Purdue student gains international experience through Hospitality and Tourism Management opportunity
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When Purdue University senior Katey Wheeler applied for an internship to work for six months in Qingdao, China, she had not expected the experience half a world away would make her feel so close to home.
"I went through a process just like any other job application," Wheeler said. "A few months later, I was on my way to China."
Wheeler worked as a guest relations intern for Shangri-La Qingdao, a Hong Kong-based luxury hotel and resort company. Because of Shangri-La Qingdao's Chinese roots, Wheeler quickly experienced the Chinese culture, including the language.
"I felt a little scared to move so far from home, especially to a place where the culture and language are so different," Wheeler said. "I had to catch on to their language very quickly in order to communicate with anyone. Luckily, I had my iPhone and was able to use a Chinese/English dictionary. I was able to learn basic ‘hotel Chinese' after that, such as phrases like ‘Here is your room key.' Being immersed in the language on a daily basis helped me pick up on it quickly."
One of the main goals of the internship through Purdue's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) is to not only learn from the foreign culture, but also teach them about American culture, as well.
"I truly have a new respect for the Chinese culture," Wheeler said. "It was also entertaining to hear what they thought of American culture because most of what they know is from television."
Since Wheeler was an outsider to the culture, she worked hard to earn the respect of her co-workers.
"Soon I learned the Chinese people have such big hearts," she said. "If any of us would get sick, they would offer us Chinese remedies to take, and the remedies really helped. It was great to have someone take care of me at a time when I was so far from my family."
The Shangri-La Qingdao internship has led Wheeler to want to continue her time in China.
"So far, I have had five interviews for jobs after I graduate," she said. "I have decided after I graduate I want to go back to China to work as a corporate trainee for Shangri-La Qingdao."
Richard Ghiselli, department head and professor of HTM, said the internship in China is a fantastic opportunity for Hospitality and Tourism students.
"Not only do they have the chance to gain experience at a first rate property, they are immersed in a new culture," Ghiselli said. "Our Chinese partners have done an excellent job of helping the students acclimate and feel welcome."
Liping Cai, professor and director of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality and Research Center, said HTM students stand out in the global marketplace because they are globally-minded.
"Our land-grant roots and Midwestern values cultivate hardworking and modest students who choose a professional career that serves and makes strangers happy," Cai said. "Katey's experience reminds us that our students are hungry for global opportunities and challenges. We must provide for and prepare them through innovative curricula and programs. Marriott Hall is a timely and fine addition that enables us to better develop future global leaders in hospitality and tourism."
Writer: Rebekah Piotrowicz, 765-496-3006, email@example.com
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