Antoine Pauchard tells about his experience in Bangkok
Every year, students working towards their bachelor’s degree have the possibility of going on a Marco Polo program that enables them to spend their 2nd year in a foreign school belonging to the Vatel network. This allows them to discover another country, a different culture, and to learn a new language while continuing studies in keeping with their degree course.
Antoine Pauchard from Vatel Bordeaux decided to spend the 2012/2013 school year in Bangkok. Having just returned, he shares his impressions with us.
- Why did you decide to take part in the Marco Polo programme?
It seemed a wonderful way of going abroad for a year. I was seeking a worthwhile experience, on both a personal and professional level, that I felt would have a major influence on my life. That is why I chose to study at Vatel in the hotel and tourism sector. In fact, I have had a yearning to travel abroad for quite some time. When I found out about Vatel and the Marco Polo programme, I saw this as the ideal opportunity to go on an adventure. There were different options, but I picked Vatel Bangkok for several reasons. Thailand is a tourist destination with an international reputation thanks to its infrastructures, range of climates, charm and hospitality. I also wanted to be immersed in a completely different reality, encounter an emotional and cultural shock, and meet people with a different lifestyle and values.
- What were your first impressions in Thailand?
As soon as I arrived, it felt like I was in another world, with lots things I had never run into before. First of all there was the climate: very hot and humid. Then, there was living in a city of over 10 million inhabitants, with skyscrapers and world-class traffic jams. But, above all, there was the atmosphere in the street, which does not exist in France. There are people out there at every time of day and night, and the shops and food stands are open 24/7.
- What was it like settling in?
I found accommodation in an apartment building with many other foreign students. It was thus easy to make friends and integrate. It is cheap and easy to eat out in Thailand, either in restaurants or by buying delicious food from street vendors. This is often less expensive than cooking for yourself. So, I rarely ate at home.
- What is the yearly schedule like at Vatel Bangkok?
The school year is not the same as Vatel Bordeaux. It consists of two 2-month academic sessions alternating with two months of practical training, followed by a 3-month internship. We are tested at the end of each 2-month period. For the practical work and the internship, we are fortunate in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand to have no lack of luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental, the Intercontinental, etc… My job placement was at the Naka Island Luxury Collection Resort & Spa in Phuket, and my practical experience was at the Vatel café/restaurant at the Méridien in Bangkok.
- Did you have difficulties at school because of the language barrier?
The first few weeks were somewhat difficult because I had to adapt to a new language and different teaching methods. Although there was a great deal of vocabulary to learn, I did not see this as a big problem. I felt at ease in my new class very quickly.
- How would you describe the “culture shock”?
Well, it can come as no surprise that the Thai culture and lifestyle are vastly different. Respect for others is very important, as are smiling, being happy, and keeping calm. Sometimes you have to be patient and avoid showing frustration because that would be a sign of weakness and doesn’t help at all. If you try to understand the other person and create a bond, there is no problem interacting. I was delighted to have met many interesting people and to have created some solid friendships.
- What did you like most?
That’s hard to say, because the experience was so positive, and I have many fine memories. I like the Thai lifestyle, going out often, seeing friends, trips to the beach on the weekend, etc. without having money worries because everything is so much less expensive. For instance, a night in a bungalow costs only about ten euros. The friendly attitude and smiling faces, even among the poor, are also unforgettable.
- What didn’t you like?
Of course, not everything was perfect, but I can honestly say that there was nothing I truly hated. Possibly the heat, which can be stifling, especially when you’re wearing a suit…
- Is it difficult to come back?
Yes, because I left many worthwhile things behind, but this is compensated by the joy of going back to familiar surroundings and seeing my family. I will nevertheless make sure to go back to Thailand in the near future!
- -What is your opinion of the Marco Polo programme?
I returned with countless memories of an excellent experience that helped me not only professionally, but also with my personal development.
I wish good luck to the new students on the Marco Polo programme that I met in Bangkok during the last weeks of my stay. I’m sure they’re going to love their time there. They form an excellent small group.