Tristan Huynh: Navigating His First Year at SHA as an International Student

Born and raised in Vietnam, Tristan Huynh started his journey of pursuing a Master of Science in Hospitality Management at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA). After just one semester at SHA, he already knew he found the perfect community for his graduate studies. 

Getting to Know SHA

While new to the School of Hospitality Administration, Tristan is no stranger to Boston University. He majored in communication during his undergraduate career. At the time, he took a few courses at SHA, including Introduction to Hospitality and Meeting and Convention. These cross-major classes nurtured his growing interest in hospitality. 

Through his friends, he also learned that SHA offers many unique experiences to hospitality students, such as wine tastings, restaurant visits, and international trips. Tristan was impressed by the opportunities SHA provides and knew he’d like to join the school someday. 

Pursuing Hospitality Research

After completing his bachelor’s degree in communication, Tristan worked in corporate communication and marketing. After a while, he wanted a career change. He reached out to one of his professors at BU, through whom Tristan obtained his first job in hospitality as a marketing manager at Restaurant Associates at Harvard Business School.  During his time at Restaurant Associates, Tristan developed an interest in the importance of sustainability in catering and event planning. Later, he decided to explore hospitality research further at BU SHA as a graduate student, with sustainability as one of the topics that appealed to him the most. 

 “Hospitality is a topic that we don’t talk about enough. And then when people think about hospitality, they always think about restaurants, hotels, and that’s it. But to me, when you actually learn about hospitality, there are other aspects of hospitality that people never think about, sustainability, real estate, and urban planning. So, to me, those are the topics that we should research on.“ In his first year at SHA, Tristan especially enjoyed the Research Method introduction course with Professor Richard Currie. This course and the Coding and Statistics class helped him establish fundamental qualitative and quantitative skills. Tristan also took the Operation Analysis class with Professor Jonathan Martin, where he examined various areas of hospitality, such as human resources, accounting, and finance.  

Tristan is glad that the MS in Hospitality Management program equips him with the necessary skills to become a competent researcher. “Before this program, when I opened a research paper, I had no idea what they were talking about, and I can confidently say now that I do understand it.” 

Growing Personally and Professionally through Campus Events

At SHA, Tristan benefits from many on-campus events that help him grow personally and professionally. He regularly joins the Lunch and Learn program to have inspiring discussions with research faculty and connect with them in a casual setting. “We get to ask the research professors about what their research expertise is, and we get to tell them our areas of interest for research. They can help us navigate who you should pick for your thesis co-chair, who you should pick for your chair, and what are the resources that you should look at.” 

Tristan is also impressed by the career services at SHA. He has found the career coaching and mock interviews they offer especially helpful in preparing him for career success. The Marriott Career Center invites potential employers such as Mandarin Oriental, Himmel Hotel, Hyatt Hotel Boston, Aramark, Sonesta Hotels, and Big Night Entertainment to have interviews with students on campus.  “Being in SHA, in general, really gives us opportunities like this to work with big names in the industry.” 

Outside of the classroom, Tristan is also an editor for SHA’s Distinguished Podcast. And by attending the Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Series, Tristan gets to meet with established hospitality professionals and expand his network.  “The Dean’s Distinguished Speakers [Series] … and [the] podcast–it’s a really great concept. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any school that’s done it before. So, it’s so interesting that we do it here. And then all the big names when I go out, when I talk to… restaurant owners, they mention these people, and I was like, ‘Wait. I’ve heard that name somewhere, and I feel like I’ve met them, too.’ And where did I meet them? During the Dean’s Distinguished Podcast!” 

Besides being an editor of the Distinguished Podcast, Tristan has had many opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Recently, he helped with the event planning and catering for the Hospitality Real Estate Symposium as a student worker. 

Tristan Huynh pictured on the right at the Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Series

Thriving in a Tight-Knit Community

As an international student, it’s not always easy to adjust to a new environment. But Tristan feels warmly welcomed at the School of Hospitality Administration, which he now calls home. Many events have helped him fully integrate with the SHA community. For example, the entire SHA community comes together for SHA-giving, its annual Thanksgiving celebration. “We get to meet the chef who’s behind all the food. There are the student workers who help him. I think all of them actually are SHA students, too. And then the student government partners up with them and makes SHA-giving happen. It was such a cool event, such a cute event, and then the tradition is…, whoever worked the longest at SHA will carve the turkey.” 

 “I think it was such a warming experience and welcoming experience [for] people who were not able to go home for Thanksgiving or for those who haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving before.” Tristan also appreciates how the staff and faculty truly care about the students’ well-being. Tristan said that the Manager of Academic Services and Graduate Admissions, Elizabeth Kent, regularly brings in food and has conversations with graduate students at the student lounge.  

 SHA’s welcoming environment is rooted in its hospitality tradition. Tristan mentioned that the Director of Corporate and PR, Mara Littman, likens SHA to a boutique hospitality firm. “That’s what we would call ourselves. Like full service. Everything here basically, career coach, learning experiences, international travel, all that.” 

As a first-year student, Tristan looks forward to the upcoming field trips to New York City, Panama, Paris, and Thailand to visit hotels and restaurants and further connect with his cohort and SHA’s faculty. 

Ambitions after BU SHA

Currently, Tristan works as a Catering/Operation Assistant at BU Dining, which partners with Aramark. When it comes to his plan after graduation, Tristan is considering getting a job in the catering and events industry. However, he is more interested in pursuing a PhD. Tristan recalls that one of the professors explained the process of getting a PhD during a Lunch and Learn event and offered to help students prepare for it.

“He said that SHA could actually help you if you want to do it now. All the professors are gonna help you. If you want to go for PhD, we can start making connections. We can start perfecting your research to apply for [a] PhD.” Knowing that the professors at SHA fully support him if he decides to embark on a PhD journey, Tristan is sure that he has found the right school to chase his ambitions.