Dienstag, 1. August 2006

Internship in Toronto - Initial Report

I have been in Toronto for 4 weeks now and it is just incredible how fast time passes
by. It seems like only yesterday that I arrived in Canada.

I arrived on June 27th and started work right the next day. “Work” in the first couple of
days consisted in training. Danny, one of the senior guest service agents, told me
and another new intern all about the hotel, its facilities and the management. There
was a lot of theory. We received a 50 page strong folder that we had to read and
memorize in just one day. On the second day we wrote an “exam” about all the
theory and spent the rest of the day being introduced to and training on the Opera
program. I was actually really lucky to be starting my training on the 28th, because
that night a Barbeque took place in the hotel’s patio and all the employees were
invited. That way I got to know a lot of people from the Front desk and the sales
department already. The senior managers grilled sausages and burgers and different
raffles were taking place. It was a really great atmosphere and a very pleasant way to
get to know my new workplace.

The next week I was already standing at the front desk and shadowing different
people. Shadowing means basically you watch what the other guest service agents
are doing when they check people in and out. In my opinion, this is a good way to
start, especially if one has never worked at the front desk before. That week the hotel
wasn’t too busy so everyone took some time to explain things to me and find my way
around. When I finally checked people in by myself, it felt a little awkward at first.
There were still so many things I wasn’t sure about and I was afraid of making
mistakes. However, everyone was really nice and patient with me. I now feel really
comfortable in my job. 

Of course there are still questions popping up now and again but most of the time I get on very well. My colleagues are all amazingly friendly and helpful and we have a lot of fun during our shifts. Most of the people at the front desk are around my age so we have a lot of things in common. The most interesting part for me is that my colleagues are from all over the world and I get (sometimes funny) insights into their culture. Moreover, there are several Latin American people so I practise my Spanish with them whenever I can. However, this also means that I am the one to deal with upset customers who only speak Spanish.

Finding a room in Toronto was a lot easier than I imagined, mainly because I was
really lucky. During the Barbeque on my first day, I was introduced to Henrike, a
German girl who had been working at the Hotel for three years. She heard that I was
looking for an apartment and told me she was looking for a roommate since her
boyfriend was moving out to go to University in Ottawa. So we decided right there to
move in together. Our apartment is in the western part of Toronto, not far away from
the city’s largest park and the Ukrainian & Polish quarter. We live in an area called
“Malta Village” and there is a real Maltese bakery right across from our house where
great bread and cakes are sold.

To get to work usually takes me about 45 minutes by public transport, and I really
enjoy it. I always have the afternoon shifts from 3:30 pm till midnight. That not only
goes well with my sleeping patterns but also means that I can take my time to eat a
good breakfast (or lunch) and meet friends or go shopping before setting off to work. I
like the long ride on the subway because I can listen to music, read a book and have
some coffee on my way to work.

I love living in Toronto, it has become my favourite city right after my hometown
Berlin. I love the multiculturalism, the people, the food, the weather, and the music
scene! There are so many concerts going on during the summer, many of them for
free and whenever I have a day off I go to one of the bars to see different bands play.
Stephanie and Manuel, two other interns from Austria, and I have become very good
friends and it seems to become a regularity that the three of us try out different
restaurants and then go to the “Horseshoe Tavern” on Tuesday nights to watch
bands and have a couple of drinks.

The most interesting musical performances I have seen so far took place at the
“AfroFest” in Queen’s Park a couple of weeks ago. There were groups from Rwanda,
Congo and other African countries, all of them performing different styles of music. I
also had the opportunity to taste real African food, which was extremely good.
Apparently there are several Ethiopian restaurants in the city, so my plan is to go to
one of them in the next few weeks.

Regarding sightseeing, I haven’t done a lot of it yet. I did, however, go to see the
Andy Warhol exhibition “Stars, Deaths and Disasters” in the Art Gallery of Toronto. It
was a really interesting insight into his life and work and I can really recommend this
exhibition to everyone visiting Toronto in the next couple of months. Another
exhibition I saw was that of Henry Moore’s sculptures. I have been fascinated by his
works ever since I lived in England and was disappointed to see that the exhibition
couldn’t live up to my expectations. But it was definitely interesting. I am also
planning on going to the Royal Ontario Museum and of course the obligatory sights:
the CN Tower and Niagara Falls. Stephanie, Manuel and I are also planning on going
to some Baseball, Basketball and Hockey games to experience the real Canadian

To conclude let me just say that I was surprised to find out how much fun I have
working at the front desk. I have never worked in a hotel before, so I wasn’t sure what
to expect but it turned out to be the best job I ever had. It is great being able to talk to
people all day, solve their problems, speak different languages and being surrounded
by the nicest colleagues imaginable. I love my job and Toronto and I am already
dreading the day when I have to leave. I am really looking forward to the next 5
months here!

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