German expat Sonja is crafting a great career in Australia.


Australia and Germany might be separated by close to 15,000 km, but for Sonja Buettner, they couldn’t feel closer together. The Kenvale College graduate has integrated easily in the Australian way of life and has no plans to leave our sunny shores.

A love of hospitality and Australia

On a good tip from friends in Ireland, Sonja decided to pursue her other passion – Australia.

Sonja has enjoyed working in the hospitality industry for a number of years, taking on leadership positions in several German hotels, where she was responsible for front of house tasks. This included checking guests in and out, running events and overseeing the daily breakfast service.

On a tip from friends in Ireland, Sonja decided to pursue her other passion – Australia. From a young age, Sonja was fascinated by the land Down Under and the opportunity to work and study in Australia couldn’t be passed up.

Arriving in Australia

Sonja landed in Australia in 2013, initially on a working holiday visa, and quickly applied for a number of hotel roles in the Sydney region – receiving dozens of offers. Her idea of staying for a year and going home soon evaporated and she was swept up in the sun and fun of Sydney, Australia.

“I really liked it here and after getting the chance to work at the InterContinental Sydney, I really wanted to stay and build my career in the hotel industry,” she said.

Sonja wanted to stay longer in Australia and the InterContinental Hotel Human Resources staff recommended she thinks about studying at Kenvale College on a student visa after her working holiday visa. The InterContinental Hotel and IHG Group being an industry partner of Kenvale College where students work concurrently while they study. Developing her career turned into a real goal for Sonja and she began her Diploma of Event Management – hoping to build on her skillset.

Back in the classroom

The one-year Diploma of Event Management is ideal for students like Sonja who have some experience in running events, but would like more emphasis on the skills required to organise them.

“It was interesting for me to see the other side of the coin, to actually plan the event and see events come to life,” she said.

Sonja fondly remembers the Kenvale College OPEN DAY – World Food Festival where event management students were in charge of making the project a success.

“It was like our little project that we had to do and it was really nice to plan from the beginning, and get the opportunity to develop your own event organisation,” Sonja added.

The Diploma also has an element of industry placement – something that Sonja had already ticked since she was working at the InterContinental Sydney. A bonus of studying at Kenvale was that Sonja could work additional hours on top of the 20 hours a week her student visa allowed.

Sonja is currently a Conference and Banquet Duty Manager at the hotel, applying many of the skills and theory-based knowledge learnt at Kenvale College including leadership, event operations and business operations.

“Every day is something different and although it’s long hours, it never really gets boring.”

“I have to manage a team of over 30 people, including rostering, payroll as well as the daily operations of running and organising weddings and VIP events, for example,” she said.

“Every day is something different and although it’s long hours, it never really gets boring.”

Australia or Germany – where does Sonja’s future lie?

The Kenvale College graduate now has a new sponsored visa which allows her to work more freely in Australia over the next four years. As a result, Sonja has goals and plans to move up in the hotel industry.

“I definitely want to stay in Australia and become a Banquet Manager or Food and Beverage Manager at the InterContinental Sydney or one of the other IHG hotels,” she explained.

“I’m really happy with Kenvale College as I got so many opportunities. They helped me as an international student and allowed me to gain more experience in the hotel/events industry.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming an international student at Kenvale College or the Diploma of Event Management, get in touch with our team today.

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Thank you for inviting us – we really did appreciate it. I must say I was really impressed by the Briar Ridge team – one of them (… Aiden) did a really great job explaining who they were, what they were about etc., and really took the time to give us the background on the person behind it all (Gwyn Olsen). He’d clearly immersed himself in the project, and I think she’d have been really pleased if she’d seen that. Happy to reach out and tell her so if you think it would help pave the way for future events.

- Anonymous, Winefest Guest 2015

I just wanted to express thanks and congratulations to all at Kenvale for the magnificent lunch provided on Thursday.

I have been to many hatted restaurants this year and can honestly say that they would have struggled to produce such fantastic dishes.

The lunch was a credit to your students and your staff.  It would be a privilege to enjoy another visit next year.

Best wishes to your graduating students for success in their career and to your staff to continue to guide students to reach such a high standard.

- Anonymous public guest at Kenvale Restaurant 2015

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