“How would you describe your LEAD Internship to a friend?” I was asked by my coworker who sat behind a large camera. As I leaned back in the large chair that overlooked our resort’s 75,000 square foot pool from the presidential suite, I finally took it all in. How do I even begin to describe one of the most eclectic experiences of my life so far? For starters, I’m being interviewed by a film crew for a promotional video, in addition to jumpstarting my acting career by poorly recreating some of my favorite memories of the summer. Who else can say they spent their last week at work doubling as a movie-star-in-training? But it’s just one of the many, many, many hats I was fortunate enough to wear this summer during my program. My time at The Fountains was short, but the memories I made will last a long time.
Ever since I began my path in the hospitality industry, I knew I wanted to focus onthe tourism industry. I wanted to harbor that excitement one feels when embarking on a vacation and keep that momentum going forever. Specifically, I knew I wanted to work at a resort. Yet I was always posed the question “What part of the lodging industry do you want to work in? What do you want to do at a resort?” and that’s where I always drew a blank. I knew I wanted to work in such an uplifting and exciting environment, but I never knew what specifically I wanted to do there.
When it came time to start searching for summer internships early last winter, I stumbled across the Bluegreen Vacation LEAD Internship. It was a company I never heard of, so I decided to read further about what it was. “Through hands-on training and mentorship with resort staff, interns will participate in comprehensive rotations focusing on operational procedures, advanced systems, and customer service across a range of disciplines including guest services, food & beverage, resort maintenance, housekeep, resort activities, and more”. So basically I had the opportunity to spend the summer trying out anything and everything involved in making the resort run, in order to find what I really enjoyed the most. It was the perfect program for me to finally have an answer to the question of what I wanted to do at resorts.
After rounds and rounds of interviews, I was accepted to be one of the two interns at The Fountains resort in Orlando, and I was beyond excited. As summer came around, I was expecting to begin my rotations, and just spend a week doing work in each department. To my surprise, this internship was so much more than just doing work.
On Day 1 we were given a binder with all of the departments we would be shadowing during the program. What I didn’t expect to see in the binder were all the learning elements that we were able to participate in. After coming from an internship where I basically did manual labor for minimum wage, I wasn’t really expecting anything crazy, but just seeing that we had the opportunity to learn while we were here made me so excited.
Each week, we would take on the role of a different department, doing a mix of hands-on work, shadowing managers, and learning the behind the scenes of what makes each operation successful. In addition, we had weekly meetings with our mentor, the resort’s assistant general manager, to talk about both our experiences in the program, as well as the department’s strengths and weaknesses that could be adjusted. I like to call this part of the internship my experience as an Undercover Boss, because we were able to see each department with fresh eyes, and help the resort leadership team fix any errors that they might not have even noticed.
We also were able to participate in weekly video conference calls with the 10 other interns located at Bluegreen properties all over the country to compare and contrast our experiences. During these calls, we were able to network with each other, take classes on Timeshare 101 and Financial Acumen, as well as have inciteful Q&A sessions with the company’s executive members, creating amazing opportunities across the board.
Additionally, we were tasked with creating a capstone project highlighting three ways the resort could enhance the guest’s experience. Over the course of the summer, we were able to pinpoint problem areas and figure out ways to find a solution, in order to better the company as well as better ourselves. At the end of the program, we presented to all of the resorts leaders, as well as the regional manager, and the company’s learning and development team. It was an incredible experience to have my ideas heard and praised, and I look forward to seeing if they’ll be implemented in the near future.
This internship program was more than just a job where I went to work, did my tasks, and went home. The LEAD Program quickly became the biggest surprise of my young 20-year-old life, as I was able to grow so much in 11 weeks, and open so many doors to my future. I was constantly asked by friends and family what I was doing and how I was enjoying it, and it was just so hard to put my joy into words, so I hope this does the trick.
I was amazed by how welcome I felt every time I stepped on the property. As I rotated through the 9 different departments, I was able to meet almost every employee that worked there, and they always made sure to say hi and talk to me after I moved on to the next rotation. The maintenance department was the best, as they would always greet me with “Good Morning Boss!”, and it went straight to my head. The goal of Bluegreen Vacations is to “share happiness”, and after a shaky few months of not knowing whether or not hospitality was the right field for me, I can confidently say that I am more than happy in this industry, and I thank everyone at the Fountains for helping me feel confident in this role.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of my Bluegreen journey! Next summer I will be going back to The Fountains for a second internship, but this one will focus on one department the whole program. I will learn a more in-depth view of the department I select, and have the opportunity to work as a supervisor in that role. I already know which role I’ll be taking on, but I’ll keep it a secret from you for a little while longer so you have the excuse to visit my blog again in the future.
I am so beyond grateful for all the experiences I’ve been able to have so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Until next time,