your coat but chilly enough to not sweat profusely. I call it the perfect air-conditioner weather!
What are your favourite things about Switzerland?
Mine are more experiences. For instance, pedalling at the lake with my friends in the summer and getting ice-cream after, grocery shopping at the Asian marts in town, and travelling to other parts of Switzerland with friends. Lausanne is so central so little day and weekend trips are easily doable.
What have been your most memorable, non-academic experiences in Lausanne so far?
That would be travelling to my roommate’s hometown in Basel. We went to a museum, took a boat ride and finished with eating a really hearty slice of pizza near the station. Although it was drizzling throughout the entire day, it was memorable regardless.
Have you explored the region?
Lucerne, the architecture of the old bridge and just standing on the edge of it taking in the sights really leaves you breathless. I’m a huge fan of scenery and historical sites, so the lion in Lucerne although a small monument, still left me in awe.
What about the local food? What is your favourite??
Cheese fondue. I can’t express my love for this dish enough. Cheese, bread, cold cuts and maybe a side salad is happiness in its truest form. Best to eat it on a cold winter’s day.
Is it hard for a foreigner to talk with the locals?
It is somewhat a struggle for me, but I do try my best to speak French even though my accent is terrible. But you can get through by finger pointing and gestures.
What cultural sites have you explored?
I’ve visited the Olympic Museum. It’s a real experience! Although I’m not someone who knows a lot about sports, but to learn about the rich history of the Olympic games and see the uniforms worn throughout time is really worth the visit.
What’s one thing from Switzerland you’re planning to bring back home?
If it’s only one thing, I would pick chocolate. I love chocolate and any chocolate in the local mart is super delicious. Also, it’s way cheaper for high-quality chocolate.
What advice do you have for international students looking to study in Switzerland?
Learn basic French! I stepped foot in Switzerland knowing only one word — “Bonjour” — and needless to say, it was quite a struggle for me.
Lastly, hit us with three fun facts about yourself.
I love crochet and embroidery. I’ve crocheted about five bags in the past three months that I’ve picked up this new hobby. I love Asian food, I could eat dumplings everyday! I’m not the best singer, but I love to sing when I’m with my friends.