Adapting to the Year 2020 – A Story of Resilience, Determination and Collaboration – Part 2

The student perspective

Written by Maddie Stephen (Tourism Student at William Angliss)

I have always, well, for as long as I can remember, had a passion for food and travel. During high school my favourite subjects always included anything to do with food, so when I was able to attend classes at William Angliss as part of my VET Hospitality subject, I knew I was heading in the right direction. Having completed my Event Management diploma at William Angliss in 2012, I decided to follow my dream of living and working in London. Here, I was able to explore most of Europe, whilst also having an amazing opportunity to work in one of the world’s most famous cricket grounds. After returning home for 10 months, I decided I was not finished feeding my travel bug, and moved to Dublin, where I was part of a start-up restaurant that was joining a booming food scene in the city. 

Through these experiences in restaurants and events in Melbourne, London, and Dublin, I have witnessed and adapted to the many changes and trends the industry has faced. But what was becoming interesting to me was discovering why people are choosing to travel and where they are going based on these decisions. After returning home with an empty bank account but a thirst for learning more about the tourism industry, I decided to combine both my passions and started the Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management back at William Angliss. I have enjoyed learning all aspects of business, whilst being able to apply my industry experiences, but what really interested me were topics that focused on sustainability and what the tourism and hospitality industries will face when moving into the future. So, when news of the COVID 19 virus was spreading and beginning to affect countries across the globe, it had me questioning how it was going to affect me, my studies, and the future of the industries I know and love.

During those first couple of months, the understanding, communication, and support we received from our teachers had me feeling grateful and reassured that we will get through our studies.

I have never wanted to sit at a desk in front of a computer for most of my working life, so when classes moved from on-campus to online, I groaned just a little inside. At first it was daunting, confusing, and frustrating, when we could no longer come to the city for classes, could not sit with our classmates to discuss topics, or even go to the library to study. However, during those first couple of months, the understanding, communication, and support we received from our teachers had me feeling grateful and reassured that we will get through our studies in this trying time. We transitioned to live or recorded lectures and zoom tutorials, where my teachers managed to keep us engaged and motivated using online programs like Padlet, quizzes, as well as utilising all the William Angliss’ platform Moodle has to offer. 

That is not to say online learning was smooth or easy. With nearly everyone in my household working from home, I had to ensure that I had a study space that was just my own. I also created a schedule to help balance and maintain the amount of time I was now spending in front of a computer, which included taking scheduled breaks for lunch and going for a walk. Some days, having a schedule, and sticking to it, was difficult, especially when Netflix and bed was way more comfortable! But I was determined to get through the semester. I unfortunately missed out on activities and excursions, like wine tastings and a trip to Hurstbridge, that is normally crucial to class work and assignments during the semester, but thankfully my teachers were still able to organise fantastic guest speakers from different industries, who were willing to provide knowledge and insight of their chosen fields.

Pre- COVID, I had heard about the Young Tourism Network from Jess Derham (Tourism Lecturer at William Angliss), as well as guest speakers in class, but kept putting off joining until the first lockdown began, where I realised that during these uncertain times it was important to connect and network with people in the industries I want to be a part of. Although feeling nervous at first, joining the YTN Zoom social events were a fantastic way to start meeting people from across all different companies, but also other students that were in the same position as me. They hosted zoom trivia and speed networking sessions, as well as webinars with a range of speakers from both the hospitality and tourism industries. Jess then encouraged me to apply for the Trusted Advisor Program, where I was matched with a mentor that had much knowledge and experience of the travel industry and sustainability. During our fortnightly zoom sessions, we discussed the current challenges of COVID, how this disruption and change will impact tourism and hospitality industries, and what the future of work may look like. I was also guided to learn more about myself and my values and skills that will be beneficial for when we started reopening and rebuilding. I am looking forward to finally meeting other YTN members face-to-face in 2021, when networking events will be held in some awesome places around Melbourne.

I know we are one of the most resilient and determined industries.

Now, at the beginning of 2021, I am excited to see how the hospitality and tourism industries will emerge out of the uncertainty that the pandemic caused. From everything that I have discovered about myself, what I have learnt in my subjects, to the discussions we had during the YTN Zoom socials, I know we are one of the most resilient and determined industries, but that there are many opportunities that we can take to become more sustainable in the future.