We had long had the intention to organise vocational training for our students in an English-speaking country.
By now we can be proud of having fulfilled our ambition: in the past four years we realised three successful and memorable projects with the help of the Leonardo Mobility support provided by the European Union.
Our school is a bilingual secondary school (Xántus János Secondary School) providing vocational training in the field of tourism and catering including the hotel industry. Our pedagogical programme includes a compulsory vocational training which students fulfil in hotels after finishing grade 11. This latter part of our educational programme in the past four years was realized in Stockholm hotels for 12 worthy students each year who had to demonstrate their aptness in a series of tests before the trip, and were selected according to set criteria. In the project we appear as the co-ordinating institution responsible for the preparation of students, for administrative tasks, signing contracts, keeping deadlines, maintaining daily contact with partner institutions and parents. Throughout the whole period of the practical training a regular monitoring activity is carried out involving mentors at the hotels, the co-ordinating teacher at our partner school, Tibble Gymnasium and the Hungarian tutor (the project co-ordinator teacher who travels to Sweden with the students).
Our partner institution, Tibble Gymnasium had two successful Leonardo projects of the same kind over the past years as a result of which they knew exactly what was expected from them in terms of acting as a partner institution. Tibble Gymnasium searched out hotels that suited the expectations of our school and maintained close contact with them acting as a mediator between the hotels and us.
The hotels our students are placed in are all situated in Stockholm, two of them in the inner city, the rest a bit further out. Two of them bear three stars, the others are four- and five-star hotels. On our first days in Stockholm all the students are introduced in all the hotels as we want them to get to know the workplaces of their piers. We must make mention of the fact that all the hotels are always extremely helpful to harmonize the schedules of the pairs of students so that we can have weekday late afternoons and the whole weekend free for ourselves as a group. Students work 6-7 hours daily, they start in the morning and finish early in the afternoon.
During the work experience our students are familiarized with several sectors of the hotel: they can try themselves in the House Keeping (making beds, cleaning rooms and bathrooms, emptying bins, refilling mini bars), in the breakfast and restaurant area (buffet breakfast duties, laying tables, cleaning tables, decoration, preparation and light cooking) and have the chance to discover the reception area, the Front Desk. However, for being thoroughly involved in the workings of the latter one should have a good command of the Swedish language. Still, there is one hotel that is happy to have our students even in this sector teaching them how to handle the computerised reservation system. There are some students who are asked to spend some days in the conference sector as well.
In their free time - apart from resting - students carry out activities related to tourism: they give a presentation on Hungary to those wishing to know more about our country; conduct a survey among Swedish people on their travelling habits and the image of Hungary as perceived by them. The group discover Stockholm bit by bit with its world-famous museums, colourful cultural life, Viking traditions and fabulous art. They collect postcards, pictures, leaflets, brochures that can be used at tourism lessons back in Hungary. Students also have the opportunity to sail out to the archipelago and the Baltic Sea on a 12-storey cruiser where a guide accompanies them explaining about the giant "moving hotel". This is an extraordinary experience for students of hotel studies. The students from Tibble Gymnasium are always happy to act as hosts to our students. It is partly thank to their organizational skills that Stockholm is considered as "one of the friendliest places in the world" by many of our students (for example the Welcome Party is just unforgettable).
The summer practice in Stockholm is officially acknowledged by our school. Students are given Europasses in recognition of their work abroad. According to many of them this first work experience in a foreign country has convinced them that working abroad is something many would like to do again in the near future. Throughout the whole period our students use English most of the time, which turns them into confident speakers and extend their professional as well as everyday vocabulary. As would-be hotel experts students can learn basic behaviour patterns, the right attitude towards guests, and their own limits at their first ever workplace in their lives. According to their mentors students go through a remarkable development: the first quiet, occasionally clumsy trainees become conscious, independent, reliable colleagues. The trainees now have an insight into new technologies (selective waste collection, environment-conscious thinking), are aware of various business policies, philosophies. This vocational training makes them discover the joy and pride of being able to look after themselves: they are responsible for their own budget, for washing, cooking, shopping every day. Students usually also demonstrate a considerable improvement in their team-work abilities. At the hotel management lessons the students who have been to Stockholm do better and can learn easily due to the intensive practice they had in English.