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Penn State Hospitality Students Staying Positive Despite Uncertain Future

Ever since Penn State announced the Nittany Lion Inn will be used as a quarantine space this fall, there’s been a lot of uncertainty surrounding hospitality majors’ upcoming semester.

Hospitality students are required to earn 1,000 hours of professional work experience to complete their major. Typically, the Nittany Lion Inn contributes valuable internship experience to many students every year. With it and other places shutting down, many are scrambling to find an alternative.

While this requirement has been put on hold through the end of the spring 2021 semester, finding work experience is still vital for hospitality management students.

Junior Kelly O’Hora found the switch to remote learning to be an adjustment but feels her professors did well considering the short notice. She is scheduled to take HM 330, which involves working at Cafe Laura on campus. However, O’Hora said plans for working at Cafe Laura are up in the air.

“We still haven’t gotten word on how that’s going to work with opening a restaurant and everything. We’re not sure of, you know, capacity numbers and things like that,” O’Hora said.

O’Hora has been working two jobs — one at Tremont Student Living and the other as a server at Local Whiskey in State College.

According to O’Hora, hospitality students are exposed to a wide range of jobs at Cafe Laura and the Nittany Lion Inn, such as food service, housekeeping, and practice at the front desk. Losing out on these opportunities is hard for O’Hora and the rest of her classmates.

Sophomore Molly Davis said the lack of human interaction was an adjustment when classes switched to remote learning. Thanks to her professors, remote learning turned out to be better than she anticipated.

“[Hospitality] is all about human interaction and the guest experience, so that was definitely taken away with this remote learning,” Davis said. “But I think a lot of the professors made it work, and it was more successful than I definitely expected it to be.”

Davis became involved quickly after arriving on campus. She applied for internships and joined the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), which focuses on the representation of hotels. Davis had secured an internship for the summer, but it was canceled due to coronavirus. She also worked at the Nittany Lion Inn during the first half of the spring semester.

Senior Shawn Dainty, on the other hand, had an event services planning internship with the Nittany Lion Inn that got canceled due to coronavirus.

“Within hospitality, event planning is what I want to do so whenever I got this internship it was like a dream come true, and then it got cut short,” Dainty said.

According to Dainty, hospitality students who excel as interns at the Nittany Lion Inn are often invited back as an executive intern. Before the coronavirus arrived, that was Dainty’s plan. Despite the primary source of work being closed for these students, those who planned on working at the Nittany Lion Inn during the fall semester will be allowed to work at The Penn Stater Hotel.

Additionally, Dainty is grateful that Penn State continued to pay interns during the remote learning period.

“That was really great. That definitely wasn’t something that I thought as interns we were going to get. So, whenever I found that out, I was like really appreciative of that as well,” Dainty said. “And just how they’re working with us to [be able] to continue our internships, despite the [Nittany Lion Inn] being closed now.”

While the upcoming seamster is uncertain for hospitality students, they are trying their best to maintain a positive outlook.

“I will always go to work and say, ‘Okay, I can have a positive attitude or not,'” O’Hora said.”You will always have to choose to [have a positive attitude] because we’re a people business and we really have no other choice but to put on a smile on our face and kind of just roll with the punches.”

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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