When his family relocated to Shanghai in 2007, Jonathan Lau and his twin brother, Samuel, started in the Primary programme at YCIS Pudong. Ten years later, the boys graduated, and Samuel went off to study International Management at Warwick University school in the UK, while Jonathan headed to Switzerland to study at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). We recently caught up with Jonathan to discuss moving abroad (again), his university studies, and how snowy Switzerland compares to Shanghai.
The École Hôtelière de Lausanne, the first and oldest hotel school in the world, is widely regarded as the best hospitality school across the globe. Can you tell us about your studies?
I am studying for a BSc in International Hospitality Management – a management course focused on the hospitality industry. I am currently in my second year and will graduate in 2021. I participate in daily classes in various management courses such as Financial Accounting & Analysis, and Micro & Macro Economics, but also more practical classes such as Human Behaviour & Performance, and Business Communications. My day-to-day studies also involve meetings with my classmates as there are many group projects in university.
What inspired you to study hotel management at EHL?
I decided to study international hospitality management when I discovered I had a passion for the hospitality industry when I was in High School at YCIS. In Year 11, as part of the Job Shadow Programme I was able to work at the Parkyard Hotel, and it was a terrific experience that cemented my interest in future studies and a career in this industry. As EHL offers an incredible hospitality management course, I was sure that continuing with my studies here would help prepare me to start a successful career in the industry.
How did your experience at YCIS help prepare you for university, both academically and beyond the academics?
The IB (International Baccalaureate) programme played a key part in preparing me academically as courses such as Business Management gave me a solid foundation of skills and knowledge. Beyond academics, I would say that participating in sports teams throughout my time at YCIS taught me how to stay committed and determined in achieving goals that I set for myself, and to continuously seek to challenge myself in joining new roles in my university, such as becoming a Student Ambassador and an Admissions Assistant for my school.
How did you find the transition from YCIS to university?
Adapting to student life on campus was actually quite easy as both YCIS and my university have diverse environments with students from all over the world.
The level of academic intensity was also not difficult to adapt to as the IB programme prepares you well for that.
How has your experience at YCIS helped you meet new challenges?
YCIS taught me how to adapt to new environments with an open mind. During my time at the school I was able to travel to many places through the Education Outside of the Classroom (EOTC) excursions, IB trips, and ACAMIS sports tournaments. For me, it is important to face challenges with an open outlook and see these as opportunities to learn and grow.
There are three times as many people living in Shanghai than there are in the entirety of Switzerland. Can you tell us what it was like to adjust to life in your new city?
There is a huge difference between the cities. The biggest difference would definitely be the lifestyle, as Swiss people really focus on family time and relaxing on weekends (you can see this because most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays), whereas, Shanghai is one of the busiest and most vibrant cities on Earth. I would say that finding a good place to eat on a weekend takes much more effort in Switzerland!
In general, though, I adjusted to my new life in Lausanne quite naturally because the school environment wasn’t that different than what I experienced in high school at YCIS.
As part of my course, I also completed a six-month internship at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, and I had the chance to explore a new culture and immerse myself into the local lifestyle there for half a year, which I enjoyed very much. At first, adjusting to life there was harder as I was there alone, without my classmates and peers because we all chose different locations for our internships. I had to go to work alone, finish work alone, and spend my off-days alone in the beginning because I was new to the city and I basically knew nothing and no one. So, I had to adapt to being alone for the most part in the beginning because my colleagues couldn’t be with me all the time, unlike my friends in high school and college whom I get to see almost all day every day. However, in the end, it was the most amazing professional opportunity I have had so far, and I really enjoyed the experience.
As you finish your second year at EHL, what are you learning that you enjoy the most?
The class I enjoy the most is Human Behavior and Performance in University because I have the opportunity to learn how humans behave under certain conditions and how we can affect them, which is especially important as human talent is crucial in the hospitality industry.
What do you plan on doing after you graduate?
I am looking forward to starting my career in the hospitality industry as a Management Trainee.
What do you miss most about Shanghai?
I miss my friends and the food, of course! I also miss the student life I had at YCIS, especially being able to participate in ACAMIS tournaments and different activities with my friends. Fortunately, despite being in different cities, countries, or continents, I still keep in touch with many of my YCIS classmates who I have known for many years, including Ian, Davy, and Jerry.