student portrait Emilien Dombele at EHL

June 06, 2023 •

5 min reading

Student portrait - from army leadership to hospitality excellence

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Emilien Dombele's journey at EHL has exceeded his expectations with its international atmosphere and strong sense of community. With a diverse background and work experience in banking and the Swiss army, Emilien wanted to challenge himself and explore his passion for managing people. Emilien has formed deep connections with his fellow students, creating a vibrant student portrait that celebrates diversity and fosters personal growth. 

What's your story before becoming an EHL student?

When Emilien Dombele became an EHL student, one of the first things that struck him was how international it is. “I remember thinking this place is like no university I’ve visited. I’ve met people from all around the world,” he says. He’s internationally-minded himself: a Swiss-Angolan, he spent time in Germany and Ireland prior to coming to EHL, and chose to go to Dubai for his first industry internship, where the global reach of the school’s alumni really became apparent. “Whenever I’m in different places there’s always someone from EHL there.”


“I wanted to challenge myself,” he says. “I knew I wanted to go to EHL but I needed to know if I was able to manage people.” Aged just 22, he was in charge of 35 army recruits, a role that pushed him out of his comfort zone but ultimately helped him understand that managing people was something he could do and enjoy. “It gave me a certain maturity and I think it’s going to prepare me better for what I’m going to do after EHL if I’m in a management position,” he adds.


Still, nothing that came before could quite prepare Emilien for the very special atmosphere he found at EHL.

Bachelor in International Hospitality Management  See business through customers’ eyes. Enter the job market with a leader’s  perspective  Discover how we train our students to put customers first  Discover more

Family values - When you arrived, was EHL what you expected?

“It was beyond and above expectation. It’s something you have to live, it’s not something you can explain. One thing we all have in common as EHL students is strong family values. Although we have different pasts and come from different countries, we all have this same stuff that connects us. You get to know people from the first moment you arrive. The environment is so open and there’s so many people; if you are shy and don’t want to go to people, people will come to you automatically.”


Practical learning - How did your AP year (in which students work on rotation in EHL’s hospitality facilities) benefit you? 

Those were the six most intense months of my life. It’s a lot, but you learn so much about hospitality, about different jobs. By learning what every job requires, if you become a manager in a hotel or something, you’ll know what the people you are managing are going through on a daily basis and it’s going to make you a better manager. It also opens your eyes to subjects you might never have thought about. My takeaway from it was the hard work that you have to do and also the passion. I’ve worked with so many people who have passion for what they do.”


Dreamteam - What was it like working with fellow students during that period?

“When you arrive you are put in a team who will be with you for the next six months, so you see your relationships getting stronger and stronger. You have workshops where you really connect with your team because you have to be there and help each other. You are all together in the same boat.”


Power of network - Is that valuable for the future?

Definitely. Since we are so many at EHL and coming from so many countries, you never know when you might meet again. When I was doing my internship in Dubai, I was introduced to so many EHL alumni and we had this connection, we had so many topics to talk about and you make an intense connection with these people. I think the connection that we build here is going to help us in the future.”


Student life - But it’s not all about work, right? 

“Like any university, we party! But I think it’s different, this student life we have. We have 32 committees here at school and they organize different events, not only parties but football tournaments, pop-ups, and a lot of events with the industry. You have committees organizing speakers coming to the school to speak about their life and work experiences. So you have a lot of connections with the world outside, which can help you shape your plan for the future. The best preparation you can have is being involved in those kind of events which connect you with the industry.” 


Career planning - Has your plan evolved during your time at EHL? 

“I think through the process at EHL your plan can change because when you go deeper into a subject you can think ‘oh that’s not really what I like’, and there are also classes that you think you don’t have interest in but they end up being the ones you have the most interest in. At the end of the day, the classes that you do, and the internships you have, are going to help you find a plan. My own plan has become more concrete. I have a more specific idea of exactly which company I want to work for.”

The true meaning of hospitality

Emilien Dombele's journey as EHL student showcases his remarkable transformation from an army leader to a passionate advocate for hospitality excellence. His international experiences, combined with the unique environment and strong sense of community, have shaped his perspective and aspirations. Through practical learning, collaborative teamwork, and the power of networking, Emilien has gained valuable insights and connections that will undoubtedly propel his career forward. As he embraces the vibrant student life at EHL and hones his career plan, Emilien's determination and passion serve as an inspiration to his fellow students and future graduates. His story highlights the incredible opportunities and personal growth that await those who embark on their journey at EHL.


Become an innovative leader in the hospitality industry!

Download the brochure to learn more about the practical approach to the EHL Bachelor in International Hospitality Management.

One day, Emilien will himself join this worldwide network of EHL graduates – but first, he has a lot of hard work to do. Thankfully, the 24-year-old is no stranger to that. Now in Year 1 of his BSC in Hospitality Management, he came to EHL with plenty of work experience under his belt. Following his time abroad, he worked in banking for three years before joining the Swiss army, despite knowing that he eventually wanted to study at EHL.