From Turin to San Sebastián: The Experience of Four HORECA Students

ENGIM AND CEBANC Cooperation with Erasmus + Programme

In June 2023, ENGIM and CEBANC organised the mobility of a group of HORECA and bar students for an internship experience at a famous starred restaurant located in San Sebastian in the Basque Country. The experience was funded by the Erasmus+ programme, KA1. The restaurant Amelia by Paulo Airaudo is characterised by sophisticated and innovative cuisine and is located in the Boutique Hotel Villa Favorita, in the centre of the famous La Concha beach.

The young participants, aged between 16 and 18, were at their first experience abroad and were accompanied by ENGIM trainers throughout their stay. The group consisted of 2 kitchen students, 2 waiter students and 1 bartender student; therefore, they carried out their internship experience assigned to different tasks and facilities so that they could deepen their skills in their field of study. Doing their internship at such a prestigious and technically advanced restaurant was certainly a big challenge and it was an added value in terms of new skills but also a difficult one due to the standard of service and the rhythm of work required. The cooperation between the partners as sending (ENGIM) and hosting (CEBANC) organisations was very positive in the preparatory phase of the project thanks to their common affiliation to the EFVET network. The TTT (Tourism Thematic Team) and its Database of potential partners can be used to find hosting partners and to enhance the chances of cooperation in KA1 and KA2 projects.

The identification of the accommodation facility and the definition of the company and the internship was carried out also thanks to a preparatory visit. Given the characteristics of the young VET students, most of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the role of the tutor and accompanying person is fundamental, and the overall tutoring of the experience could be further strengthened in order to support the young people in carrying out the experience and recognising the acquired skills. The connection between the two organizations need to be strong and complementary so that all the difficulties can be overcome in a quick and smooth way for the benefit of the students.

Here is the experience told by our students Sharon, cooking student: “This experience taught me many things because it was my first time abroad and in addition because the restaurant we worked in was very demanding. I learned how to deal with difficulties and manage very intense work rhythms and I think this will be useful for my future especially in the restaurant industry. I learned to be more precise, cleaner in the work environment, and I was able to taste new flavours and preparations that I had never seen typical of high-end restaurants like the one where we worked. On the flip side, I would have liked to have more free time and explore the place because the city where we were, San Sebastian, was beautiful. ”

Michela, cooking student: “Participating in this project was a very important step. I felt very brave to face this experience alone because I was the youngest of the group. I learned new techniques in the kitchen and understood the importance of cleanliness and management of spaces and tools. I learned some preparation techniques that I am reusing, such as decorating and plating. I decided to buy the tongs I was using there so I could be more precise in my work.”

Both think their stay abroad is just a start because they would like to travel and consider the option of working abroad in the future. Their advice is to jump in, it’s a month and it seems long but you get experience. They agree that it is good to rely on the tutor or accompanying person to talk about problems to solve them and not be afraid of making mistakes. Christian Lisci – bar student: “Thanks to the experience, I am much more autonomous from a business point of view as well. I worked in the Cocktail bar and the place was very nice and frequented by people from all over the world, so I related to a demanding clientele and a classy environment. They asked for a lot of classic international cocktails, which I learned how to make, plus every week the bar offered a new cocktail and I was included in the creation process. There were only two of us at the bar with one person helping, so it was a lot of work. Thinking about the differences between Italy and compared to what I encountered there, I realized that people have a much more respectful and welcoming way of doing things than I expected. I learned how to do new things that I don’t currently have a chance to practice but I am studying hoping to replicate the things I learned. For the future, this experience confirmed an idea I already had, because I would like to work in a bar. I would repeat the experience and I would gladly work abroad, I would go back to Spain because I had a very good time there. Advice for those who have to leave: accept the challenge and leave, don’t think about the lack of those who stay in Italy but about your own future and growth.”

Lorenzo Bilotta – bar student: “I am very happy to have had this experience from all points of view; the biggest change I noticed was the improvement in foreign languages, and it is also the thing I realized the most, because I understood the importance of being able to express myself well in other languages. I came into contact with people from all over the world as clients and colleagues, and the staff was very welcoming. I had worked before but never in a similar context, I am an outgoing person but I had some difficulties with respect to language. Mainly I was in charge of bringing the orders to the tables, the order was taken by other colleagues. At the counter I noticed that the equipment was used differently from Italy, I was also able to look at different preparations and experiment with others. Occasionally I worked in the kitchen, where I supported some preparations (cutting) or preparing meals for the team. We were the only interns who were so young, and although difficult at times, it is an experience I would do again. The biggest change I have noticed in me is that I realized how important languages are and I try to engage in that. On a personal level I feel more confident in talking to people. Tip: Don’t underestimate the importance of foreign languages and don’t be shy.”


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