Johannesburg native Isabelle Boast talked about her decision to not only leave the comfort of home and head abroad but to choose Switzerland as her base. Picture: Khanyisile Ngcobo
Lausanne -  For many people, the idea of moving to another country, let alone a continent, at a young age can be quite daunting. 

For Isabelle Boast, the move was an opportunity to challenge herself and discover her life's passion. 

The South African is a student at acclaimed Swiss hotel management school Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) and shared her extraordinary journey to discovering her passion. 

The 20-year-old Johannesburg native talked about her decision to leave the comfort of home, head abroad and choose Switzerland as her base. 

Boast says it was not only her ties to the country, her mother is Swiss-born, that attracted her to the country but also its association with hospitality. 

"When you think of Switzerland, you automatically think of elegance. Definitely, it's associated with wealth but it's also the standard of hospitality. 

Isabelle Boast, a student at EHL, encourages South Africans to explore opportunities abroad. Video: Khanyisile Ngcobo
"Growing up in South Africa, I loved it, there's nothing to complain about but I felt like I needed a change of scenery." 
 
She further explained that moving away from home was a chance to discover herself, what she truly wanted and to explore new opportunities. 

This daring move was not without challenges. Boast explained her family's initial reluctance to let her study hospitality abroad. 

She found a way to win them over, and a determined Boast was on her way to Switzerland after completing her matric at the German school - officially known as the Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg - in Parktown to work and find her passion.

Boast admitted that the first few months were challenging as she didn't speak French, one of Switzerland's official languages.  

Boast was only fluent in English and German, another official language in Switzerland.

She soon, however, settled into the swing of things and she explained how she ended up at EHL. 

"I did a gap year and I had time to find myself, discover what I want to do and I wanted to do it in a place where I don't feel comfortable because that's how you learn. That's how you find yourself and that's what I did. I also made sure that this school was what I wanted."

Her path to gaining admission was not an easy one. Boast said she first had to submit an essay, and then do a video interview before visiting the school for a face-to-face interview.

While applying was daunting, Boast revealed that it was nothing compared to the course itself, but she praised the school for making the experience easy for students.

Of course, attending EHL not only exposed Boast to a new way of learning. She also met people from other nationalities and cultures, an experience she hailed as amazing. 

"Coming here and seeing people from different countries has been such an eye-opener. It's been amazing... I love it," she fondly shared. 

"What's so nice about the school is that they want you to accept who you are, not try fit in and change. They want you to express yourself, show who you are," she said. 

Boast is currently in her Preparatory Year of her Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Business degree and is doing an internship at a Swiss hotel, another experience she admits to enjoying. 

She'll then shift her focus to the foundations of management which include finance, marketing and entrepreneurship courses before delving into the sciences, humanities, economics, politics and environmental studies.

Speaking of future plans, Boast admitted that she hasn't thought that far but said she'd like to work overseas to gain some experience but then return to Switzerland to work. 

"Obviously the ideal is to start up something of my own... that's why I also chose this school. It gives you all these contacts with companies."

Her message to South Africans scared by the thought of moving and studying abroad is to be open-minded and not afraid to take chances, adding that the worst thing that can happen is getting rejected. 

"A lot of people limit themselves to South Africa because they think Europe is [all about] foreign languages... A lot of people underestimate how much English is spoken in Europe."


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