Cameroon student finds a new home in Darwin 

Valentine Arrey Besong (second from right) learns the finer points of the cocktail with fellow students at CDU's Karawa Restaurant on Palmerston campus

Valentine Arrey Besong says he has not had to endure too much of a culture shock in moving from his home town of Buea in the West African country of Cameroon to Darwin.

‘The Cameroon climate is tropical so I don’t mind the weather, and everyone here speaks English, just like they do at home,’ says the impeccably groomed young African, who does admit that he finds the country sparsely populated. ‘But everyone is very welcoming,’ he adds.

Arrey – he prefers this name – will spend the next two years completing the Diploma in Hospitality Management at Charles Darwin University’s Palmerton campus, where the facilities will allow him to learn most aspects of the hospitality industry.

He is studying in Australia on a scholarship awarded by THE ICE – Tourism and Hospitality Education - International Centre for Excellence.

He is the first Cameroon student to train in hospitality at CDU – and the first under an ‘ICE’ scholarship.

Cameroon is a country originally colonised by both the French and the English, with eight of its provinces French-speaking and its two other provinces English-speaking.

Arrey’s upbringing in Buea was part of the English-speaking part of the country, so he has been familiar with English since his early education.

After leaving school Arrey landed a job as a waiter and gained several years experience in his home town before he was eligible to apply for the international scholarship that will now see him increase his qualifications – and his employment prospects.

‘Five of us were successful in getting scholarships to go overseas,’ he says. ‘There are no hospitality training colleges in the Cameroons, so this is a wonderful opportunity to learn so much more about management and the industry.’

He is confident that the skills he will learn at CDU will allow him to ‘walk into any restaurant in the world and get a job’. He would also like to follow up his diploma by further training in food and beverage.

He says that Cameroon’s hospitality industry is expanding, with hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott planning to build more hotels. ‘When I go back home I would like to think of myself as a role model for other people from Cameroon who want to follow the same career path,’ he says.

Asked how he sees his future in 10 years time, Arrey admits to uncertainty. ‘I actually don’t know,’ he confesses. ‘Hospitality is the kind of career that offers the opportunity to travel to any part of the world. It really is a passport to the world, so who knows where I will be?’