Alumniverhaal

Testimonial Sarah Gillet – Research Assistant and online master

During my last semester of the BTO I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Australia. It has been an incredible experience and has completely changed my life.

I really appreciate the focus on personal development through the spiritual thinking and challenge of becoming a leader and manager with life-changing compassion and world-changing visions

After having graduated I decided to stay in Australia. I got a job in a governmental research center, namely CSIRO, where I worked for one year as a research assistant. The projects I was mainly involved with related to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and the existing connection with the well being of local communities as well as tourists, the industry and fishermen. I also worked on projects regarding climate change and the impact on local communities. It has been an exciting time where I have been learning much about conducting research as well as the existing dynamics in the working world compared to the student life I had been used to until then. Recently I have started an online master with an American university. The master is in International Community development. I believe this program offers the necessary courses to master the complex concepts of community organizations and development. I am highly interested in the focus of the master on cross-cultural understanding, as I believe that if you wish to initiate effective long-term change, you need to comprehend the local culture. Moreover, in my opinion, theory goes hand in hand with practical endeavors. You need to have a critical and thorough understanding of the situation before being able to undergo any activity. The fact that this master will equip me with both the theoretical as well as practical skills I need, highly motivated me to choose this master. I also really appreciate the focus on personal development through the spiritual thinking and challenge of becoming a leader and manager with life-changing compassion and world-changing visions. Furthermore, I believe I will acquire unique diverse knowledge and skills through the online setting, since it offers me the opportunity to be confronted with real life examples of other students who are active in the community development sector.

Role of BTO in career development

The Bachelor of Tourism certainly helped me to get where I am today. I think the strength of this bachelor is that you learn to put much of the theory into practice. The national field project, international field project and bachelor thesis along the many other research projects certainly helped me to develop a critical mind and find my way as a social science researcher. I also highly enjoyed the holistic view of the bachelor. Tourism is a sector that embraces many different fields. Consequently, we got the opportunity to be confronted with various topics and got the chance to realize which field did grasp our attention in particular to continue our career in. I want to acknowledge that this bachelor opened up my mind. It enlarged my vision on the world and provided me tools and skills to be recognized as a person with broad knowledge and much potential.

Future plans

My long-term goal is to sustainably address poverty and increase the standard of living of local communities in developing countries. I wish to initiate, manage, and evaluate projects that make a concrete difference in complex development contexts. Based on my background in tourism my research focus leans towards the use of community-based tourism as a sustainable intercultural project and economic development tool. This goal fits closely with the International Community Development master I am following at the moment. My idea would be to create a community based tourism project in French Polynesia, which would protect the local culture, empower the community and deliver an ‘authentic’ experience to travelers that would hopefully make them think and question aspects of life. I am really excited to study again and acquire the knowledge to chase after my dream of starting a community based tourism project in French Polynesia where I will be moving to at the end of 2014. The aim is to manage everything communally, fair sharing of profits and with an environmentally sensitive focus. Through inspiration and the creation of true encounters and mutual respect, I hope people will see the world as a place of sharing with and caring about one and another.

Advice for future graduates

Many people often couldn’t understand why I studied tourism. But I think they do not understand what exciting fields this sector actually embraces, particularly regarding other cultures and the opening of the mind. Traveling gives us the opportunity to be confronted with the other. It makes us realize that there is more than us, that we are only a detail in all this cultural human mosaic of the planet and that we are not worse or better than the other. For me it is a really strong weapon against discrimination and intolerance. It has the ability to unify people and to put differences aside. Tourism gives the opportunity to see beauty in diversity. I love this quote of Pico Iyer:

"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more”


This experience and feeling is something I would like to bring over to people and I hope you will to as future graduates of the BTO. Tourism can result in horrible things, but when created properly I believe it can have positive life changing effects on someone.