I embarked on a journey – a dream come true
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I embarked on a journey – a dream come true

As a growing child I remember that I always had a passion for hospitality. I was the child who would get very excited when an occasion was being celebrated, whether it be a small birthday party, or a wedding. I was always keen on being involved in the coordination of these functions. I was also raised by a family who loved cooking; my mother and my aunts instilled this passion even more by teaching me how to cook.

At the tender age of 8, I took on cooking missions such as baking sponge cakes and baking pies from scratch. I was always an observer as a child; a dreamer too. I can vividly remember watching the movie, ‘Maid in Manhattan’ as a child, and I was really captivated by the way they portrayed the hospitality industry.

Dreams of travelling the world

My only option at that stage was to DREAM, as my family weren’t exactly explorers. I dreamt about travelling the world, walking the streets of New York, visiting Disneyland, and being on luxury cruise ships.

In Grade 10 at New Forest High School in Montclair, Durban, we had the opportunity to do a week of work experience which would help us in choosing a career. So I chose to work in a hotel, which was the Protea Hotel Edward.

When I had completed my work experience, I had my mind and career choice made up. I knew that the hospitality industry was for me and I wanted to go to a hotel school. Neli and Nicola, who are the sales ladies at The International Hotel School, came to New Forest High to tell us about the amazing course offered by IHS, which automatically became my first choice amongst other tertiary institutions.

Priceless experiences through hotel management

I enrolled at The International Hotel School’s Durban campus in 2010, choosing Hotel Management, as it incorporates both the culinary and business management. I then started making my dreams a reality…

One of the first things Mr Clark told us was, “We are going to shed sweat, blood and tears for this Diploma”, and indeed I have shed all three.

The experiences I have had with IHS are priceless. I’ve served some of the most respected people, such as the President of Hilton Worldwide, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, South Africa’s Ministers, and more. I’ve been given opportunities to grow and experiment while I was at The Suncoast Hotel and Towers. I’ve also been a part of glorious occasions such as the FIFA World Cup 2010, The Royal Wedding Reception of the Prince of Monaco and Princess Charlene, which was held at The Oyster Box.

The Ritz-Carlton Resort of Naples in Florida

I also had the opportunity to work at The Ritz-Carlton Resort of Naples in Florida, which I have to say was the best experience I have had so far. The Ritz-Carlton is one of the leading hotel brands in the world; it’s a luxury brand of hotels under Marriott.

The motto of the Ritz-Carlton is, “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” This motto is not just written on paper, it is epitomised by EVERY staff member. From the General Manager to the Stewarding Staff, respect and integrity is shown in each and every thing that they do.

While I worked for the Ritz-Carlton, I was taught to share and improve my skills. My Supervisor and General Manager taught me leadership skills which have made them successful within the company. I learned numerous business skills such as ‘up-sellling’ and negotiating. While I was there, I had the opportunity to be a part of a wedding that was worth over US $ 1 million, which was all a result of up-selling. What I also learnt is the mannerisms that make them so successful in the hospitality industry.

A dream come true

While I was in America, I met some of the most amazing people. At work I had mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters! I met people from Cuba, Peru, and Haiti, and through that I learnt how they lived, their language, and even tasted their food. I truly enjoyed learning something new from each of these individuals. The staff members would share their stories of how they live in their countries and I would share my stories of South Africa too. Being Proudly South African made it super hard as I would often miss our food such as boerewors, biltong, mielie pap, and various dishes you can ONLY find in Africa.

After I completed my internship practical at the Ritz-Carlton, I was permitted to travel in the USA for a one month vacation. I went to Miami Beach, which was incredible! I went to go and visit my aunt and cousin in Texas, where I had the opportunity to learn how Mexican people live as and learn more about their culture.

Empire State of Mind

Then finally I got a chance to visit New York City! When I walked around Times Square, I felt like I had accomplished something in life! I had goosebumps; I even felt like crying because it was a dream come true! I walked the streets of New York for 20 hours; I just couldn’t believe it.

This all happened because I embarked on a journey with The International Hotel School; a journey that I’m still walking…

I have many dreams and ambitions that I’m going to fulfill. In 10 years time, I see myself climbing up the career ladder and hopefully being a Food and Beverage Director in a hotel.

Set goals and plans to get you closer to your dreams. The world is yours, EXPLORE.

by Sisekelo Shange 

Find out more about how Sisekelo’s hotel internship dreams came true!

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I embarked on a journey – a dream come true