Bianca Schönauer, who graduated from the Private Hotel School in 2018, is gaining important work experience in Germany and is hoping to become a hotel general manager in the future.
 
When she first moved to Germany last year, the 25-year old Schönauer, who hails from Edenvale, could hardly speak the language but was offered a job as a waitress in a bistro that was located in a hotel, which meant interacting with locals on a daily basis and having to learn the language fast. After a few months in the role, Schönauer was given more responsibility and six months later was promoted to the position of assistant manager. And then came lockdown …
 
While Schönauer waits it out at home, we took the opportunity asked her some questions:
 
What course did you do at Private Hotel School?
I graduated with a Diploma in International Hospitality Management, which I earned by doing my PHS course through the American Hospitality Association.
 
Where are you now and what are you doing?
I am currently living in Germany – about an hour out of Düsseldorf, near the Netherlands border. I was about to sign a contract to be the restaurant and banqueting manager of a hotel when Covid-19 came along. Since the entire hospitality industry has shut down, I am waiting patiently until I am able to work again.
 
What made you study hospitality at TPHS?
It took me a while to actually realise that hospitality is what I wanted to do. I always knew that I never wanted an ordinary desk job in which I never saw or interacted with people. As a typical 17-year-old facing the huge decision of what to do with the rest of my life, I was overwhelmed. I sought the help of a career guidance professional and, after many hours of aptitude tests and online research, I applied to the University of Stellenbosch for a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology.
To my surprise I was accepted and made the big move to Stellenbosch at the start of 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the university and I really learnt a lot, but I quickly came to realise that the degree I was doing was not my passion and I left at the end of my third year. Now I was facecd with the frightening decision of “what now?”. I decided to make a list of all the things I am truly passionate about in life, what I love to do and what my goals are in life. Looking at all of the top items – travel/new experiences, make people happy/ see new places/make a difference no matter how small – I tried to tie them together and think of a career that would best fit. And there it was, staring at me directly in the face, hospitality! I am so glad that my little detour in life brought me to PHS as it is really, in my opinion, the best school in South Africa to study hospitality.
 
What do you think are the advantages of studying at PHS?
The standards are incredibly high, but this is definitely one of the biggest advantages. You are continually challenged and pushed by your lecturers, which you may not understand at first, but having worked in the industry now I can clearly see why it was done. My way of thinking and problem solving is very different from that of my colleagues in that I am able to come up with solutions much quicker and they are often better than those that others suggested. It taught me a standard of professionalism which I actually hardly see here in Germany. The kind of professionalism and work ethic only really seen in the older generation. There truly are so many advantages to studying at PHS I could write a book!
 
Tell us about your journey from graduation to today?
After I completed my six-month internship in Stellenbosch, I moved back to Johannesburg to look for a job, but this didn’t prove to be as easy as I had anticipated. I then started widening my search parameters and sending my resume internationally and was offered a job at a hotel in Germany. And then lockdown came …
 
What are you doing to keep yourself occupied during lockdown?
Fortunately we have had a bit more freedom than South Africans have had in terms of what have been able to do and go and buy. I have taken up a number of crafts and started a paint by numbers set and I taught myself how to crochet.
 
What have you learnt how to cook or bake during lockdown?
My boyfriend is a chef so I generally leave the cooking up to him. I have, however, tried a couple of baking recipes. I’ve made chocolate cake pops with a Nutella glaze. I also attempted making millionaire’s shortbread and I believe I found the best chocolate chip cookie recipe!
 
Name three things you are going to do once lockdown ends?
I definitely would like to start working again! I miss my job and the routine that comes with it. I would also really like to travel again and visit family and friends in South Africa.
When all of this ends, I am going to try appreciate things more and not take so much for granted.
 
Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing in five years’ time?
I still plan on being in Germany and in the hospitality industry. Hopefully my career will be progressing and the position of General Manager not far off.
 
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to tell the new generation of hospitality professionals to persevere. Life is always going to hand you lemons, so use them to make a cocktail! The journey to your dream job may not be as smooth sailing as you may think or hope, but it’s all part of the adventure. Everything that is meant to be and will be. I am a firm believer in that.

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