Travel, Hotel Life—Praxis Intern Lives Like Eloise
junior Elizabeth Biddle, who spent most of June as a Praxis
intern at the luxury St. Regis Resort in Lhasa, Tibet, recently
wrote about her experience for the Gate.
Elizabeth Biddle ’13
at her "Plaza," the St. Regis, Lhasa
An illustration of
Eloise, the 6-year-old sophisticate created by Kay
By Elizabeth Biddle ’13
“You have an Eloise!”
That was the first thing my
kindergarten teacher said to my parents the day I started
school some 15 years ago in Seattle, Washington.
right. I was an Eloise. The perky, curious, 6-year-old character
living at the New York Plaza Hotel was invented by Kay Thompson,
inspired by the author’s own experiences
growing up at the Plaza. Eloise was well-traveled, having visited Paris, Moscow
and other world landmarks.
Like Eloise, I, too, was a blonde
6-year-old with a vision. I knew I was in charge and that
only I could save the day. Little did my kindergarten teacher
know just how much my life would mirror that of Eloise.
7 years old, my international travels began when my parents
moved my 4-year-old sister and me from a small American,
suburban neighborhood to the bustling, teeming, towering
metropolis of Hong Kong.
With our only prior reference
of Asia being “Big
Bird goes to China,” we expected to see a lot of straw hats, temples and, of
course, Big Bird. What we discovered instead was a city much bigger than we had
ever seen, with 100,000 people living in a single city block in apartment buildings
that stretched to the sky.
This strange new world became
our home, and with this new life came opportunity for travel,
new languages and adventure.
My mother, once a surgeon and
now a consultant, fashion designer and travel connoisseur,
immediately began planning family adventure trips. We travailed
the China Silk Road in the footsteps of Marco Polo before
CNN and National Geographic ever set foot there. We spent
Christmases with native hill tribes in Myanmar and Vietnam,
viewed crumbling Communist factories from the Russian Trans-Siberian
Railway, rode on horses around the Giza pyramids and trekked
to the Mount Everest base camp. We visited more than 50 countries
together, bringing us closer as a family and putting the
world in perspective.
With our adventure trips came
numerous lodging experiences, from Sahara tents and mud huts
to India’s palaces, Uyghur
yak-hide yurts and Swiss youth hostels to the Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel and the
six-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Like Eloise, I have lived in hotels most of my
So when I was offered an internship
this summer at the St. Regis Hotel in Lhasa, Tibet, I jumped
at the chance.
Even before coming to Smith,
I had heard of the Praxis Program, the college’s subsidized internship program that enables
students to work in a field of their choice. As a theater major with a government
minor, I wanted to use my Praxis internship to delve into a different field,
and nothing seemed more natural to me than to learn how hotels operate behind
the scenes. When my Praxis proposal was approved, I became the first intern and
first native English speaker to work at the prestigious St. Regis Lhasa Resort,
Tibet’s first luxury hotel, and the highest in the world.
My month at the St.
Regis Lhasa earlier this summer is one I will never forget.
Working 12-hour days I interned in all of the departments,
including the concierge, dining, butler, housekeeping, florist,
human resources, and managerial departments, and made friends
with local Tibetans, who kindly introduced me to their culture.
I saw surprising similarities
between performing arts and the hotel business, namely that
it takes an ensemble to run the show, just as it takes talent,
teamwork, and sometimes improvisation for a luxury hotel
to run smoothly.
These are things that Eloise
creator Kay Thompson also noticed as a Hollywood, stage and
radio star. From greeting ambassadors and local governors
to solving guest challenges, there was never a dull moment
for me at the luxury hotel and, as in the performing arts,
every day brought surprises. Through citywide blackouts,
ceiling leaks, lost cell phones and cameras, the hotel staff
brilliantly upheld the St. Regis standard without interruption.
thought of Eloise at the Plaza as I made bouquets in the
St. Regis flower room and sang operatic arias during the
Sabrage ceremonies. As a child, I always imagined that Eloise
would become involved in the hotel business one day, as I
imagined I would.
As with Eloise, hotels will
always play a leading role in my life, serving as my homes
away from home.
“I absolutely love the Plaza!” Eloise would exclaim. And, feeling like Eloise
again, I loved my time at the St. Regis.
During her Junior Year Abroad,
Elizabeth Biddle will spend more time away from home as she
studies performing arts at the O’Neill Theater Institute
in Connecticut, then moves on to Herford College, Oxford,
in the spring to study government and philosophy.