Students Mike van Hoekelen, Sophie Beijeman, Merel Vriethoff and Sander Filippo left Amsterdam to start their great adventure on July 8, 2011. (Photo: Merel Vriethoff)

Students bring a Dutch touch to Halifax

Four students from the Netherlands learn hotel management skills at Westin Nova Scotian


Four Dutch interns in Halifax are from a country where they could legally drink alcohol at the age of 16 and where marijuana and prostitution are tolerated. But they're finding Canadian students are the ones with too liberal dress and drinking habits.

While in the Netherlands people go out in jeans, here "all the girls wear super short skirts and dresses," says 19-year-old Merel Vriethoff. Fellow intern Sophie Beijeman adds that she also notices that students in Halifax "drink a lot more [than students back home]."

As part of their hotel management program at ROC Mondriaan College in The Hague, the Netherlands, the young women and two other classmates are currently interns at the Westin Nova Scotian on Hollis Street.

"I've never worked behind the desk at a hotel in [my own country]," said Vriethoff. Her main responsibilities are at the Westin's front desk. Next month, she'll move to the human resource department.

Students on a mission

Some students in their program chose to do half of their 10-month internships in the Netherlands and the remaining five months in another European country. But Vriethoff and Beijeman, along with Mike van Hoekelen and Sander Filippo, took on the challenge of moving to Nova Scotia for 11 months.

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Working at the front desk involves "making people's stay an experience instead of just a stay," says Merel Vriethoff. (Photo: Dorine Schreiner)

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The students arrived in Halifax on July 8. Soon after, the two women were sent to the Bay of Fundy to start off their Canadian work experience at the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, while the guys worked at Keltic Lodge Resort and Spa in Cape Breton. Since late October, they have been interning at the Westin in Halifax.

The Westin has been taking in Dutch interns from ROC Mondriaan for "about seven years," says Guido Kerpel, general manager of the Westin. He grew up in the Netherlands and graduated from the college himself in the mid-'80s. Meeting a Canadian girl in his program brought him to Canada in 1989.

Kerpel has kept up a good relationship with the school and its professors. "It's good to give something back to the school that you came from," said Kerpel. Showing Dutch students a part of Canada "is kind of neat."

A different approach to student life

Vriethoff and Beijeman agree that the way they dress and drink aren't the only differences between them and young Canadians.

In regards to higher education, Vriethoff said that because of the high tuition fees in Canada, the students she has met in Halifax are "way more focused on their schoolwork. They want to do a good job ... A lot of Dutch students don't really care."

Amongst the Westin hotel staff, the student interns are referred to as "the Dutchies". Because they work and live at the hotel, they sometimes don't get out as much as they'd like to.

"If you live in a [student apartment], you connect with more people," says Beijeman, who currently has tasks in the human resource department. But, she adds, a great advantage of living at the hotel is having access to all the hotel facilities, such as the swimming pool and the gym. Also, "it's nice to only have to leave two minutes before having to be at work," said Vriethoff.

Although they are having a good experience in Nova Scotia, both women are looking forward to seeing their friends and families again when they return to the Netherlands on May 31. Until then, they're keeping the homebase posted by using Facebook, Skype and a blog. But Vriethoff said she would definitely consider coming back to work at the Westin in about two years.

Her most memorable moment in Halifax so far is cheering at a Mooseheads hockey game. "That was really cool! I'm going to go many more times," she said, smiling.





Nice blog! Merel good luck with the rest of your internship! Ayoooo

Posted by Bas | Jan 12, 2022 7:00 PM AT

Dorine, interesting to read! Thank you, Merel

Posted by oma Truus | Jan 14, 2022 1:40 AM AT

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