Lake Como, Italy

A Life Changing Experience: Work Abroad Program in Lake Como, Italy

Villa d'Este in Cernobbio, ItalyEach summer, since 2004, ten students from Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management work in nine luxury hotels in Lake Como, located in northern Italy on the border of Switzerland. Among the participating properties are the world-renowned Villa d’Este, commonly called “Hollywood on Lake Como,” located in Cernobbio; and the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, located in Bellagio, “the jewel of Lake Como.” The Villa d’Este has been ranked by some organizations as the best hotel in the world. Both of these hotels are ranked at the top of the list for resorts in Europe by Condé Nast and Travel and Leisure magazines.

Students must complete, minimally, one year of Italian to participate in this 10-week program of full-time work. The focus of the program is on developing superior customer service skills while immersing students in a different culture. Niagara’s students address all the needs of discriminating guests in luxury properties.

Dr. Gary Praetzel, dean of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, notes that the students receive outstanding evaluations from all nine properties. “It takes a lot of guts to participate in a program like this,” says Praetzel, who also notes, “that these students are highly recruited by the best employers in the industry.” “This program opened outstanding employment opportunities for many students gaining jobs for them that would have been impossible without this experience.”

“The students found this a life changing experience,” Dr. Praetzel said. “They gained a new perspective of the industry and newfound confidence in their abilities through living abroad in this program of true cultural immersion.”

Three years, prior to the start of this program, Niagara University assisted the University of Insubria in developing its new hospitality and tourism program, and at that time, began working with the Lake Como Hotel Association and the Lake Como Tourism Association to make this program possible. As part of the agreement with the University of Insubria, 10 hospitality and tourism students from that University study each fall at Niagara University as part of an exchange program, helping internationalize our campus.

Given the strong linkages that have developed between Niagara University and the Lake Como community, the two regions have discussed the possibility of a sister city relationship. The key point for the students is that they are living and working in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and visit great cities like Rome, Venice and Florence. Living in paradise and building marketability – how can you lose, and you may even see George Clooney at his Lake Como villa!