From nothing to the world at her feet
If you had to sum up Elena Miron in five words, you’d be hard pressed to find them because there are so many that would apply, but the five that truly suit her are: inspirational, motivated, grateful, compassionate and visionary.
Elena is from Romania and is the first person in her family to leave the country to get a university education:
“I can’t tell you what a big deal it was for me to leave my country and come to the UK. In Romania, you are either very rich or very poor, there is no in-between and my family are not very rich, so even expressing an interest to leave and seek opportunities in a new country was not expected of me.
“However, I knew that if I wanted to make something of myself, I had to do what I could to move and spread my wings.”
Elena’s home is by the coast and she had always been interested in tourism. She had a few friends who had already come to Coventry to do a degree and she found out that CU Coventry did a tourism degree and decided that it would be an ideal course for her. She applied, and got accepted onto the course and so, with just a bag, some dreams and no income, she spent 3 days on the bus and made her way to Coventry.
“It was such a shock for me. Everyone was so welcoming and open. I had not experienced anything like this before. It was a whole new world for me. My friends were right as they thought I would like Coventry and straight away, I did!
She wasted no time at all in finding part-time jobs that fitted around her studies so she could afford to pay her way.
“I am not afraid of hard work. I knew that it was going to be a struggle because I have come from nothing and arrived here with nothing but my work ethic was to work as hard as I could because that would help me to realise my ambition to study and get my degree.”
The course was everything she thought it would be and she loved the mix of cultures on campus. Her part-time job at a top hotel in Coventry gave her confidence to talk to people and practice her English.
“I have always been someone who likes to be challenged and prove that I can do things and this job enabled me to work in hospitality and deal with people in all sorts of situations. It was ideal alongside my studies and I was saving up as hard as I could.”
As if studying and working wasn’t enough, Elena threw herself into university life by being very active with the Students’ Union.
“The SU have been great with CU Coventry students and include us in so many things. They really make you want to be part of things and when I saw what opportunities there were to help my fellow students and the community that had welcomed me with open arms, I leapt at the chance to be part of it all.”
Elena became a student rep, a course rep, a student warden and a volunteer. She enjoyed the Make A Difference Days because she felt that she really was making a difference:
“We don’t have anything like this in Romania. There are no opportunities for volunteering work as it is not that popular at home. However, volunteering was something area I was passionate about, helping others, and in Coventry, I could do that. I was inspired to want to achieve great things to help my new community.”
One day, Elena wasn’t feeling well and unusually for her, had a day off. Unfortunately, it was the day that a company called BSG had come to the University to do a presentation. They specialise in finding internships for tourism students and one of Elena’s friends from her course told her about them and when she was back at University, she looked them up and she liked what she saw on their website:
“BSG specializes in placing European Hospitality Management student interns at prestigious private clubs, plus fine hotels and resorts along the east coast of the US. By means of a J-1 cultural exchange program visa, students spend up to a year availing themselves of what is an exceptionally formative personal and professional opportunity.”
“I was so excited when I saw that, so I worked all the extra hours I could in order to pay to get on this intern programme and trust me, after coming to study in Coventry, this was the second best decision I ever made!”
Elena was in the US for twelve months and worked at two exclusive golf clubs, one in Miami Beach and one in New York State.
“On the plane going over to the US, I had to pinch myself to see if this was really happening to me. This is such a world away from my roots in Romania. If I thought that coming to study in Coventry was an adventure, my US experience took me to the next level.”
Her first placement was at an exclusive golf club and resort in Miami Beach and it was like nothing she had experienced before. It was a life-changing experience. Elena worked across so many areas of hospitality and tourism. She did event management, accounting (she loves maths!!) marketing, social media, hostess and hospitality work and looking after members to make sure their stay was a good one.
“I just know that it felt very good to be me and to feel as alive and motivated as I did. I felt that the investment I had made to get on this programme was definitely the right one. I was mixing with people who had everything. Money was no object and I was holding my own talking to them, helping them and finding out so much about myself and my abilities. All the skills I gained would be ones that I could transfer to anything. I was so proud of myself.”
While in Miami, Elena met a lovely family who took her under their wing and made her feel so welcome, In fact, when it was her birthday, they threw her a party on their yacht!
“Yes, me. Elena Miron from Romania who had never in her life had a birthday party before and when I did get one, it was arranged for me by a rich family in Miami on their yacht. It was like I was living someone else’s life! What a way to celebrate your first proper birthday party!”
