March 12, 2024 •

3 min reading

Student profiles: Julia Barbey on studying sustainability online

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In an exciting new series of our Alumni Network Podcast we chat to EHL graduates who embarked on a bachelor’s adventure at EHL and then pursued master’s degrees across the globe

Here’s a taster of the latest episode with Julia Barbey. After graduating from EHL in 2022, Julia studied for a Master of Science in Business Administration with a major in Sustainability and Circular Innovation, an entirely online course through FFHS, which is the Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences. She's currently Sustainability Manager at Villars Alpine Resorts in Switzerland, while in the final months of her master’s.


A child of nature

Sustainability has been important to Julia Barbey from a young age. Growing up in a small village in the Swiss mountains, and then on a permaculture farm in Mauritius, she always had a sense of the importance of protecting nature. As a teenager, she started informing herself about permaculture and sustainability, and when she came to EHL to do her bachelor’s degree, she knew she wanted to integrate sustainability into her career in some way. “I didn't really know that there were some jobs only about sustainability,” she says. “My actual focus when I started EHL was hospitality, and I think it still is. I just like the mix of both of them now.”


While at EHL, did your internship with IWC Schaffhausen help solidify your desire to focus on sustainability?

“Definitely. They have a strong focus on sustainability. I could really see what was possible, not just in hospitality, but also in other industries. I met a lot of people working in sustainability when I was there and that really nurtured my passion for sustainability and helped me to choose my path afterwards.”

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Why did you decide to do an online master’s?


The master’s that I found – it's an MBA with a specialization in sustainability – was the perfect match. It would also allow me to earn some money. Living in Switzerland without a job is very difficult as a student!  And it's a recognized master’s – that was important to me. So it was a good compromise regarding money, gaining some experience, and having a good recognized master's degree.”


It's a requirement of the course that you have a job in sustainability, and you had a position at Nestlé when you first started. How did you juggle working alongside your studies?

“Having both is not easy. But at the end of the day, I knew that for two years, I was going to be working a bit more than my friends, maybe having a little less time for me, but I still have my holidays. The classes are in the evening, so it's usually Tuesday and Thursday evening from 5.30pm and it can go until 9pm, so it can be a long evening. I also have some classes that are recorded that I can watch. For someone who works at 100%, which was my case, my weekends were busy, especially at the end of the semester period with the exams, and the reports to give and so on. But right now I'm at 80%; I decided to have one more day to do my master's degree and it helps me a lot.”

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Are you able to apply the things you are learning directly to your job?


"One of the best things is that the group work that we do, we usually do it on our actual companies. So sometimes I have a project to do at work and I just bring it into my master's degree. So it will benefit my master’s and vice versa.


Do you have any advice for EHL students considering an online master’s?

“I would say that for students that want a good balance between work and studies, they shouldn't be scared to do it. It's often a fear of students to say, ‘oh, maybe it's not as good as an in-person master’s degree’, but it can be. Not only in sustainability, but in many different fields, there are some very good online masters, and I think the students shouldn't fear looking at that option because it can be really rewarding. It is a great experience.”


What’s your biggest wish for your career?

“First of all, to be happy in what I'm doing. And also to have an impact. I think feeling that you have an impact in a company is really rewarding.”


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“I wanted to do a master's degree no matter what. But I also wanted to work. When you arrive in the market, people want you to have some experience, and I felt that staying two more years in school would not benefit me as much as if I would work and [study] at the same time.
Julia Barbey, Sustainability Manager & Instructor at Villars Alpine Resort
“Definitely. I have some specific sustainability classes, like circular innovation classes, sustainable development classes, things like that, and these are really beneficial in my job, as I can truly apply them."