While the Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has recently undergone a name change, its mission of preparing students to connect people with spaces and places remains the same.
Samara Huezo ’24, a senior hospitality, hotel management and tourism major from San Antonio, is a prime example of this.
Huezo spent her summer interning with Xanterra Travel Collection, a national park concessioner based in nine parks across the country. To get this position, she had to undergo an intensive and competitive interview process. She said her experiences and coursework at Texas A&M not only helped prepare her for this role, it also set her apart.
Huezo recently shared deeper insights into what she called her “once-in-a-lifetime internship” and the impact it has had on her future.
What experiences helped prepare you for your internship?
The process for becoming an intern with Xanterra started last October when I went through my first of three rounds of interviews. I felt really prepared going into these thanks to my course work. The Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism has some incredibly supportive faculty who knew about my passions and helped me focus my schoolwork on Xanterra.
In my Events Management class, I was able to create a hypothetical event for Xanterra that was comprised of a 70-page program. This was something that really intrigued corporate members of Xanterra and gave me an edge.
Why did you choose to intern with Xanterra?
I was really interested in Xanterra because it is a company that focuses on sustainability and the environment. Each of their locations have different sustainability initiatives to help improve the environment.
Additionally, Xanterra focuses on encouraging its employees to live their best lives by developing a strong understanding of the parks they are working in. Taking time to go on hikes and explore Glacier National Park really helped me better advise guests on how to spend their time. By understanding the park and offering informed advice, I helped shape the guest experience and helped to create lifelong memories for them and their families.
How has this internship shaped your future?
When I got my acceptance letter for the Xanterra internship, it was when I needed it most. This experience helped me realize that it’s OK to do things alone. When I told people I was moving to Montana for the summer, many were surprised when I said I was going alone. I will admit, I was nervous to move across the country on my own, but in doing so, I was able to find an appreciation for the little things.
What would you say to someone interested in pursuing a career in hospitality management?
I truly think hospitality is for everyone. If you are interested, put yourself out there and ask questions. No matter where you are involved in the department, the faculty and staff are so passionate about what they do — and they want to help you. We have so many professors who want to help and teach students about our industry. I encourage people to find their passion then explore how hospitality can intersect with it. I have found what I love to do, and it is because I put myself out there and tried something new.”
Any last thoughts?
I had some incredible support from staff members who helped me along the way. Through this internship, I was able to find myself again. My internship coordinator, Dr. Heather Eden, who was one of my first professors, was so supportive and took time to know my career goals.
Dr. Mei Fung “Candy” Tang has also been a big influence on me. I ran into her during the first week of classes and she immediately asked me about my internship and how it went. She has encouraged me to look into similar internships for next summer.
All our department’s faculty has shown they are just as passionate about seeing us succeed as we are.