“I am still in touch with the family. They will always be special to me after the kindness they showed me.”
After six months, Elena then moved to her next placement in New York State and this was another amazing experience.
“I used the skills I gained in Miami and in no time at all, I was settled and enjoying myself. If I thought Miami was good, this was even better! I was doing bar work, hostess work, looking after guests and hosting events. The bosses were so impressed with me that they actually offered me a job, but because I still had my third year to do in Coventry, it wasn’t an option but I was so flattered to be asked!”
The New York job gave Elena the opportunity to work with celebrity clients as well. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones were regulars and Elena held her own when talking to and dealing with them.
“They were so nice and very grateful for all I did for them.”
However, Elena’s next encounter with one of the celebrity guests was something she would never forget. It was only former President, Bill Clinton!
“He was an extremely interesting person who spoke to everyone. I dealt with him about a dozen times and each time he saw me, he chatted to me and asked me about my home, my job and my career aspirations. We chatted about all sorts of things and he was a very good listener. If ever I felt like I was in a movie, this was it. I could not believe this was actually my life!”
Once again, the venue offered Elena a permanent position, but sadly, she had to decline. However, she did leave a legacy. At both establishments, she implemented a recycling scheme where the surplus food was given to the communities and to feed the homeless. It was something that had not been done before now it is part of their routine. Elena left with lots of awards and certificates and plenty of wonderful memories.
Before she left New York, she somehow managed to find her way into an exclusive party at the Ophelia Lounge which was situated on the 26th floor of the Beekman Tower with a 360 degree view of the city. The party was hosted by the UN and Elena was there mingling with the guests!
“Don’t ask me how I got there, it was surreal but amazing and I got to chat to so many people from all nations!”
Elena had 30 days left of her visa, so she got her rucksack and just one extra set of clothes and went exploring the country. She went to Hollywood, San Francisco and San Diego and Las Vegas, to name but a few places.
“I can honestly say, my internship year was the best year of my life!”
Elena got back to Coventry, full of enthusiasm and ambition. She was telling the next cohort of students about her experience in the hope of encouraging them to follow in her footsteps.
Elena got back to Coventry and worked hard to finish the rest of her course filled with a new enthusiasm and the need to do more with her life.
She got a First in her tourisms degree and graduated in November, 2019.
Elena’s mother came over for the graduation and was so proud and tearful.
“I think Mum found the whole experience overwhelming but if it wasn’t for her supporting me and letting me find my own way, I wouldn’t have been here and done all the things I have done.”
She carried on working and then in September, decided that she wanted to do an MA. Inspired by the people she had met and the need to help others, she opted to do an MA in International Law! She had to convince the tutors that she was committed and did a diploma in international law and global change. She is still a very active member of the student community and continues to do her volunteering work, is a student voice ambassador and has also been appointed as the Sustainability Community Officer.
She works directly with the SU Vice Presidents as well as the University’s sustainability advisor. Elena is committed to helping students to become more environmentally aware with recycling advice and switching off lights, when they are not needed, as well as working on the global summit. She has also represented Coventry University at a student sustainability summit.
“There is so much to do to make people more aware of the issues that affect our environment and I am determined to make the campus a greener place and to get students behind it. We can all make a difference in our own way.
“I want to make climate change issues a priority and to take the students on a journey with me as if we don’t do something now, future generations will suffer.
“None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken a chance and come to study at CU Coventry.”
Elena is going to visit the Sicilian Parliament and go to Brussels and Amsterdam as part of her MA.
After her Master’s, Elena plans to do more travelling. Asia and the Middle East are on the list and so is Brazil and Thailand. She wants to use her skills to help others and work with different cultures and people who don’t have a voice in the hope of empowering them to make their lives better, even if they live in countries where the regime is strict.
“My own experiences have inspired me to want to go into the world and do things to help other people realise their own ambitions and for them to make a difference in their own communities.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and excited about what I will do next. None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance I have had since I moved to Coventry.
“I have come from nothing and I am making each day count. I am so grateful for every experience and opportunity I have had. I’ve worked hard, but the rewards have been amazing.
“If I had any advice, it would be to never give up on your dreams. Your destiny is in your own hands. Take advantage of every opportunity when you are a student. Be part of Uni life, do things to help others and pack as much in as you can. We only have one life – so live it!”
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