When burger meets pizza…

An American living the "Bella Vita" while on internship in Venice, Italy. Discover the story.

Meet Holden, a first year student from the D.C. area, currently doing his internship in Venice, Italy at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa’s Isola delle Rose.

Who is Holden?

Hey there! My name is Holden Quinn Madison, 19 years old, and a student at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. I’m a passionate traveler, photographer, and runner.  I was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area (Alexandria, Virginia to be exact) and share dual nationality with Switzerland.  Before EHL, I was studying in the District of Columbia at the Jesuit school, Gonzaga College High School (Class of 2016).

Hotel ambassador

Currently, I am working as a Guest Relations Trainee at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa’s Isola delle Rose in Venice, Italy.  In this capacity, I serve as an ambassador of the hotel – facilitating the guest experience in the pre-arrival, arrival, stay, and departure phases of their journey.  I answer the needs of our guests and arrange special requests during their stay.  The JW Guest Relations Team works closely with Housekeeping (ordering rose petals for romantic occasions), Room Service (delivering hand-written cards & amenities), and Concierge Teams (arranging transportation, making restaurant reservations), respectively. Upon the guests’ arrival, it is my responsibility to greet the guests. During the guests’ visit, I play a vital role in sharing recommendations on both the Isola delle Rose and the city of Venice. 

On a day-to-day basis, our team works together in a non-hierarchical setting as a collaborative structure guarantees the best operation.  While we respect the designated roles of each other and levels of seniority, we are all equally responsible in delivering exceptional experiences for our guests.  To take care of the guests, we need to take care of ourselves.

Master multi-tasker

Challenges are what make every day at work worth it.  After 4 months, I have learned a great deal of the operations of a 5-star hotel, but at the same time, I still have a lot of room to grow.  As a Guest Relations Trainee, there are some difficult days for sure.  Sometimes, we can find ourselves multi-tasking between administrative tasks and urgent requests.  Prioritization and following through on all tasks are two big challenges that come to mind.

The most rewarding part of the internship would have to be in making lifetime memories for our guests.  It is always very encouraging to hear a guest call your name and share a smile, laugh, or common connection with you.

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Bella Vita

As we say here in Italia, “Viviamo la bella vita” – we live the beautiful life.  This is very true.  However, arriving with almost no spoken Italian, I needed to adjust.  While in the city of Venice, I can get by in English.  On the mainland in Mestre where I am living, I need to make great efforts to practice my Italian.  With the help of my handy Duolingo and friends from work, I practice my Italian on a regular basis. 

I am currently sharing accommodation during this internship with one of my fellow EHL classmates, Romeo Ceglia who is studying in the French section of the same year.  We work in the very same department.  It has been so nice to share this experience with another EHL student.  Additionally, I have been in touch with one of my good friends from my first year at EHL Jean is working in Bologna.  He has come to Venice, and I just had a chance to visit him in Bologna recently.  The EHL family is very large, and one will find many visitors at the hotel who recognize the school and its prominent reputation.

A different approach to language

Believe it or not, we share so much in common.  Many Americans have Italian heritage, and in fact, many Italians love to visit the States.   In our pastimes and interests, there is a great appreciation for the national sports teams across Italy, as we would have in the US for our national sport organizations. At least from my perspective, our biggest differences perhaps lie in our approach towards language, many of my Italian colleagues are well versed in several languages – Spanish, French, German, Romanian, even Chinese and Japanese.  Growing up, I was only required to learn one language in addition to my native tongue, and I could always default to English when traveling abroad.

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Touring Italy

Italy boasts some of the most beautiful countryside and coastlines in the world.  The scenic backdrops of the mountain ranges that cross the horizons are very majestic.  So far, I’ve had a chance to visit Trieste, tucked in the far northeastern part of Italy, bordering Slovenia and Croatia.  I witnessed large jellyfish in the cerulean blue Adriatic water.  I have visited Padua (Padova) and its Università degli Studi di Padova, founded in 1222. I have ridden a Vespa up into the Tuscan hills above Florence (Firenze), and soon to visit Verona to see an Imagine Dragons concert.

Delicious food

The Italians have arguably one of the best culinary cultures in the world – from both the savory and sweet spectrums.  My favorite dish would have to be… an Octopus Salad with sweet potatoes, paprika, celery and anchovy mayonnaise. I had this at my favorite restaurant in Venice’s Dorsoduro district – Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti.  And of course, Tiramisù is a classic and timeless dessert.

Advice for future EHL students

“Be who you are and be that well” - in the words of Saint Francis de Sales. Honesty and openness are two great pieces of advice to follow as well.  You, as an applicant, are a contributing force to the student body – bring all your talent, attention, and spirit.  Follow EHL’s social media channels to get an idea of the wonderful events that EHL sponsors, the activities you will have a chance to participate in, and living the Swiss life.  Pursue contact with your local admissions officer, and make sure to meet the deadlines in the application process.

Coming from the US, I know it is quite a journey, but believe me, it is well worth it!

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