Holding free and fair elections is one of the cornerstones of a modern democracy. In view of the Corona pandemic, the Ukraine war, environmental catastrophes and advancing digitalisation, European democracies are faced with numerous challenges. For this reason – and because this year, it’s been 60 years since Switzerland became a member of the Council of Europe – the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in cooperation with the Parliamentary Services in the Swiss Parliament, decided to hold the conference «Elections in times of crisis» in Bern. 170 participants inside the guarded parliament building, each of them arriving at a different time and most of them without knowing where the National Council Chamber is? That sounds like a lot of organisational effort and too many participants wandering around aimlessly in a protected building. However, the Parliamentary Services and the Bern Convention Bureau were able to turn this daunting task into a success story. The Bern Convention Bureau didn’t hesitate to put the Parliamentary Services in contact with the Hotel Management School Thun, which in turn made an entire class available to volunteer for this two-day conference. For the organisers, this was the perfect solution for a huge challenge. But how did the students react? «An exciting experience and a welcome opportunity to get out of the classroom for two days», was the majority’s answer.
We asked HFT student Dominik Brunner how it was and whether he would come back for the next Council of Europe conference.
What did you do before the HFT, Dominik?
After training as a chef, I did an exchange year in America and when I came back, I completed my military service where I was a head chef and a sergeant. The military also financed my vocational training which enabled me to train apprentices. I was able to gain valuable leadership experience and also make the most of my time in the service.
Why did you decide to go to hotel management school afterwards?
That was always the plan. I knew that I wanted to become a chef. I love cooking and eating, and I’ve been passionate about cooking since I was a young boy. Unfortunately, chefs still don’t have many opportunities for further development, so I when I started my training, I knew that I wanted to go to the Hotel Management School Thun and work in the hotel industry at some point. The HFT opens up a lot of doors: it gives you the tools to successfully run your own hotel or to get into human resources or marketing in the hotel or tourism sector. These jobs also have «more normal» working hours. (laughs)
Could you imagine working in tourism at some point?
Everything connected to the hotel industry fascinates me, and there is no hotel industry without tourism. It’s very interesting to see how everything is connected. The Corona pandemic was exciting for us students, even though it wasn’t always easy.
How was your assignment in the parliament?
It was very exciting. They gave us information about everything we needed to know as well as a very detailed briefing beforehand. Everybody knew what they had to do and where and when to carry out their tasks. Being this up close to such an event was very interesting.
In autumn, you will go on a six-month work placement – where are you doing yours?
I’m going to the Spa Hotel Eiger in Grindelwald. I already did a short internship there and we got along straight away. I’m looking forward to the winter season in Grindelwald. I’ll also have a small flat there, otherwise the commute would be too long, and I wouldn’t be able to get any sleep. (laughs). I’ll really get to experience the Berner Oberland, and I will definitely buy a season ticket – for once, it’ll really pay off.
Would you recommend a voluntary assignment to your fellow students?
Without hesitation. It was extremely exciting to peek behind the curtains of the parliament. We were able to see many things a guided tour would never show you, and the direct contact with the staff in the parliament brings you up close to everything that is happening. Politicians always seem rather unapproachable, at least to me. Even though we can exert quite a bit of influence as Swiss citizens, it never really feels tangible. It was really interesting to see how things work behind the scenes when an event is taking place in the National Council Chamber. Experiences are so important, and this is one more.
How was the collaboration with the Bern Convention Bureau?
Lena Frey, Parliamentary Services
«The Bern Convention Bureau supported the Parliamentary Services of the Swiss Federal Assembly in the organisational aspects of the conference «Elections in times of crisis», which the Swiss Parliament organised in cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the parliament building in Bern. We needed helping hands for the two conference days: motivated volunteers who supported us at the Welcome Desk and helped conference participants find their way around the building. The Bern Convention Bureau put us in touch with the Hotel Management School Thun. Working with all these motivated students from the Hotel Management School Thun was an absolute pleasure. The communication with the class teacher as well as with the students during the conference days was great.» Lena Frey, Research Assistant Science, Education and Culture Committees in the Parliamentary Services.
Are you planning an event in Bern and are looking for motivated helpers? Together we will find the right solution for you. Get in touch with the Bern Convention Bureau – we’re happy to contact you, share our experience and accompany you through the planning and staging of your event.