Alumna Belma Sokolović is on to something amazing in Dubai!

June 2, 2022

By Dora Rašin, RIT Croatia student

Dive headfirst into the benefits and life-changing experiences RIT Croatia has to offer, through the eyes of Belma Sokolović, an RIT alumna who moved from her hometown of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Dubrovnik, Croatia, in search of quality education and the opportunity to study abroad. While Belma was growing up in Sarajevo, she yearned to „experience the true American style of learning and the overall college experience." The alluring beauty of Dubrovnik also played a big part in her decision to start anew.

With an immediate thirst for knowledge and work experience, Belma decided to take advantage of RIT Croatia's multiple on-campus jobs. Throughout her four years, Belma worked as everything from Teaching Assistant in Dubrovnik to Catering Attendant during her study-abroad in Rochester. Additionally, Belma was a member as well as President of the Eta Sigma Delta Honor Society, an honorary society which serves to promote academic achievements of outstanding hospitality students throughout the world.

After graduation in 2020, Belma moved to Dubai, where she worked as Assistant Outlet Manager at the Waldorf Astoria, a top-rated luxury hotel. As an Assistant Outlet Manager, Belma oversaw Peacock Alley, the signature lounge and bar of the Waldorf Astoria DIFC. Here, guests indulge in an afternoon tea journey with an exclusive selection of customized sweet and savory bites. As someone who worked in the Food and Beverage department in such an exclusive setting, Belma's job required her to be very detail-oriented and make sure guests' needs are met. More recently, Belma underwent a passion-driven career change, leading her back to her roots at RIT (more on that later…)!

Preparing for the real world through cooperative experience

As a go-getter, Belma took on every work opportunity available to her through RIT's impressive cooperative education program. Students of RIT Croatia must spend a minimum of 800 hours (or two summers working ten 40-hour weeks) applying theory from classrooms into practice. This is called cooperative education and it relates to experiential learning in the chosen field of studies. Co-op is mandatory for all students and is conducted through organizations in Croatia and abroad.

Belma spent her first co-op or internship working as a Sales and Reservations Department Member at Rixos Premium Hotel in Dubrovnik. Her second internship was equally exciting as a Receptionist and Property Coordinator at an unnamed private company in Dubrovnik. For her third and final internship, Belma ventured to Antalya, Turkey, to work as a Front Office and Marketing Intern at an unnamed high-end hotel.

Advice for future students: „Think thoroughly about what is it that you would truly want to do in life and whatever that is, make sure to try and be the best at it!"

RIT Croatia's world-class co-op program was one of the reasons Belma attended the college in the first place. „The opportunities are endless and everybody gets the needed support in order to secure the best internship in due time," Belma states.

When asked about certain challenges she faced, Belma thinks she didn't face too many, because „RIT takes care of students prior to their arrival, assuring they are fully comfortable and ready for this new chapter of their lives."

While it's clear RIT Croatia has attractive benefits in terms of garnering work experience, developing your professional network, and experiencing new cultures through various study abroad programs offered, some people still consider the public education system to be the only valuable higher education in Croatia and the region. Belma is not one of those people. „Surely our public education system is good," she says, „but the fact that a private college like RIT Croatia provides you with two internationally recognized degrees, internship opportunities, and a hands-on style of learning, is why I would if I could again, choose a private over a public university."

Belma even dishes out advice for prospective college students: „Think thoroughly about what is it that you would truly want to do in life and whatever that is, make sure to try and be the best at it. Though four years do not seem like a long time, they will have a major effect on where you might end up in the future, so choose wisely. Research the college, and if you see it matches your values and what you stand for, go for it."

Living and working in Dubai 

In terms of quality of life, Belma specifically praises Dubai's vibrant environment and endless hospitality opportunities. In her day-to-day, she is often surrounded by young professionals, famous bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as glistening skyscrapers, drawing an energetic parallel to New York City. Yet if she wishes to, she can access beautiful and peaceful beaches and nature, far away from the 'big city life.' She also considers the high standard of living, safety, and warmth of Dubai to be major benefits. „After experiencing living in four different countries, I can say with confidence that I have found the place which I want to call home and that I want to come back to," says Belma. 

For now, Belma plans on staying in Dubai, even when switching careers! After spending some time in the international world of hospitality, Belma decided to undergo a new career change in the field of higher education. Having experienced all that RIT has to offer as a student, she has just recently joined RIT Dubai's Admission & Student Recruitment Department. Of the exciting fresh start, Belma says „It's time for a new chapter," and affirms „Thank you RIT. I am here to stay."

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