After three years of trying to figure out and explain what on earth ‘Media and Communication Consulting’ means, I was pretty psyched to start a Master’s program that I found a whole lot more tangible: European Master in Tourism Management (EMTM). 


Let’s skip the add-ons and focus on the field of study for now: Tourism Management. Only two words, so maybe it would take my parents only one semester instead of five to actually remember the correct name of my studies. Also, two words that most people can somehow relate to.


I mean, ‘tourism’ – pretty clear, isn’t it? We’ve all been tourists one way or another, even though we probably wouldn’t admit that. We prefer to call ourselves ‘travelers’, ‘globetrotters’, ‘explorers’ – because ‘tourists’ are stupid and annoying and too many, right? But whatever the preconceptions may be, at least it’s a word most of us have some sort of understanding of.


And then comes the ‘management’, which is basically just part of any name that is trying to make something sound fancier than it actually is. In my Bachelor’s, I had a class in ‘Time and Self Management’. It might as well have been called ‘Getting shit done’, but I guess that just wouldn’t have looked good on the curriculum. Anyhow, ‘management’ is also a term most people have heard. We ‘manage’ all kinds of things on a daily basis: time, money, and – according to the mentioned class – even ourselves.


And then you just throw these two together and there you go: ‘Tourism Management’. I thought that field was pretty clear. Oh boy, was I wrong.


“Tourism Management? Oh, I didn’t know you could study that.” (Guess what: You can. I do.)

“Do you travel as part of your studies?” (As a matter of fact, I do, but that’s a whole different story.)

“And what will you be when you’re done?” (A human being, still. But in terms of a profession: I don’t know yet, granny. But I swear I’m gonna be able to provide for myself, so no need to worry.)


And as I got confused by all these questions once again, I realized that as clear as I thought it was, I did in fact not have the slightest clue what Tourism Management was myself. I guess I just thought it sounded cool. Plus: I’m into gastronomy and hospitality, which I believed was pretty much the same as tourism. And since it’s an Erasmus Mundus Joint program, I’m studying in a different country each semester. Hence, yes, I do travel as a part of my studies and yes, I thought that was pretty amazing, too. So I applied. Not ever thinking about this program as a realistic option.


So I was freaking out a bit when I got in. Because moving every semester does theoretically sound pretty cool, but it also brings along a certain restlessness that I had been struggling with at the time I got accepted. So what if I can’t handle it? What if I will feel the need to settle down, be at home somewhere? What if I don’t like the places the program will force me to move to? What if I get tired of it? What if I don’t want to commit to something for two years?


Plus I never really wanted to do a Master’s anyways. I wanted to do something, not only learn about it in theory. I didn’t really see the point of institutionalized education anymore. And a degree that is “recognized by the European Commission for its academic excellence”* did bring both pressure and self-doubt. So what if I can’t handle that? What if I can’t catch up with those who have studied tourism before? Or what if I’m just generally not smart enough?


That was pretty much what was going on in my head when I read that e-mail that actually told me that a dream was coming true. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t proud. I was simply lying in my bed on Gran Canaria and cried. When I started pulling myself together, rationally thinking this through and talking to people about it, I soon realized: That was it. That was what I wanted. Even though I never fully acknowledged it, because I didn’t believe that I could actually get it.



And now here I am, having finished the first and started the second semester. Now I know what I could only assume back then: This is it. This is what I want. I made the right choice. And I am capable. To move, to adapt, to study. To do stuff that I’ve never done before, to see things like I’ve never seen them before, to constantly evolve and grow and change. And not only am I able to do all of that, I also enjoy and maybe even need it.


Anyhow, all of this might explain, why I’m studying what I’m studying, but still doesn’t really bring clarity to the big question of what. Well, Tourism Management. But what on earth is that, then?


I’m not gonna get started on what tourism is. Because if I have learned one thing in my first semester, it’s that there is never ever any clear definition for anything. The same goes for management, but let’s just assume it does have something to do with planning, organizing, leading and controlling. But how does this connect to tourism? Is tourism something that is planned, organized, lead and controlled? Does it have to be? And by whom?


There we go. In a nutshell, that’s what I’m studying. Even though I have to admit that it’s not so much about answering these questions (because, well, never ever is there any clear answer to anything). It’s more about becoming aware of them, seeing the challenges and problems that this growing industry entails and creates. It’s about realizing what’s going on and trying to figure out different perspectives. What about the locals, for example? How do they feel about yet another huge international hotel on ‘their’ land? Do they see the possibilities for economic growth and jobs that creates? And does it, even? Where does the tourists‘ money go, really? Who benefits from it? And who provides the resources, space, services to earn it?


It’s interesting, because it’s troubled and complex and confusing. And because as I said before, it’s something most of us can relate to, one way or another. Because maybe we’ve made the experience of going to an all-inclusive resort in some poor country where we lived like kings for a week and didn’t meet a single local. Because maybe we do find ourselves mindlessly booking RyanAir flights for basically no money, not caring about the impact that has on the environment and on the industry. Because we might have a backpacker’s budget, but a business traveler’s standards.


So in my opinion, I’m studying many things at once. Sustainability is a major part of it. And as I learned, this is not only related to environmentally ‘green’ aspects like CO2 emissions, waste and food. It’s also about social, cultural and economic issues, just to name the basics of it. It’s about finding ways to act in a way that allows us to satisfy our needs without compromising the one’s of future generations. And about how tourism, a field that seems to be wasteful by nature, can move into that direction.


But most of all, my studies teach me to be critical. To not take anything for granted. To ask questions without expecting to find answers. To become more aware of my impact as a traveler. And maybe, in a future career, to find ways to make traveling ‘better’ for all parties involved. Whatever that means. And however that could be achieved. That I don’t know. And maybe I never will. But I guess the first step to find answers is to start asking questions. And that, for sure, I’ve learned in this program so far.


*as stated on the program’s website.

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