International experience without internship abroad

Trails of Global Minds

 "It was intended as a one-time event to give students an experience similar to arriving in a foreign city. Finding your own way around. Being resilient and flexible."

Internship abroad. One of the highlights during your studies. But for the past two years, many students saw this opportunity to spread their wings pass them by due to the coronavirus. To ease the pain, the Hotel Management School Maastricht and the Global Minds at Work chair Ankie Hoefnagels put a band-aid on the wound last week: the 'Trails of Global Minds'.

For three days, third- and fourth-year students hiked in small groups through the Euregion. The trips were all about twenty kilometers long and led in the region around Vaals through beautifully rolling landscapes with picturesque villages. 


Forgotten map...

At the bus stop on the Wilfried-König Strasse on the outskirts of Aachen, three HMSM teachers are waiting for a bus full of students. Once everyone has disembarked, the driver shuts the doors and continues on his way. "Which one of you has the map?" asks lecturer Armand Odekerken. The students look at each other questioningly. "Oh no, it's still on the bus," shouts third-year Ugo Gravagno (20). Fortunately, someone else has a copy and Armand also has the route on his cell phone. After a brief discussion about the route to take, the group gets moving. With the descent of an unpaved path, they say goodbye to the huge corporate buildings of Aachen. A babbling brook and twittering birds drown out the roar of cars in the distance.

International stories

Geoff Marée has just started as a lecturer at the hotelschool and is grabbing this opportunity to get to know students and colleagues better. His colleague Armand explains that today will be a good opportunity for the students to get to know the international Euroregion in which they are studying. "Other people, other buildings and we have put together mixed groups of national and international students."

At the end of the walk, another surprise awaits the students. "For example, one group meets a couple who fled from Syria. With no possessions and some knowledge of the Dutch language, they still managed to start their own restaurant in Nijswiller. They will tell the students how they did this. Another group will meet a veteran of Defense who was often sent abroad. He too will tell about his experiences and answer questions from the students," says Armand. The goal is for the students to learn something about other cultures, even though they missed their internship abroad. In order to also link up with the war in Ukraine, each group of students sought sponsors for their walk. With the final amount, the hotelschool wants to support  students Ukraine or Russia financially through the Foundation HMSM. At the beginning of the walk the group still clearly consists of two parts. The Dutch students and the international ones. But after climbing the Seffenterberg, they start talking to each other more and more.

Longing for an internship abroad

"Due to corona, I couldn't do an internship abroad," Ugo Gravagno explains. "Instead, I did an internship in IJmuiden at Basecamp Tiny House Eco Resort." When lecturer Ankie Hoefnagels asked which students wanted to help organize these Trails of Global Minds walks, Ugo didn't hesitate for a moment. "I immediately signed up because I like to organize something. Globalization and international cooperation is what I love. I have Italian and Lebanese roots myself, I grew up in Germany where I was in the French-speaking class and now I study in the Netherlands," he laughs. Ugo reveals that this morning the counter of the fundraiser for supporting students Ukraine and Russia already stands at 2000 euros. That ended up being 3000 euros at the end of the week.

Ice machine and cows

Ugo hopes to do his second internship abroad. Preferably outside Europe. And that also applies to third-year student Marald Verschut (24). "I had to think about it for a while before I decided to walk with him. It's twenty kilometers after all. But it's not raining, so I went along." Somewhere from his backpack music sounds. Ideal to keep up the courage. Last year he did an internship at Randstad and for his second internship he would like to go to England. "Fortunately, I still have a second internship. I chose the hotelschool  because you have the opportunity to do an internship abroad." After his education, he also sees himself living abroad for a while. "Although I think I'll eventually come back to the Netherlands." Further on, the students walk past an ice cream machine and there is some time to cuddle cows.

New tradition?

Research director Ankie Hoefnagels of Global Minds @ Work looks back on the event with satisfaction. "It was intended as a one-time event to give students an experience similar to arriving in a foreign city. Finding your own way around. Being resilient and flexible. Well the students did prove that they are. I had to secretly laugh at their resourcefulness. They borrowed e-steps on the campus of RWTH Aachen, or they hitchhiked for free with an Omnibuzz. Afterwards, they would say that the driver was an immigrant with whom they had spoken at length. I also saw how students were touched by the stories of our speakers. The atmosphere was good. That's what you do it for. We won't be organizing anything as extensive as this again anytime soon. Let them go back to their international internships. But we will continue to organize the walks on a small scale, in combination with Euroregional educational activities. There is also interest from other Zuyd academies. And a few colleagues already envisioned it as a team outing," says Hoefnagels.

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