Interview Jennifer

We spoke to Jennifer about her experience as a hotel intern in London, England, with:

  • London Marriott Hotel Park Lane
  • Renaissance Chancery Court High Holborn
  • What did your internship involve?
  • How did the application process work?
  • What was your accommodation like?
  • Did you miss anything from Germany while in the UK?
  • How was your social life outside the job?
  • Which must-see destinations would you recommend?
  • What effect did the internship have on your teaching/English skills?
  • Do you have any advice for potential future interns?
  • Jennifer's London checklist

What did your internship involve?

In 2003, I worked as a front desk agent in two different hotels belonging to the same chain, the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane, on the corner of Marble Arch and Oxford Street, and the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in High Holborn in the City. I was doing an apprenticeship in hotel management which entitled me to work in any hotel I wanted to. I had worked with that chain in Germany before, so I chose Marriott. I wanted to spend time in some English-speaking country and it turned out to be London.

How did the application process work?

I had already trained in front desk through the Room Division department. For other students, if you wanted to go into the service area, eg food service or room service or in the restaurant, that’s probably easier for people who are not trained. They could also do internships in house-keeping, or kitchen work in a big hotel. You need English, obviously. For jobs in reservations or sales and marketing, especially for sales and marketing, they would want someone who knows the London market, as it’s very competitive.

What was your accommodation like?

My first flat did not work out. It was a great address, on Fulham Road, close to Knightsbridge. I found it over the internet through a private service. It was supposed to be a separate flat with its own staircase but it wasn’t: from the front door we had to go through the house and up the top flight of stairs to the door of my apartment, which was tiny, dark and dirty. I stayed for half an hour at the most, called the hotel and slept there for about three weeks. Students should be very careful. Don’t pay a non-refundable deposit before you arrive if you’re booking accommodation. I had paid a month’s rent upfront, around £700.

Then, I found a place through a friend of a friend. It was perfect: five people each had their own floor. We shared two bathrooms, a huge kitchen and a living room. I paid £135/week, around €850 per month at that time, including bills. It was in Highbury & Islington.

I would always go for the north of London and not south. Transport is better. Check how far you are from the central area and decide whether you want to commute or not. I decided I wanted to be close to the city for cheaper transport. If you pay a little more for rent, you don’t commute as long and I could even walk home if I wanted. Commuting is so much more expensive. My Oyster card travel pass was only about £30 a month.

Did you miss anything from Germany while in the UK?

I missed the dark and crispy Schwarzbrot. A tip is to try Jewish and Irish bakeries. They do crispy bread. There are now a couple of Aldi and Lidl shops on the outskirts but you need a car or have to take the bus. You can also try French and Italian bakeries, which at least do white crispy bread like baguettes and ciabattas. Eating-wise the UK was good, with lots of cheeses, not just Cheddar, and sausages.

Back in Germany, I missed the cider. It’s expensive in Germany. And cheese with cranberries! Food and drink is my industry and I tend to pick up all those local delicacies and specialities. Farmers’ markets in the UK were good as well.

How was your social life outside the job?

I had awkward hours – I didn’t mind meeting up with people at 3 o’clock in the afternoon or when I was done late at night. I had a doctor friend who lived in my house and we both had weird hours. I had a mixed social group: hotel people and others with more normal hours.

I met people through my housemates and by chatting to people in bars and restaurants close to home. Or you have private parties and meet friends of friends. In the summertime, you can picnic in the park. The summer in 2003 was awesome, beautiful weather, so we were out quite a lot.

Which must-see destinations would you recommend?

You could go to Oxford or Cambridge. Brighton is close to London and you can pop on a bus or train and be there in a couple of hours. It’s so British. I had friends over from Germany and we did Torquay and Newquay too by bus, much cheaper than the train, though not that comfortable for a long journey. I had pretty tight schedules, working 20 days in a row; when I had a half-day off, I would basically lie in the park with a book. I did do travelling when I had days off.

Get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). It lasts roughly a year and gives you lots of discounts. They also work with STA Travel so you can get cheaper travel. There are cheap airlines operating from London eg BMI. There’s also the Eurostar – if you have the time to plan ahead, buy your tickets in advance. The coach network in the UK is superb and you can get discount cards online. Get your Oyster card online too, where it’s cheaper. Before you fly over, buy your travel tickets from the airport online, maybe from the airline website. The Heathrow Express is cheaper online than on the train. Check out B&Bs too if you want to travel cheaply.

What effect did the internship have on your teaching/English skills?

I had already lived in the US, where I attended high school and college, but I picked up British sentences and phrases. In your specific field, your language will improve, whether it’s the hotel industry or teaching.

I’m studying for a BEd and when I’m done with my Masters I’ll be going to teach at the vocational college where I did my apprenticeship a couple of years back. I’ve been working in the hotel and catering industry since the mid-90s. My studies at Leuphana are on top of my apprenticeship, my work experience and my studies in the US, where I did hotel management, a Bachelor of Science and an Associate of Science, which was business studies within the field of hotel management. The education programme I’m doing right now covers more didactics and other modules, more how to teach what I’ve already learned. I’ll be teaching people English and business in the field of hotels, restaurants, catering etc.

Do you have any advice for potential future interns?

You probably won’t have a lot of money when you come to London, so you should definitely check out all the galleries and museums where you get in free eg the Tate. On some days of the month, they’re open until 10pm. Check

I had my German national health insurance with private additional insurance and I was also insured by the hotel and the NHS. For girls, you get your pill free in the UK.

If you’re studying, the Guardian newspaper university guide provides information on all the universities in the UK. And the DAAD has city guides that list colleges and schools where you can take language courses and classes at very cheap rates.

You should see how much you’ll earn, how much things will cost and how much you will have left. A lot of people don’t do that. And you may be able to get tax back when you get home, as a non-permanent resident. I got a lot of tax back, around €900.

Jennifer's London checklist