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Restaurants over medicine: A Singaporean student’s quest to be a chef

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“Once I served a cake to a family of four, adding my own twist to it, I will never forget how happy they looked,” Lim tells us. Source: Michelle Lim

It’s about the smiles. Many students tend to follow their family’s profession when choosing what to study at university. Singaporean Michelle Lim took the road less taken, choosing the restaurant business over medicine. “Once I served a cake to a family of four, adding my own twist to it, I will never forget how happy they looked,” she tells Study International.

Lim is turning her passion into a career at EHL in Passugg, Switzerland. Known as one of the best hospitality management schools in the world, it prepares students for managerial careers in hotels and hospitality industries.

In light of COVID-19, the industry had been shaken to its core. Despite this, innovation is flourishing. Virtual tours are taking off, staycations are becoming more popular and technological advancements are making chatbots and digital apps better and more relevant. 

We caught up with Lim to learn more about what she thinks about these trends, EHL and her future plans:

Why did you choose to pursue your course at EHL in Switzerland?

It seemed like going abroad was just a natural second step in my life. I will be honest, the EHL brand was what drew me there. Considering my family knew nothing about hospitality, I was going in blind.

Do you think it would have made a difference if you studied at a local institution?

Yes, I wouldn’t have taken up a third language. I wouldn’t have known how the people in Europe would be like. I also would’ve most likely never left my home.

What’s been your most memorable class so far?

My kitchen practical exam. Particularly, in one outlet where I was the head chef for the exam and was extremely pressured to perform — I was under a lot of stress and it was an open kitchen for real customers to see! 

All the orders came in at once, I could feel the stress building and how everyone was counting on me. Instead of breaking down, I handled all the orders calmly. Although stressed, I kept thinking about how I love what I’m doing.

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The Passugg Campus of EHL where Lim studies. Source: EHL

How have your lecturers supported you in your studies thus far?

Instead of my teachers, it was really my peers who helped me along. They pushed me when I needed it and gave me their support whenever I had self-doubts. This showed me that it doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’re all on the same team.

Do you get to apply the theories you gained in classrooms to the real world?

Most of the time, I’m in charge of delegating work in presentations — something I thought I would never be doing. This has helped me become more organised as a person.

What are your academic goals in this course?

I haven’t been able to apply them yet, but I would say my work ethics have become better. I’m still working on it, but the soft skills along the way that I’ve gained are invaluable.

What do you plan to do after graduating?

I plan to get my bachelor’s degree as I’d like to be a chef.

What do you like most about Switzerland?

Most people here are very friendly and there are many cultures to learn from too.

What’s a memorable, non-academic experience you can share with us?

I went sledding for the first time. 

Where in your hometown would you recommend visiting?

Singapore is a hot country. It is a very small but packed city. The first thing I would show you is how you can get authentic food anywhere. Then shopping is another thing that my country is known for, along with the coastlines and sights since it’s an island.

What location in Switzerland has stood out to you the most?

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Coming from Singapore, Lim appreciates the snow. Source: Michelle Lim

I do like the Alps the most since I don’t usually encounter much snow. Although the temperature is challenging, I do love stepping into snow!

What is food like there? Give us your favourites.

By far the chocolate, funky cheeses and dried meats. That being said, if the meats or cheese are too funky, I try to avoid them.

Is it hard for a foreigner to order food or strike up a conversation with the locals?

Since I am in the German part of Switzerland, if you don’t know basic German, it may be hard to have conversations. Ordering food on the other hand with a little charade or Google, you can get by. Honestly, the locals are happy if you make the effort to learn their language.

What’s a cultural site you’ve explored?

Chur is a very small city, but I learnt that they really know their gardens. I loved walking around in one of the garden parks there, looking at colourful flowers that I can’t see back home in the tropics.

What’s one thing from Switzerland you’re planning to bring back home?

Chocolate! My family and friends requested lots of it. I heard that Swiss people keep the best of the chocolate to themselves — I’m not sure if this is true but I haven’t found amazingly good Swiss chocolate in Singapore that matches the quality here.

What advice do you have for international students looking to study in Switzerland?

You will become homesick, you’ll look for things to remind you of home, and that’s okay. Just know that your home will be waiting for you. However, the experience of being abroad, eating new foods, learning new cultures and languages is an opportunity you must take full advantage of.

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