Hospitality Management student furthers her education 4,000 miles from York
For Rachael Kos, the desire to travel started during a family trip to London and Paris.
“I really loved it,” she says, “and I knew then I wanted to study abroad.”
Soon after, she made the decision to explore a career in Hospitality Management at York College of Pennsylvania along with the opportunity to study abroad with the University of Applied Sciences in Kufstein, Austria, in Spring 2017.
Her first time in Austria was the moment she stepped off the plane to begin the five-month program — and she went through somewhat of a culture shock.
Rachael’s Event Management classes featured group work with international students. Of the 60 students in the Austrian program, only five were native English speakers, and only one other student was American.
During these classes, though, she learned how to collaborate and brainstorm with people from different cultures.
And, as one of the few native English speakers in her program, she often took on a leadership role.
“When we had group projects, which was almost every day, they looked to me and saw me as a leader in the group,” she says. “I ended up making sure everything got done and helped everyone along.”
In addition, Rachael learned about events from the perspective of people from different cultures than her own. For instance, she discovered that people from the other side of the Atlantic perceive events such as the Olympics and Tour de France quite differently than Americans.
Comfortable being uncomfortable
Even outside the classroom, Rachael received quite the education.
She grew up in Maryland about an hour away from York College, and Austria was easily the farthest that she had ever been from home without her family.
She often found herself in situations where she had to navigate an unfamiliar country surrounded by people who only spoke German.
“You learn to function in places where you don’t know anyone and don’t know the language,” she says. “I realized I became comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
It wasn’t all stressful, though.
During breaks from her classes, she had opportunities to explore Europe. She backpacked through Italy, visited Florence on Easter Sunday and spent time with a fellow students’ family in Poland.
“There are not enough words to describe how amazing an opportunity this is living with people who grew up on the opposite side of world from a different culture,” she says. “Everyone is different, but everyone is also the same.”
Readjusting to home
When Rachael made it back to the States, she found herself adjusting once again. This time, she had to acclimate to America: reading restaurant menus printed in English or hearing people speak in English — even recognizing American accents unlike ever before.
Now back at York College, she’s on track to graduate soon and is currently interning with the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Rachael says she was nervous about the decision to travel and experience life in another country, and she understands why other students considering a study abroad program might feel the same way.
However, she is glad that she took the chance and hopes that others make the same choice.
“A lot of people want to study abroad but don’t, and they end up regretting it later. I knew that would happen to me.”