Placement stories: Cheryl Ong’s USA hospitality placement

We’re delighted to invite Cheryl Ong to share her placement experience with you. As an International Hotel and Tourism Management student, Cheryl chose to complete her placement year at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa and the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, both in the USA.

Cheryl (left) with her colleagues on placement

“It was my goal this year to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can.”

As I am passionate about hospitality I was looking to gain more hands-on experiences. I applied for several opportunities locally in the UK and the US in no specific roles. I was open to learning from different departments. Some these opportunities were posted through the Your Future Plan team. Prior to my interviews, I met up with the Your Future Plan team to go through my CV, cover letter and get some interview advice.

As an aspiring hotelier, there is so much to know about the different roles within a hotel setting. And in order to be the best hotelier, I need to know all these roles. Therefore, it was my goal this year to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can to help me pursue my dream career.

“This has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to step up to perform my best.”

I have done a split placement taking roles in their busiest time of year. The first 6 months I have done it in The Westin Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I was in the F&B department which is a position I haven’t really experienced. Through this time, I started as a barista/cashier in the resort’s café. Next, I was a hostess, buffet attendant and server assistant in the resort’s main restaurant. The next 6 months, I moved to The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Colorado. In this resort, I was a guest experience expert focused on rooms division and mainly in the Front Office.

With my ability to adapt to situations and learn quickly, I was trusted with my role before the completion of the training period and at times, chosen to lead interns who has started the position earlier than myself. This shows that I am able to learn quickly and am highly reliable in challenging situations. This is both when I was a barista in Ingredients and a front desk agent. In both situations, I advanced from my training period earlier than the supposed time frame and was trusted to work on my own without supervision. This learning process has also pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to step up to perform my best. On top of that, my supervisors and managers are able rely on me to assist at the other outlets when needed due to my ability to adjust quickly.

“I’ve taken this opportunity to learn a new language … and see places I’ve never explored before!”

Personally, I also enjoy and value learning different cultures and languages. This experience has given me the chance to work with a diverse group of people which gives me the opportunity to learn the differences between the way things are handled in a different culture’s perspective. For instance, the team I got the chance to work with in both resorts are very diverse and from different background such as Jamaicans, Filipinos, Costa Rican and Argentinians just to name a few. On top of that, I have also taken this opportunity to try and learn a new language and practice my other languages when I come across guests from that region such as guests that visited from Indonesia, China and Korea. Apart from that, I also got the chance to travel and see places I have never explored before!

“My placement has definitely been affected by COVID-19.”

At the time of the spread of Covid-19, I was working at the front desk in The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, at the time it was still only the end of the ski season but the resort was still busy. In this time, we had to work really hard on reassuring guests according to daily updates from the upper management. This is until the resort can no longer support us J1 Visa holders. Due to this, my sponsorship has been terminated resulting in me having to leave the US at the end of March which is about 2 months earlier than I was expected to.  

“I’m excited to take on the world of work.”

This placement experience has allowed me to experience what it is like working in top-notch hotels and partake in roles I have never tried before. I now feel more confident and excited to take on the world of work and get closer to achieving my goal as a hotel manager in a 5-star hotel.

After a year of working hands-on in the hospitality field, I am fueled with passion for this industry and with the experience I have gained, I will continue to refine the skills I am still lacking in order to help me get to the position I want to be in.

“If you have the chance to do a placement year, DO IT!”

But do it with the right mindset. The placement year is a way to build your connections, friendships, and learn a whole lot of things you may not have thought of prior to. It is a positive experience when you allow it to be that. 

Cheryl is happy to speak to any students who want to ask her anything placement related, especially those applying for placements in the US. If you’d like to, please ask the placements team ( to put you in touch with Cheryl.

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