From bicycles to Broadway: International student finds hospitality at FDU
By Kenna Caprio
Even though Ilse Wijnen misses her bicycle and her Netherlands homeland, the 20-year-old has settled into student life in the United States, even opting to stay an extra semester on the Metropolitan Campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
As part of the Tio University and FDU exchange program established by the International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (ISHTM) for those majors, Wijnen is here studying tourism management.
Her home university, much like FDU, encourages its student population to study abroad. Right away, Wijnen knew she wanted to come to America. “We could choose from all over the world and I chose the U.S. for the college experience,” she says. “The American college experience is so different than any other country.”
Since arriving last fall, Wijnen has taken advantage of FDU’s access to New York City and other local cultural attractions — seeing three Broadway shows already. Her other adventures include trips to Washington, D.C., Savannah, Ga., Hershey Park, Pa. and upstate New York.
“Exchange students coming in just want to absorb as much as they can,” says Jim Deleppo, University director of International Student Services. Deleppo adds that international students are often eager to share their culture while abroad.
“At FDU, we have this big group of international students and it’s so nice to learn about their cultures and countries,” she says. “Now I know all about Brazil, France, China!”
She really enjoys the instant access to class, friends and campus.
“I like that you live where you go to school and you just run into friends all the time,” she says. “At home, we bike everywhere. There are more bikes than people!”
“Many international institutions are based in the city center. They don’t generally dorm,” explains Deleppo. Wijnen says that Dutch students either commute to school or live in an apartment nearby.
When FDU students study at Tio, they too stay in apartments.
“Classes are all in English and Tio students are from all over the world. The campus is an hour from Amsterdam,” says Kirsten Tripodi, ISHTM assistant professor and director of professional development. “It’s a tourism school. They do a hotel experience week, where they manage a hotel and get graded on how they did. There’s a lot of hands-on learning.”
The structure of the exchange agreement allows for state and University scholarships to remain in place for the semester abroad. So far, only students from the Metropolitan Campus have participated. ISHTM will send one student to Tio’s campus in Utrecht this fall and two Tio students will come to FDU.
Wijnen loves the exchange program so much that Tio University sent a Dutch cameraman to FDU last semester to document her time abroad. The video is being used by Tio to promote the international partnership to its students.
“It’s an opportunity for both FDU and Tio students to set themselves apart from the thousands of people who graduate each year with a hospitality degree. It helps the students, employers and us. When they come back, the students are really mature in a new way, and that helps us develop them into better leaders,” says Tripodi.
Wijnen agrees. “You really learn to be independent,” she says. “My dad said, ‘I wish I’d had that opportunity when I was younger.’ People our age can just go abroad so easily.” Her family lives in Spain and visited both this semester and last.
“For tourism and hotel management you really have to know so much about different cultures and countries,” she says. “It’d be a shame to study an international field and not have an international experience.”
Part of that international experience for Wijnen includes active, on-site learning, a cornerstone of ISHTM’s curriculum.
“We’re on a field trip every other week; we tour the front and back of the house, go to vineyards,” says Tripodi. “Foreign students get to see what’s happening in the United States instead of just reading about it. The exchange brings us all closer together, definitely fulfilling the global part of the FDU mission.”
Tripodi savors seeing the intellectual and social interactions amongst her “very bright” international and traditional FDU students. “Ilse’s been very enthusiastic and participated in marketing ISHTM’s annual scholarship dinner. She really adds a lot of spice to the students that are here,” says Tripodi.
The hospitality school runs an information session on the Tio exchange once a semester. Students looking for an international adventure may also opt to participate in class trips to Costa Rica, Switzerland and Italy. ISHTM wants to develop a food/wine/culture exchange for New Zealand, Chile, Argentina or Croatia. “I would love for all the students to be able to go on an international experience,” says Tripodi.
“The continued development of additional partnerships with international institutions will bring more exchange students to FDU. The interactions between the exchange students and the FDU students leads to a global learning environment, which is what FDU is all about,” says Deleppo.