Being a recent graduate of the BSc Tourism programme and having been on the International Field Project two years ago, I now experienced it from behind the scenes.

I am currently doing an internship at the newly founded Myanmar Responsible Tourism Institute (MRTI), together with Kathrin, my friend and class mate from the BSc Tourism programme. Having lived and worked in Myanmar for some months now, we were asked to assist during this year’s International Field Project. We agreed immediately as our International Field Project in 2014 is still – and probably will be for quite some time – in very good memory. This time our role would be different though.

IHHVTC_ExchangeI definitely underestimated the amount of time and effort that goes into the preparation and realisation of such a project. Especially in a country like Myanmar, where such things are usually not very time efficient. It is always best to speak to people in person. Not only for being offered tea and cookies or samosa and for enjoying a nice chat with courteous people, but also to avoid misunderstandings. It was a pleasure organising the introductory days, which made me think back a lot at our International Field Project in Cambodia and Thailand, and how much we have experienced in the first few days with loads of activities, experiences, and impressions. My most memorable experiences of the introduction days were meeting disadvantaged girls and boys from the surroundings of Siem Reap, who were being trained in hospitality, and the homestay in a Thai village where we were shown the people’s livelihoods. We wouldn’t want to make it any less intense for this year’s International Field Project. Meeting the students of the Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training Centre (IHHVTC) on Inle Lake seemed to be the highlight of the introduction days this year. Obviously, interacting with local people is a valuable experience and a great preparation for the field research.

IHHVTC_LearningTalking to the students about their progress during the field research, I realised how much I had learned myself during the past two years, from the BSc Tourism including the International Field Project, the minor, and the thesis. But also from the internship in Myanmar, which opened up a lot of new perspectives and insights. Listening to the students telling about their progress, experiences, discoveries, and findings with regard to their research questions, I recognized many of the same experiences and challenges that my team and I had been facing two years ago in Thailand. I could relate to the issues, findings, and the student’s experiences, however, I could also take a wider and more critical perspective now. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the work the students have done. Even though language and cultural barriers were hindering, they managed to speak to many different people and get some really interesting insights. I was impressed by how well they mastered the fieldwork, presented their findings, and moderated the focus groups, which were a great variation of the stakeholder meeting as the students had the opportunity to clarify issues and verify their preliminary findings.

It was an honour having been involved so much and having been given a great deal of responsibility during this year’s International Field Project. Thanks a lot to everyone involved and I hope that this project will remain a memorable experience for quite a while!

Cheers from rainy Yangon – I am now enjoying monsoon season in Myanmar!

Author: Malena

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” – Alfred Mercier