After having spent six years in Thailand, Virginie Eyraud Mahé, the Room Division Consultant for her own company “Mahé Consulting,” is preparing her departure for Indonesia. She’ll be starting a new life with Renaud Mahe, her husband, who was just hired as the Restaurant Manager of the Sheraton Surabaya on Java.
Both Virginie and Renaud are graduates from Vatel in Nimes, class of 2004, where they first met. Five years later, they got married at the Vatel 5-star Hotel & Spa.
So here’s Virginie’s Success Story; we’ll be telling you Renaud’s a bit later!
Interview on July 5th
Virginie, what made you decide to go to an international hotel management school?
After my high school diploma, I went to law school where I got my Bachelor’s Degree with a major in European and International Law. Going to law school taught me an enormous amount of things in terms of precise and exacting thinking and how to structure my points of view, but during these years I was completely cut off from the world, and after a while, I got fed up with that! Not even a second to open a book other than a law procedures code and not a second to travel. So this boiled down to me being deprived from liberty, traveling, and contacts as well as what else was going on in the world. Plus I didn’t want to be unemployed either, and I had always dreamed of being fluent in English. So the hospitality industry seemed to be evident!
And why did you decide to study in Vatel in Nimes then?
Well, I was born in Nimes, so this was something really practical for me. Elisabeth Cres, the Admissions Officer in Vatel in Nimes, also influenced me in this decision. She is charming, full of energy, and those are priceless qualities. She’s like my “surrogate mom” and will always have a special place in my heart. Plus, the curriculum corresponded exactly to what I was looking for with academic courses followed by practical work in application hotels and restaurants. If I had wanted to become a Chef, I probably would have chosen another school, but for hotel management and hospitality in general, Vatel was the best possible choice and tuition fees were reasonably priced. But what was really the deal clincher for me was that Vatel had a certified diploma.
What memories do you have of the years you spent at Vatel?
A lot of them! I’ll try to sum things up in three points.
1. Sharing courses with students of all nationalities who all have something in common: Love of life and the good things it has, whatever their nationality may be! True friendships were created spanning several classes (thanks to our application weeks, Student Services, and the social networks that allow us to remain in touch today).
2. Student Services. When we arrived, they didn’t exist anymore; Elisabeth and Renaud were able to “resuscitate” them. Renaud was the president and I was the secretary. (Yes, I know this is a cliché, but I can’t help it). We organized projects, international celebrations in Student Lounges, an unforgettable trip to Prague, found sponsors all over the whole region, we met the mayor of Prague and we visited a hotel management school there and discovered an unforgettable city.
3. And of course, meeting Renaud. When I first started to go to Vatel, the one thing I didn’t want was to have a boyfriend at school, and even less, one who was in the same grade as I was! And then, what do you know, all of a sudden, my little six foot tall guy from Marseille who talks and laughs loudly, who lives life to the maximum, showed up. And here we are almost 11 years later (already!) on the other side of the world with our little Arthur who’ll be blowing out four candles on July 25, 2013!
Let’s talk about your internships. Where did you do your first year one?
At the Asteria Suites, a five-star boutique hotel that belongs to the Sani Resort on the Cassandra Peninsula, near Thessaloniki in Greece. I worked in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, first as a waitress and then as a captain.
What about your second year?
In Thailand, at the Sofitel Silom five-star hotel in Bangkok as a Sales Rep. I was in charge of Corporate and Embassy accounts. And also the Chambers of Commerce in the Europe/Canada segment. But you can say that we were only “interns” because that was what we were doing; we were actually considered to be employees.
Then I worked in Reception at the Front Office and after that as the Night Audit Manager in the InterContinental five-star Hotel in Montreal, Canada. And then back to Bangkok as the Senior Assistant to the Front Office Manager in the Plaza Athenee Bangkok, a Royal Meridian five-star hotel. And finally as a “Rooms Division” and “Operation Excellence” consultant for the entire Meridien Chiang Rai” Hotel, in northern Thailand.
Any messages you’d like to convey, Virginie?
In our jobs, everything is driven by desire and passion. The Hospitality Industry is a very demanding universe, where you can’t count the hours you’ve worked or the bags under your eyes, especially in Asia! In American, things are a bit different legally speaking. Here, a twelve-hour day is the standard, with days off that are either postponed or sometimes even forgotten, because we have to be there for our customers and our teams.
What makes Renaud and me really strong is that we know exactly what our respective constraints are and we are always there to support each other. That could be much more difficult with a partner who knows nothing about this crazy world we work in and who can’t understand why we’re not back at home at 7:00 on the dot like everyone else, and why we’re working when everyone else is having their Christmas dinners!
But having said that, we live a life that others can only imagine when they’re on a two week vacation, and we’ve got the opportunity to dig deeply into different cultures, languages, and types of cooking from all over the world.
Unemployment is a word that we don’t even know the meaning of!
Our little boy is growing up in a cosmopolitan and enriching universe. On week-ends we generally go out on elephant rides or feed fish in the temples or visit parks that have amazing waterfalls between jungles and rice paddies.
So in a nutshell, our lifestyle is a choice with constraints but so many stunning wonders!