A free spirit, a socially engaged dreamer, a thrill-seeking adventurer, a people person, and an inquisitive soul. Do you recognise yourself in these qualities and are you still deciding what to study? Then the International Tourism & Leisure programme at Thomas More may be for you! Alumnus Alexander Gysbrechts (24) from Ekeren will lead you off the grid. ‘You'd be surprised at how many opportunities the tourism sector has to offer,’ says Alexander, referring to what he considers to be the most versatile professional opportunity in the world.
The ink on Alexander's International Tourism & Leisure degree was barely dry when he signed a fixed contract with Slow Cabins, an Antwerp start-up that offers overstimulated city-dwellers the peace and quiet they crave in secret and secluded locations. The position? Booking & Guest Experience Manager. ‘I always thought a job like this was too ambitious, but I went for it anyway,’ says Alexander. ‘As my mother always says: nothing ventured, nothing gained. But I’ll admit, I was pretty surprised when I turned out to be the best candidate for the job.’
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Alexander’s interest in new cultures, sustainability, and hospitality paid off and became his second nature. After years of soul-searching, it finally all came together. ‘I realised this city wasn’t for me a few years ago,’ explains the Antwerp native. ‘So I moved to Barcelona and started working as a tour guide. Along the way I was bit by the tourism bug. Pretty soon, I realised I could apply my interests in practice. Enrolling in the International Tourism & Leisure programme was a no-brainer, especially at Thomas More. Three years ago, Thomas More was the only university of applied sciences in Belgium with an English-language tourism programme. So that was a big plus. Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made.’
For his second-year exchange programme, Alexander chose a rather unusual destination: Helsinki. He loved it. ‘During my stay up north, I explored Lapland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Estonia. Those were unforgettable experiences: the nature, the people, the weather. The teaching method was also surprisingly fun. Schools there encourage students and businesses to work together. Thomas More has the same refreshing, human approach. There was always someone I could turn to if I had a problem. The lecturers are also perfect for the job, and many have experience in the tourism sector. They really know what they’re talking about, which inspires confidence.’
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many young people feel that the future of tourism is in jeopardy. ‘Like so many sectors, the pandemic hit tourism hard. While this is something we can’t ignore, people are still travelling in Belgium and abroad. The pandemic shouldn't put people off studying. If the sector interests you, you should go for it. Choose something you love and don't worry about whether you can make a lot of money in the future. Hard work, motivation, and passion always pay off. In fact, by the time you graduate the market will have certainly recovered. I’m convinced of that. Don't be afraid to go off the grid. You’d be surprised at how many opportunities the tourism sector has to offer,’ says Alexander.
Do you want to expand your own horizons in our Tourism programme? Choose from Dutch or English, it's up to you!