Revelling in new adventures, embracing novel experiences, and living life with unyielding optimism are the hallmarks of youth, and Anna Ni (BBA in Hotel and Tourism Management, Year 4) has embodied these qualities par excellence as she experiments, moulds and builds a future of her own.
Anna Ni was one of the first three Kazakh students to join The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 2016. Now a year 4 student majoring in Hotel and Tourism Management (HMG) at CUHK Business School, Anna has already completed an impressive four internships and two overseas exchanges – in five countries. Along the way, she picked up a few scholarships and made it to the Dean’s List. “If I can learn something and grow professionally,” Anna said, “I would rather do that than waste time.”
If I can learn something and grow professionally, I would rather do that than waste time. — Anna Ni
From Kazakhstan to Hong Kong: Coincidence or Destiny?
Despite having heard about Hong Kong from her dad’s business travels and yearning to visit for years, Anna had not considered coming for university. It was not until her dad’s chance encounter with a traveller and hearing that person heap praises on CUHK that she began looking into the prospects of studying in Hong Kong. “Some may call it a fortunate coincidence; I call it destiny.”
Upon learning more about the university and Hong Kong, Anna was instantly intrigued by the opportunities for international students. Additionally, she was captivated by the diverse multicultural student body of CUHK, which she envisioned would offer her ample opportunities to learn and grow as a person.
Driven by a lifelong fervour for people interaction, customer service and cultural exploration, Anna picked HMG as her major. She found CUHK Business School, with its ample networking opportunities, study abroad programmes and internship placements, to be an apt place to give wings to her dreams and aspirations.
Initially, however, it took Anna a while to adjust to the new surroundings. “To be honest, the first couple of months were pretty challenging. Not going to lie. Because the culture in Hong Kong is very different from home. It’s a lot more diverse and a lot more fast-paced and competitive. It took some adjusting.”
Because the culture in Hong Kong is very different from home. It’s a lot more diverse and a lot more fast-paced and competitive. It took some adjusting. — Anna Ni
Learning Hospitality from the World Over
Anna’s eagerness to gain maximum exposure to hospitality was met by CUHK Business School’s globalised learning approach. She savours the international perspectives offered by the professors and draws inspiration from teachers who walk the talk of hospitality. Anna was especially awestruck by Ms. Gentiana Cheung, Professional Consultant of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management and Programme Director of BBA in Hospitality and Real Estate Programme (HRE), formerly named as BBA in Hotel and Tourism Management Programme. “She was the first person I met from CUHK, and her friendly attitude, her smile and her positivity continually inspire me of what professional hospitality should be about. I was motivated to get into the School because of her. I consider her to be my mentor.”
Outside studies, Anna went on exchange twice and took on four internships, which took her all over the world. Clockwise from right: in the US as an intern in 2019; on exchange in Thailand in 2018; in Sydney, Australia; on exchange in Australia in 2019; back at home in Kazakhstan in 2020
Seeking to hone her skills and enrich her cultural exposure outside of the classroom, Anna took up four internships in Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and the US, and went on two overseas exchanges in Thailand and Australia. Her responsibilities included managing the hotel front desks, serving at restaurants, organising MICE events and even working at a BMW dealership. She considers these experiences crucial for anyone who wants to work in the globalised hospitality field.
These hands-on experiences not only help you apply what you learn in class, it makes it easier for you to model theoretical concepts to real-world situations and better understand what the professors talk about. My vision is to take as many opportunities to learn and to practice. — Anna Ni
Internships aside, Anna joined the Asia-Pacific Hospitality Management Programme (APHMP), an exclusive three-way exchange partnership between CUHK, The University of Queensland in Australia (UQ), and The Mahidol University International College (MUIC) in Thailand. She wanted to observe and learn the business practices in both Eastern and Western cultural settings and to enhance her interpersonal skills by interacting with people from diverse backgrounds.
Exposure Blended with Experimentation Offers a Warehouse of Possibilities
Anna’s latest internship also uncovered her passion for events organising and media marketing. Since returning to Kazakhstan earlier this year after the coronavirus outbreak, Anna has been working remotely for Informa Markets, a leading organiser of B2B events that operates in Hong Kong and across the world. She was tantalised by the prospects of a career in hospitality centred around events organising, which she finds immensely rewarding. Anna now plans to work in the events industry for a few years after graduation. She wants to explore the field and gain more experience before determining the way forward, including what to pursue for her master’s degree.
That’s how Anna made some life-time friendships through her globalised learning journey. Clockwise from right upper corner: at a cultural event organised by School of Hotel and Tourism and Management in 2019; all the exchange students at MUIC, Thailand in 2018; the faculty gathering with all the exchange students on APHMP programme in 2019; with the Tourism, Hospitality & Events Society at UQ, Australia in 2019
Perhaps the seeds of Anna’s love for events were sown prior to that internship. Upon finding a general lack of awareness about Central Asian cultures and countries in Hong Kong, Anna teamed up with other international students from Central Asia to take part in the CUHK’s Islamic Cultural Festival in 2016. They set up a stall to exhibit journals, souvenirs, national flags, food and indigenous music to give visitors a taste of Central Asian cultures.
“The success of that event prompted us to go one step further. In 2018, we organised a cultural event in March to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. More than a hundred people came to our event and we successfully spread the awareness of Central Asian cultures. The event has even become a recurring affair every March since.”
No one is ever going to just give you opportunities or teach you unless you want to learn. That’s why I choose to be proactive. I want to take matters in my own hands. — Anna Ni
“Winners Don’t Quit and Quitters Don’t Win”
With her refreshing youthful optimism, Anna credits her maxim of life with a quote from Napoleon Hill, the author of a book Think and Grow Rich.
“Napoleon Hill said: ‘A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.’ The quote highlights how you should not let obstacles or challenges in life break you or define you. If you fall, stand up and keep going. You can always find a point to grow.”
Anna learned the importance of proactivity from her first internship. “No one is ever going to just give you opportunities or teach you unless you want to learn. That’s why I choose to be proactive. I want to take matters in my own hands.”
Anna said studying at CUHK Business School has helped her grow as a person. She learned to set the right priorities to get more out of life, study and work. She also learned to adopt a positive attitude to cope with stress and competition. “I’m very appreciative of CUHK to give us such opportunities to learn and travel and to be the best versions of ourselves.”
* Photo courtesy of Information Services Office, CUHK