“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma GandhiIt’s Wednesday at ESSEC, and a mouthwatering smell drifts through the halls. I follow it, ultimately arriving at The Lab, the Italian delicatessen run exclusively by IMHI students. Here, warm smiles greet me as I notice the freshly made waffles being sold by the members of IMHI’s 4L team. Once a week, the members of this organization spend the greater part of the afternoon preparing and serving these delicacies with the aim of raising money for their mission.
What is 4L and what is their mission? The organization’s president and second-year IMHI student, Pierre-Alexandre Kaouza, describes his team’s participation in the greater “4L Trophy, the biggest student rally in the world with more than 1,400 teams and 750 schools represented.” This rally consists of a 6,000-kilometer adventure race through France, Spain and Morocco and is also a “humanitarian mission [in which] the teams bring school supplies, sports material, food and medical equipment” to children in Morocco through the support of the association Les Enfants du Désert.
One of the members, also a second-year IMHI student, Caroline Pravongviengkham, describes her motivation for participating in the 4L:
“Even before joining IMHI, I wanted to join this organization. I believe that the 4L Trophy is a great adventure to share with my peers and a great way to make a difference by bringing school supplies to children in Morocco[…] 4L IMHI-ESSEC in one word: WAFFLES! Just kidding. Brotherhood, because the 4L Trophy is a humanitarian mission in which we need to be united as a team and with all the participants of the race, as well as open to the local population that we are helping through this adventure.”Participation in this association is not just fun, games and service, however, and Caroline also cites the intricacies of preparing for the 4L Trophy as part of what motivated her to join:
“Being in the 4L IMHI-ESSEC is especially a good way to experience how to manage a project and to raise money through the organization of events or through the search for sponsorships. Personally having difficulties with networking, the 4L IMHI-ESSEC is a good exercise for me to go beyond my fears through approaching companies and communicating my project to them in order to raise funds or to find prizes for the Luxury Raffle we are going to organize.”Organizing the different two-person teams, raising funds for the long journey and finding a balance between these responsibilities, internships and, now, coursework, are just some of the many challenges faced by the 4L participants, in particular by Pierre-Alexandre who describes his presidential duties:
“I did my internship in South Africa from April to September. At this time, I had just been appointed 4L president. The other students in the association were also abroad. This was my first main challenge, as I could not have direct contact with everyone at a time when we were just beginning to operate. Another challenge I faced was identifying the strengths of the other members [in order to] assign them responsibilities in which they were going to perform the best. Finally, planning for the 4L is a long project and very demanding in terms of time and effort because most of the students in the association are IMHI students, [studying in] a very academically demanding program. One big challenge is to keep the balance between the two and make sure that everyone is doing the same so we can all pass our courses and be on the starting line the 13th of February!”With little over two months until the race kicks off, the members of the organization have also been able to further develop skills that are sure to help them in the future. “This experience will help me in my future career as I now understand better what it is to be manager; the areas where you absolutely need certain qualities and how your time working in the association is divided,” states Pierre-Alexandre. “This is the perfect real-life application of [our] courses and a lot of the concepts that we are learning, [which have become] very useful to me in the management of this association.”
The members of the 4L IMHI Team have found a way to bring together many important qualities that characterize the hospitality industry they are so passionate about: travel, teamwork and service; and ultimately, through participating in this competition and serving others, they have discovered more about themselves and their roles as future managers.