There's no shame in starting at the bottom and slowly climbing up the ladder, European International College (EIC) founding dean and chairman Dr Abdullah Abdul Jalil Al Fahim told the first batch of graduates from the sole hospitality management college in Abu Dhabi prior to their graduation ceremony last week.

The first batch of students since the opening of EIC (three years ago) are due to graduate tomorrow at the Emirates Palace Hotel, where 15 students are expected to receive their hospitality management diplomas.

Even though the EIC has 70 students, an outstanding enrollment interest has encouraged management to re-locate to a bigger campus which can accommodate up to 300 students.

"More students are taking the time to learn about the hospitality industry and for that reason we open our doors to expatriates and Emiratis, offering them equal opportunities to gain academic as well as applied knowledge," Al Fahim told Notes.

The EIC is Dr Oskar R Sykora's (founding member of the EIC) 13th hotel management project; his vast experience in the hospitality management business allows him to speak about his experience with EIC students on the road to success in the hospitality sector.

"When I sit and lecture students I remember how I felt in my old days they take most things for granted. That's why I keep reminding them to slow down and start from scratch without any arrogance. They must work and explore different departments such as stewarding (dish/pot washing), back kitchen, front office, back office and so on. After seven to 10 years they can then think of working in a department, and from then on their career can develop.

Hospitality ambassadors

The first two Emirati students among tomorrow's 2009 graduating class have been selected to become hospitality ambassadors in various countries, one of whom is Khalid Al Nuaimi, president of the student council. He will speak at tomorrow's graduation ceremony on behalf of his classmates.

"Now that we are approaching the unknown, we feel the hesitation of what's next. Where are we heading? Do we stay or leave? Do we go to graduate school or immediately join the workforce? Well, let your dreams be your guide. Listen to the voice of your heart and you shall embrace the unknown. Nothing in life is impossible. It's only to be achieved by hard work, so let go of your fears and pursue your dreams before time passes you by," he said.

The second Emirati, Khalid Al Assiry, 23, will be completing his bachelor's degree in Switzerland before working in the tourism sector. "My dream is to make a difference in my country's tourism through offering innovative ideas and I am in no rush to reach seniority before learning all I can from the tourism authority and working with each and every single department to get a feel of how things operate," he said.

Usman Suri from Pakistan, 21, scored a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.8, which makes him the highest ranking member of his graduating class. When Usman entered EIC he was keen to become a sommelier, but after completing his internship at two international hotels in Abu Dhabi, he decided that events management is what he wants to do.

Usman wants to take his time to reach that goal. "After my bachelor's, I intend to spend a good six years in a hotel where I'll work in new and different departments and gain as much knowledge as possible; from there I can move onto events," he said.

Egyptian national Ala'a Mahmoud, 21, started studying psychology in Cairo but gave that up to pursue hospitality management. "My passion is to work in a hotel's human resources department where I am not fully exposed to guests, yet can still meet people within the organisation and help train new comers."

Lessons learnt

Hind Ahsan from Pakistan, 22, scored a GPA of 3.2 and has completed her internship in guest relations while studying at EIC.

"Visiting a hotel is totally different from working in a hotel, and with that in mind I started to sympathise with hoteliers who are at the forefront and blame management more. I learnt how to be firm when required. If a guest tries to exceed his limit with me I'd simply set him straight," said Hind with a steely glare.

"Yes I'm active," she chuckled. "During my autumn break last year I chose to work the whole two weeks in one of the hotels in Dubai. I didn't regret that experience at all. I've already sent my resume to more than 25 companies, some of which are event companies, others hotel. Only five got back to me - I blame it on the economic crunch, but I have hope that I'll find the right job, by remaining passionate and searching hard."