Posted September 1st, 2023 By Yummy Jobs
Ana Maria's year at Weekapaug Inn!
1. What was the best thing about your Program?
The Program was such an amazing experience, that it is very hard to choose just one thing. I believe the best part for me was the opportunity to completely get out of my comfort zone, learn and live in a totally different culture and rediscover myself as a person and as a passionate hospitality lover. I am so grateful for the team that I was part of and all the things I learned from them. The F&B industry is definitely a very challenging one, but I believe that this is part of its charm and the reason why it can bring so many satisfactions. During my classes at Hotel Institute Montreux I gained a lot of theoretical knowledge, but my J1 experience was my chance to add in the practical skills that are absolutely irreplaceable. The fact that I had the chance to do this in a property like The Weekapaug Inn, which holds such high standards, made me love and respect the industry so much more and reassured me that this is the path that I want to follow in my career.
2. How did you develop personally while on the Program?
There have been many challenges and situations that made me mature and develop on a personal level. It was the first time I had to manage myself completely on my own from all points of view. Financially, it was the first time I was earning my own money, which motivated me more than ever before to try and manage them as best as I possibly could, making sure I divide my earnings correctly between pleasure, utilities, and savings. From the housing point of view, I lived with 5 other girls in a house that we all shared, which taught me a lot about tolerance, compromise, and compassion. We got along extremely well, very quickly becoming a little family. We all had similar educational backgrounds, having studied in Switzerland, however, we were all from different parts of the world. I believe that this brought together the perfect combination of differences and similarities to make things both interesting and comfortable. The independence brought with it a certain level of self-discipline that I believe is almost impossible to gain any other way.
3. How did you develop professionally while on the Program?
Being my first work experience, the Program greatly affected me from a professional point of view. The experience itself and the people on the team made me develop a strong work ethic. Dedication, passion, attention to detail, teamwork, striving for excellence are just a few of the phrases that I associate with Weekapaug Inn and the team I was part of. As an F&B intern, I had the amazing opportunity to experience the department from multiple points of view; I started by being a hostess, then moved to server assistant, server, conducting a private dining experience, working at different events, shadowing my managers, etc. Being part of the F&B department made me realize more than ever how important it is to truly love the career path that you choose to pursue. I believe that without passion you could never give 100% of yourself to the work you're doing. Only by giving 100% of yourself will you ever be truly satisfied with your results, the happiness of your guests, which is why everyone kept coming to work day in and day out with the same great motivation and energy that made everything work so smoothly even in the difficult times that the whole world was experiencing.
4. What was the most useful thing you learned by going to work in the USA?
The most useful thing I learned by working in the USA is that you should always try to be better today than you were yesterday. The hospitality industry is always changing, always improving and I realized that as a hospitality worker, so should I. Sometimes it can be a small improvement, such as being a little faster or a little more careful than yesterday, other times it can be a much bigger change, such as starting a course to improve your skills. The important thing is that you never settle and always try to be and do better. Another very important thing is not to lose sight of the reason why you choose this path in the first place. The truth is that the F&B industry and hospitality, in general, can get very tiring, demanding, and require a lot of sacrifices. However, the satisfaction it brings along is irreplaceable and makes everything worth it.
5. How has your J1 Program helped in the next steps of your future career?
During my J1 Program, I worked on an operational level in the F&B department. As my goal is to reach the highest positions the hospitality industry has to offer, I believe that starting at the bottom is the only way you can get to the top. Reading about what a job encounters and actually doing it yourself are two completely different things. By being in this position myself I understood what the challenges of the job are, what are the demands, what are the things that the employees want, and what would make their jobs easier. Interacting with my managers daily gave me an idea of how important communication and teamwork are to ensure success and what are the traits I most admire in a leader, as well as the ones I'm not exactly fond of. I believe that this experience was a crucial step towards my future career that gave me the practical skills I needed to add to my theoretical knowledge.
6. If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about a program, what would it be?
"Go without thinking twice!". Saying yes to this opportunity was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was the most rewarding, tiring, happy, challenging, demanding, satisfying 6 months of my life. I have grown more than I ever thought possible, both from a personal and a professional point of view. I would advise the future applicants, once they get to the USA to give their best every day and work as hard as they can, as it brings tremendous satisfaction. I would also advise them to be completely open to the new culture they're about to immerse in. The American people are very friendly and open to learning about different cultures themselves. It was one of my favorite parts of the Program to talk about my culture to my American friends and get to experience their culture first hand. Every day held a new "lesson", so it was never a dull moment!
7. Where did you visit on your time off?
My internship took place in Westerly, Rhode Island. Consequently, I tried to take advantage and visit as many of the nearest places as I could. I was able to travel with the ferryboat to Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. I also visited Newport, Rhode Island, one of my favorite places that I believe beautifully showcases the New England style.
I also had the opportunity to visit Providence, New York City, and Boston, which were very easily accessible by train. The furthest place I traveled to was Niagara Falls (the US Side). It was a magical experience, as I greatly enjoy nature and the outdoors. Being accompanied by some of my American friends on most of these trips made the experiences that much more interesting as they showed and explained things to me that I would have never gotten to know otherwise.
8. What was the biggest culture shock you experienced about living in the US?
I believe that the biggest culture shock I experienced was how open and eager to help everyone was. From the first day, so many people offered me rides back and forth from work without knowing anything about me... It was indeed a very car-dependent area, but it was such a pleasant surprise to see that they are so willing to help me. Another thing that shocked me was the food. There were so, so many choices all the time, both when eating at a restaurant and when doing grocery shopping at the supermarket. The choices were never-ending and the portions and product sizes seemed so big to me! The truth is that I probably experienced culture shock every day, but the people I was with made everything seem so interesting that I never felt out of place or uncomfortable, but rather grateful to be able to discover a new culture.
Every experience is different and every person has different priorities. However, it would be my pleasure to list my top 5 tips that I hope will help future applicants:
Make the best out of your free time! Even though you may be very tired when you have some time off, I suggest you find a balance between rest and exploring the places around you. Time flies by and even if it seems a lot in the beginning it will be over before you know it. Travel to as many places as you can, it is a wonderful way to discover the beauty of the culture.
Be curious, be open! Be curious about the people around you, about their culture, about their habits...be open about your culture and share as much as you can. This is a great way to connect with people and build friendships. The relationships you build during your time on the program are what can help you smile and enjoy yourself whenever you feel homesick. Don't forget you have an amazing opportunity to discover a culture and meet new people!
Work hard! Always be dedicated and give 100% when you are at work. It will help you grow and it will boost up your confidence, knowing you're being the best version of yourself. Learn from everyone around you and don't be afraid to speak up if you feel you can teach something to someone yourself.
Take lots of pictures! This is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience! Take the time to document it properly. Take pictures of your favorite places, of your favorite people, of your workplace, of your house...Make sure you have something to look back at 10 years from now when you want to remember one of the most exciting times of your life!
Enjoy yourself! Enjoy your time in the USA to the fullest. Enjoy your roommates, your travels, your work. Enjoy the lessons, the busy days, the culture, and the people you meet. Make sure you come back richer than when you left: richer in experience, richer in memories, richer as an individual, and richer as a professional!back