WYOMISSING, Pa. — Studying abroad is a pivotal experience most students dream of having. For Penn State Berks senior hospitality management majors Grace Fischer and Amy Yu, they had the opportunity to live the dream firsthand.
Earlier this summer, Fischer and Yu took their studies international, studying abroad in Europe with Penn State’s Hospitality Management program through the University Park campus. The trip was led by professors Kim Cooper, Daniel Mount, George Ruth and Hubert Van Hoof,
Though the program was based in Florence, Italy and Maastricht, Netherlands, students also traveled to France and Germany.
For Yu, who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the University’s hospitality management study abroad program intrigued her because it aligned with her hospitality management major’s coursework at Berks and her desire to learn about different cultures.
“We got to travel to six or seven different cities in one month. It was really interesting to me to learn about other cultures because, in the future, I want to open a multicultural restaurant,” Yu said.
Fischer, a Union, New Jersey native, saw the idea of studying abroad as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — one she might not get following post-grad life.
“I thought ‘This is the last time I’m going to get to do this, and I should absolutely take this chance to study abroad.’ I don’t want to look back on it after graduation and say ‘Wow, I really wish I’d taken the chance,'" Fischer said.
For the first half of the trip, they spent most of their time in Maastricht, the Netherlands, while they spent the last half of the trip in Florence, Italy. While in Maastricht, their coursework entailed taking HM 399: Foreign Studies, which focused on cultural immersion and how to combat culture shock.
Then, while in Florence, students took another HM 399 course: International Food Service Management and Cuisine — where they learned to make Italian cuisine, including various types of pasta, desserts and sauces.
Outside of the classroom, students took the opportunity to wander and partake in food tours or visit highlights like Cinque Terre — a string of five old fishing villages of the Italian Riviera coastline — the Louvre, Bosch and Heineken Breweries.
While abroad, Fischer and Yu learned how relationship and community-focused the hospitality industry is in Europe compared to the United States.
“In Europe, it’s really about personal experiences and relationships. We toured a lot of restaurants and hotels that were five-star places, but they still respected people’s values and morals,” Yu said.
Fischer echoed that sentiment, saying she wants to prioritize her employees’ well-being when she’s working in the hospitality industry: “When you’re managing, I like to think you’re trying to take care of your workers. I would love to provide them with a livable wage to say, ‘I’m here, I’m taking care of you.’”
Both Fischer and Yu agreed that studying abroad was a transformative experience for not only their professional goals, but also personally.
“Going on this trip, not knowing anybody, and being able to make new friends, I feel like I became a more outgoing person and more confident. I feel those qualities are important when you want to be an entrepreneur and work in hospitality,” Yu said.
Fischer also noted how instrumental her professors and the Penn State Berks community has been in helping her succeed on campus and abroad.
“The professors of Penn State Berks are here to help me every step of the way. They’ve pointed me in the direction of so many opportunities, and it’s nice knowing you have them to help you grow here,” Fischer said.
Penn State Berks offers faculty-led embedded study abroad programs during spring, fall, and winter break. For more information about studying abroad through Penn State Berks, contact the Education Abroad office.
About the Penn State Berks Hospitality Management degree
The hospitality industry is a major economic driver in the Berks County area, and the hospitality management degree program is offered in response to demand for graduates with degrees in the hospitality industry. Penn State Berks is the only campus outside University Park to offer the degree program with the entrepreneurship option.
The hospitality management degree program helps to prepare students for management positions in hotels, restaurants, resorts and other hospitality organizations. It also provides a sound background for students who plan to pursue graduate studies.