The Search For Adventure: An Economics Graduate’s Journey to Switzerland


It wasn’t long after graduating that Samuel Loum decided to take his studies abroad.

Armed with a degree in Economics from York University, Samuel wanted to find a way to stand out among his fellow graduates, but he also wanted to pursue a profession that would allow him to interact with a diverse range of people in a fast-paced environment. He knew he wanted every workday to be different from the last, and after some soul searching, he landed on the hospitality industry.

“I wanted to learn about something that could be applied to a range of fields and give me an edge in terms of work-related skills and social development,” says Samuel.

He loved the idea of making sure that each and every customer had a special, unforgettable stay, and he realized that hospitality could help him impact people’s experiences abroad. After picking an area of interest, his next step was finding the right school. Lucky for him, he found the perfect place: the hospitality program at the Hotel Institute Montreux in Switzerland. After just a few months, Samuel was going abroad himself!

The school was an obvious choice for Samuel, not only because of its impressive scholarly resources, but for its reputation as one of the best platforms for hospitality education in the world. It also didn’t hurt that Switzerland is a country known for its innovation when it comes to new trends in the field.

Plus, Samuel’s business-based education turned out be a great match for the hospitality industry. The finance specialization in hospitality that the program offered meant that Samuel could apply and further polish the skills he had learned in school to this exciting field.

With his choice made and destination set, all Samuel needed to arrange was a visa before he packed his bags and moved to a new continent for the educational experience of a lifetime.

Samuel Takes Switzerland

Fast forward to Montreux, where Samuel began his new journey as an international student!

Everyone experiences some degree of “culture shock” while traveling – that  feeling of disorientation when you’re suddenly surrounded by an unfamiliar culture or way of life. For Samuel, this meant adjusting to the relaxed nature of the city. Samuel, Cairo-born, and Toronto-bred, was used to the hustle and bustle of big-city life; for him, adapting to a new culture was an educational experience in itself.

“I had to come to terms with the fact that most people outside of the school spoke only in French and that most retail activity stopped around 7:00 p.m.,” he says. “But the prevalence of French allowed me to exercise and improve a language that has always interested me.”

Needless to say, the residences were also a little different than what he was accustomed to at York University. In Montreux, Samuel explains, the Hotel Miramonte and Hotel Europe serve as the school’s lecture halls and residences. Gone were the days of crowded dorms and messy hallways; Samuel was now living and learning in a renowned four-star hotel!

These historic buildings are not only stunning in their own right, but they also provide stellar lake views from the centre of the town, a place Samuel describes as: “so beautiful and more peaceful in comparison to bigger cities.”

Life At Montreux

When he was settled into his beautiful surroundings in Montreux, it wasn’t just the quiet, small town atmosphere that Samuel had to get used to, but the classroom experience as well.

“Class sizes were considerably smaller than those I pursued at York,” explains Samuel . Instead, the small groups of about 20 people reminded him a little of high school, where students had the chance to collaborate closely with each other and their instructors. Since teachers were able to provide more support to individual students than is possible in large lecture halls, he adapted to the new format quickly and began to thrive in this new atmosphere.

“It was also easier for fellow classmates to consult each other for help and support,” says Samuel. By the end of his semester, his fellow classmates had bonded together, forming lasting friendships.

The most exciting educational difference for Samuel was the heavy incorporation of technology in classes and around the campus. For example, students were provided with iPads that allowed them to collaborate with teachers and other students in order to create a unique learning experience. This early adoption of technology allowed Samuel to learn about cutting-edge trends that are changing the hospitality industry, trends that he would soon be implementing in hotels around the world.

This Experience “Helped Shape My Future Career”

In addition to his in-depth studies, new friends, and beautiful surroundings, Samuel had the incredible opportunity to work as a Night Auditor Intern for a four-star hotel in the heart of Geneva.

“I spent three months living at the foot of the Jet d’Eau (a stone’s throw from the famous flower clock of the Jardin Anglais) and shared an apartment with a very kind front office colleague in the famed neighborhood of Carouge,” says Samuel.

“It was an unforgettable experience – I was able to visit famous landmarks on a daily basis.”

He also got the chance to meet students and professors from all over the world, each with a thrilling life story and awe-inspiring professional experiences.

“My peers and professors are the most valuable resources I’ve gained from this journey,” says Samuel. “They are the people who supported me and motivated me to achieve a lot more in my time abroad than I initially thought I would.”

Even now, long after his Swiss experience has ended, he remains close with the international friends he’s made, and is already thinking ahead to his next adventure.

“We always find a way to stay in touch and to remind each other that the good times we have shared are evidence of good times to come,” he says. “They’ll be able to lend a couch to crash on if I choose to visit any part of the world they are working in, and of course, I’ll return the favour!”

What’s Next?

In the next few years, Samuel sees himself having completed an internship in North America and working in the financial department of a Canadian hotel or company.

He says that his social skills have improved dramatically from this experience and believes his newfound abilities will help him be more creative and vocal in the workplace. Ultimately, the greatest skill Samuel gained abroad was the ability to forge long-term, solid relationships with coworkers and clients.

There’s no denying that the future is looking exceptionally bright for Samuel, wherever in the world he chooses to live!

“Travelling abroad will open your eyes to new opportunities that you never considered before,” he says. “It will also allow you to develop your social skills, deductive reasoning, learn new languages, and make friends that may become the cornerstone of both your professional and personal life.”

Samuel’s Advice For Students and Grads

  1. Do your research on as many different institutions as possible.
  2. Don’t just look at internet rankings, but also consider the quality of life outside of classes.
  3. Do look for events happening in and around the location you choose – those are great places to find like-minded people and make some local friends.
  4. Consider your proximity to the airports if you plan to travel outside of the country a lot
  5. Apply for a visa early – Samuel had to make sure the process was started at least 12 weeks in advance.
  6. Prepare for your new climate! Switzerland’s winters require some bundling up.
  7. Put yourself out there and don’t let the language barrier cause you to miss out on new experiences!

Contributed by:

Sarah Bartnicka, is Canada’s leading job board and online career resource for college and university students and recent graduates.

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