I checked out a school online called Les Roches, Marbella. Les Roches International School of Hotel Management is a private university with two campuses. One is in the Swiss Alps in the Canton of Valais and the other is in Southern Spain in Marbella. Nothing against Switzerland, but I was more interested in living on the beach in Spain.
The first paragraph from the Les Roches Marbella home page reads:
In selecting Les Roches Marbella, you have made a careful choice for your future. We understand your expectations – to start a successful career – and, consequently, our responsibility: to make it happen with your help and dedication. Within this extraordinary multicultural context (over 30 nationalities are present on our campus), you will take your first professional steps with fellow students who share your eagerness to discover an exciting career path. There will be plenty of hard work (starting right here…) but satisfaction and rewards will abound.
The first week of hotel management school was out of control. I didn’t have the right kind of suit to go to classes, so I borrowed one from another student. It was his from his freshman year, so I walked around with a freshmen stamp on the chest of my suit even though I was a Post Graduate student. It had a small rip right below the collar on my back, which slowly got bigger each day. None of my electronics worked with the voltage converters I bought. I couldn’t plug my electric shaver in, play my CD’s or charge my camera up to take pictures. All the handouts from my teachers were in the European paper style with a five-hole punch, so they didn’t fit into my three hole punch notebooks from the United States. I ripped holes in the handouts so they would fit into my binder. The Euro bills were too big to fit into my wallet, so I had to fold them lengthwise to keep them from sticking out of the top of my wallet.
While not attending classes, all students had to work in the school restaurant a couple hours a week. While we weren’t working, we could enjoy a three course meal at the school restaurant which was staffed by freshman students. The mistakes in this restaurant were legendary. Sometimes it would take an hour just to get our appetizers served. We never order soup at this restaurant because it was guaranteed to get dumped in your lap. It was “a learning experience” for the students, so we couldn’t really complain, that much.
One day in class our teacher informed us that we would be divided into groups of five for our class projects. My group’s project was to create a hotel anywhere in the world. We had to decided where it would be located, how much land we’d need, what it would cost, how we would market it and to whom, how much we would charge, how we would hire the employees, and finally, we would present a drawing of the hotel as well as a detailed floor plan of the kitchen and dining areas. We would present the final project in five months.
In order to complete this assignment, we were supposed to tie together everything we learned from all of our other classes. I was lucky to have gotten a group with some of the smartest students in class. Each one of my team-mates volunteered to do a part. Diego, the Ecuadorian, said he’d do the architectural part, Dorothee, the German, wanted to design the restaurant/kitchen and find the plot to build it on, Yahira from Madrid, volunteered to do human resources, Paula from Sweden would do the marketing, and I was assigned the accounting part since I didn’t volunteer for any other part.
Our first deadline was three months away, the Friday before Easter break. We decided that each person would start their part of the project. We’d email each other our findings and meet on the weekends.
Initially, everything seemed easy. Andres got his girlfriend in Ecuador, who was an architect, to mail us a program to design the hotel floor plan. The rest of the group members were all perfectionists, so they re-did their parts multiple times until they were perfect.
Monday through Friday we had classes from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. We also had to work as cooks/waiters/dishwashers after classes, so sometimes our days didn’t end until 11 p.m. When we finished our service, we then had to start on the homework which was due the next day. After days like these, I was glad that my apartment was just a short walk from school.
Once a month we had an assignment that the whole class of 20 students did together. It was called Event Planning. Basically, we planned a party, bought food and drinks, and charged the other students admission that had to cover our expenses. The week before each event, we’d tape up flyers announcing the dress code, the entrance fee, and what time the event would begin. Our first event was an Andalusian dinner on the school lawn. We had prepared two garbage cans full of sangria, three kegs of San Miguel beer, and a table of mixed drinks. During the meal, we’d raffle off more hard liquor.
The actual meal was secondary, as our whole school of over 100 people were highly intoxicated within the first hour of serving drinks. Two garbage cans of sangria were consumed in half an hour! After the sangria was gone, people ran into the kitchen to get empty pitchers. The students filled pitchers with fruit from the garbage cans and before we knew what was happening, a 100-man food fight broke out on the back lawn. The teachers, dressed in business suits, hid inside the school to avoid getting nailed by flying fruit. In the middle of the food fight, we decided to go ahead with the raffle and we started giving away bottles of rum and Jim Beam to the students. After all the fruit was gone, we decided to go up to the school bar on the second floor to continue the party. All the raffle prizes were consumed in the next hour, as well as all the alcohol at the school bar. After shutting down the bar, we all got into taxis and went downtown in business suits stained from the party.
The next morning, there was hell to pay. Our course professor announced in class to all the students that the class was called “Event Planning” and not “MTV Spring Break 2005.” He told us that there would be no alcohol served at any more events (he later vetoed this rule) and we’d have to do a better job cleaning up next time. This was a very mild punishment considering we nailed the wine teacher with a full pitcher of juice. Secretly, we made a pact to go even bigger for the event next month.
The dorms were really crazy at this school. I was glad I had a place to go when things got too extreme. My apartment was the same price as the dorms and everyone in my group was jealous of my apartment. Two of my group members lived in the dorms. The girl from Sweden, Paula, lived far away from campus with her dad. Yahira lived in Malaga and commuted an hour and a half to school each day. The girl from Sweden convinced my roommate Jose to invite her to stay over one Friday night so we could go out with her and her friends to Puerto Banus. It ended up being a great time, but after that weekend, this girl expected to be able to crash at our place any day of the week. She kicked Jose out of his room so he was now living in the living room most of the week. I felt bad for the guy but I felt even worse for my own situation. Not only was this girl in all my classes, but she was also in my Hotel Project group and we also had the same service schedule. On top of all this, she was now living at my house four nights a week.
I got tired of seeing the same faces everyday, so I decided to hang out with people in other grade levels. Two of the ways to accomplish this was to avoid sitting with Post Graduate students for lunch and hang around the dorms at night to meet more students.
One day I bought concert tickets to a local concert in Marbella and invited a girl from a lower grade to come with me. She couldn’t go, but invited her friend to go in her place. I was really impressed by Spanish girls, if they couldn’t make a date with you, they fixed you up with one of their friends. What a novel concept?
I told the friend of the girl that we had to be at the concert by 10 p.m. or we’d miss the opening. She agreed and invited me to go out with some of her Portuguese friends before the concert. It turned out that one of the Portuguese guys I had already met, because I had eaten lunch with him. He was a really likable guy, spoke good English, learned and used my first name in all of our interactions and was always smiling. His name was Tomas and he took us to one of his favorite bars in Marbella, where beers were only 1€ and they had live music. After hanging out in the bar with the Portuguese for a while, we walked three blocks to the concert. It was a very formal concert hall and we had great seats. The singer, Pedro Guerra, spent five minutes between each song just chatting us up about how he hated reality TV, but was always watching it and about how his producer wouldn’t let him take any publicity photos with his teeth showing.
After the concert was over, we went out to eat a huge meal of octopus and potatoes (pulpo gallego). The owner of the bar kept coming over and filling our glasses with wine. We toasted with her a minimum of twenty times that night and finally left in the middle of the next day.