Kent State Hospitality Management Students Experience Italian Hospitality in Florence

Hospitality Management Students Intern at Italian Hotels

The opportunity to travel abroad for the first time for some Kent State University students came through a summer internship program in Florence, Italy. 

“I had been waiting for an opportunity to travel abroad,” said Andrea Sutton, a Kent State hospitality management student. “And now I’ve been able to fulfill my dream, and it was everything I imagined and more.”

Sutton is one of four Kent State hospitality management students to travel to Florence for an eight-week internship program this summer. The Florence Four – Zach Anderson, Michael Farber, Jackie Myers and Sutton – interned at hotels in Florence: Hotel Benivieni and Hotel Tornabuoni Beacci. Like Sutton, Anderson and Farber also experienced their first trip abroad with this internship program.

Kent State hospitality management students Jackie Myers, Zach Anderson, Michael Farber and Andrea Sutton explore the city and culture in Florence, Italy

A Taste of Italian Hospitality 

Swathi Ravichandran, Ph.D., Kent State associate professor of hospitality management, says the establishment of the Florence Hospitality Management Internship program offers students the opportunity to learn hospitality and service management the Italian way.   

“While international hospitality management awareness is developed in the classroom, experiencing management styles of hotels and restaurants while immersed in the foreign culture provides a much deeper understanding of global approaches to the business of hospitality,” said Ravichandran, who led the development of an education-abroad hospitality management internship program.

Being in Europe gives students the opportunity to travel throughout the continent and experience hospitality from many different cultural perspectives, Ravichandran says. This year, the students also took the initiative to attend the Expo Milano 2015 Fair in Milan, Italy, that had the theme “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life.” 

Ravichandran says that the goal of the internship program is to help students grow into greater leadership roles and become decision-making professionals, experience the Italian approach to hospitality, and create more global awareness and appreciation of international travel.

“Many international travelers come to the U.S. to enjoy the sites, restaurants, hotels and resorts,” said Barbara Scheule, Ph.D., Kent State associate professor of hospitality management. “It is our belief that these students, as future hospitality business owners and managers, will be better prepared to welcome international travelers into their establishments. Many U.S. hospitality hotels and restaurants have an international presence, and these students will be better prepared to be part of the leadership team of an international hospitality business.”   

Ravichandran says the students can share their experiences in the classroom to enrich the learning experiences of other students in the hospitality management program at Kent State.

Lessons Learned in Florence

Interning at hotels in Florence was different from the students’ experience in the U.S. They gained insights into the hospitality industry in Italy and learned practices, which they plan to implement as professionals in the industry after they graduate from Kent State.

“My overall experience was phenomenal!” said Anderson, who plans to work in hotel or ski resort sales after graduation. “The culture is much different from America, but that was expected.”

Myers was fascinated with the honor system that exists in Florence and plans to incorporate it in her event planning business after graduating with a degree in business management and double minor in entrepreneurship and hospitality management.

“There is no clocking in because it is trusted that you will be where you need to be,” Myers said. “This honor system does wonders for the atmosphere of the workplace, and it’s something that I think we should attempt to adopt in the states. When I open my own business, I plan on using this system myself. If it gets abused, then you get fired.” 

The culture of relaxing and having conversations after dinner over a bottle of wine made an impression on Farber, whose desire is to manage his own bar on the beach that would offer a patio, gourmet food, live music and more. 

“The check is never brought to you unless you ask for it because the culture is to hang out and talk with your friends and enjoy wine after dinner,” Farber said. “There is no rush at all, so it is very laid back.”

Sutton, who plans to graduate with a degree in hospitality management and a minor in event planning, would like to adopt a more affable approach in getting to know guests better so that they enjoy their stay even more.

“The check-in and check-out process [in Florence] is much like any other, but because they are a smaller 15-room hotel, they are much more personable, getting to know the guests instead of following a scripted check-in process,” Sutton said. “I want to work as an event coordinator in a resort close to the ocean or on it, and I hope that with all my experience and my education-abroad internship that I will be able to achieve this goal.”

Experiencing the Food, Culture and People

Sutton says everything about the trip – the food, culture, music and people – was well worth the money and experience. 

“If I had one word to describe this trip it would be ecstatic!” Sutton said. “I am blessed to say that I have experienced a lot of Italy and the world in such a short period of time that I will be forever thankful for my family and professors.”

The students had great things to say about Florence, including the opportunity that they had to visit iconic locations, try out new food and mingle with locals. 

“Florence is a pretty amazing place,” Myers said. “There is always so much to see and do. The food is absolutely delicious, and the culture here is quite different than in the United States, but it is also quite similar. A few differences include the fact that they do not eat dinner till 8 p.m. or later, bars are open till 1 a.m. and then clubs are open till 4 a.m.”

Getting to eat homemade pasta was one highlight of their trip, but as Anderson says, “I love pasta, but eating it many times a week got a little old.” 

The students also took breaks from their internship to explore other parts of Europe, including Amsterdam, Croatia and Ireland.

Education-abroad Advice for Students

Christine Connors, senior advisor and Florence Program coordinator for Kent State’s Vacca Office of Student Services in the College of Education, Health and Human Services, believes that studying abroad offers students a self-actualizing experience that allows them to appreciate other cultures and values, and discover new pathways in creating a fulfilling life and career path, which continues to foster the development of global learning.

“The demand by today’s employers of all agents for global thinking and cultural competency in tomorrow’s future leaders – teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists and business executives – is a real and growing phenomenon that I believe results in the ethical responsibility of universities to provide encouragement and means of global leaning experiences to ensure that their graduates are competitive in the world’s job force,” Connors said.

“Do it!” Sutton said, advising other students to take what she describes as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study abroad. “Don't let money be the deciding factor for you not being able to go because there are so many scholarships out there that you can apply for. Talk to other students who have studied abroad or your advisors and professors who can really help you. And, make sure you do your research on the weather for those months and some places you want to visit while over there so you get a sense of what to bring and how much money to save up.”

Farber’s advice is to take a language class before traveling in order to more successfully communicate with locals.

“Going to school there, you don't really need to know Italian; but if you are working there, it will really set you apart from other students and help a lot,” he said.

Echoing Sutton’s sentiments, Anderson said, “It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It is an amazing experience that you will never forget for the rest of your life,” he added.

Read the students’ blog about their Florence experienceLearn more about the Hospitality Management program

POSTED: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 9:31am
UPDATED: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 9:43am
Foluke Omosun