Picture yourself on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman en Suisse) in the sunshine of a November day with an incredible backdrop. I got to enjoy this beautiful spot (Vevez, Switzerland) while visiting and learning about the École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), a university dedicated to business studies through the lens of the hospitality industry.
Or maybe you’d rather picture a first-year class that takes place here in the gourmet restaurant, Le Berceau des Sens (mentioned in the Michelin guide). Your instructors hover nearby to give you in-the-moment feedback and to support your learning (and pick you up quickly when you fall backwards, as one poor student-waiter did when I was there).
Or perhaps the coffee bar is more your style, or you are hungry to prepare food (and eat) in a beautiful food court, offering exceptional student “cafeteria” food.
No matter which you pick, you would experience them all in your first year as a student here at EHL. They are the “ateliers” (workshops) you’ll experience during the Année Préparatoire in the Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management, the four-year undergraduate degree offered at EHL.
In that first year you spend up to two weeks learning each area in the operational side of the hospitality industry, while attending classes on the university campus. You’ll experience a variety of jobs: serving the students, faculty, and public, with time spent in the kitchen, the dish pit (it’s way more elegant than that), and the serving area, and as cleaners and front desk staff. You cap off that year with a 12-week industry placement anywhere in the world in an operations role.
EHL’s philosophy is that in order to be successful in the industry, you must first experience all aspects of it – and you’ll do that in your first 12 months. Your first-year supplies include a briefcase of knives, chef’s whites, servers black, cleaning blues, and identical steel-toed kitchen shoes. (You might also be interested to find out what the dress code is when you aren’t in those uniforms above. Hint: leave your wedge heels at home!)
In the three years that follow you turn your attention to the management side of the hospitality industry, studying all the subjects found in a standard university commerce/management/business program. EHL is a non-profit Swiss-accredited institution, with PhD professors and industry professionals who hold high expectations for both theory and application, both of students and instructors.
The third year of the program includes a 24-week internship and you finish up the program with the opportunity either to prepare a thesis or do a student business project, where a company pays to hire a group of six students to consult on a real business issue. Students spend nine weeks researching and preparing the consultant report, before presenting their findings back to the company. Talk about real-world learning!
Overview of the Bachelor’s Program
Preparatory year: Immersion in the world of hospitality and an operations internship.
Bachelor’s program year 1: Fundamentals of management.
Bachelor’s program year 2: Skills enhancement and management internship.
Bachelor’s program year 3: Integration and final degree project.
With one out of every 10 jobs expected to be in hospitality by 2020, this is a program that produces industry-ready graduates and boasts a 96% employment rate within 6 months of graduation. However, half of their graduates use their business degree in other areas, such as real estate, property development, luxury goods, consulting, catering, banking, and event management, in careers around the world.
If you’re looking for something different, this might just be the place for you. And if, while you’re there, you master the art of the macaron or lemon mousse, or need someone to be a customer in your fine establishment, don’t forget about me!