A summer break at 1800m above sea level


Needing a break from university, a Slovakian student made the most of her language skills and headed to work in a picturesque Alpine hotel for the summer of 2008. After a stressful year at university, Mariana Bacigalova, 23, was looking forward to her summer holiday. However, as she also wanted to improve on her foreign language skills, she decided that a summer job abroad in the hotel sector would be an ideal way of having a break and doing something useful for her CV at the same time.

Mariana had already gathered some impressive qualifications in the tourism sector: before starting her Marketing Communication studies in Trnava, western Slovakia, she completed a five-year vocational programme with a Slovakian hotel academy. What’s more, she is fluent in four languages and had already spent several summer seasons working in Germany and Luxemburg in hotels and restaurants.

As the summer approached, Mariana tried to find a summer placement in the UK in order to improve her English. However, despite all her efforts and qualifications, she struggled to find a hotel that would hire her. She then came across the EURES portal, where she decided to place her CV. Slovakian EURES Adviser Zuzana Cervenova spotted the addition and forwarded Mariana’s details to Fabio Malinconico from Job Centre International in Switzerland, a recruitment agent with whom she has a productive, long-standing partnership. Mr Malinconico quickly found Mariana a job as a waitress at Hotel Burgener, a small hotel with a restaurant in Saas Fee, a picturesque village in the German-speaking part of the Swiss Alps. He helped Mariana every step of the way with all the information she needed to make the move.

Although it was not her initial plan to go to Switzerland, Mariana was more than happy with her job at 1800 metres’ altitude. ‘My work at Hotel Burgener was really amazing. After a very tiring year at university back home, I needed a change and enjoyed my work as a waitress. I served customers from across Europe, made use of my foreign language skills and really improved my German. People were really friendly there – in Saas Fee I was never made to feel like a foreigner. People there are so used to tourists and visitors from abroad that it really does not make any difference where you come from. I enjoyed my summer there a lot.’

Mariana’s previous training and work experience in this area proved to be very helpful. When she arrived at Hotel Burgener, she was ready to start work immediately and needed no further guidance. ‘Certainly anyone can work in a hotel or a restaurant, but if you have been trained properly and have some previous experience in that area, this makes a big difference to the quality of the services you provide and it also impresses the customers’.

After having spent a splendid three months in Switzerland, Mariana is now back to her hometown Sered in Slovakia. However, as her work was very much appreciated at Hotel Burgener and she enjoyed working in the Swiss mountains so much, she is planning to head in the direction of Saas Fee once again before too long!

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