Alessandra Sarria: Caring for Others Through Hospitality


CIA Student Bio

“Hospitality is about generosity…The CIA should be everyone’s first choice for pursuing a degree in the hospitality industry. The new Hospitality Management program is perfect because through the courses that we take we are establishing a strong foundation that will enable us to pursue any career path that we choose within the industry. The capacity to be able to connect with others is a beautiful thing, and through the hands-on experiences we are able to develop our interpersonal communication and leadership skills.”

How did you become interested in food and hospitality?
I became interested in food and hospitality through my grandmother’s (abuelita’s) cooking. Her cooking has always made me feel loved and taken care of. Growing up in Nicaragua, money was low and grocery shopping every week wasn’t always attainable, but we always had access to organic and fresh produce from the local street markets. My grandmother would buy cost-effective, in-season produce and cook delectable dishes. She’s a creative cook who treasures the process of preparing the food, and she values each ingredient and its potential to become something exquisite. She served the meals with so much love and care, and each time it was an ethereal experience.

I became interested in cooking because I associate food with love and inspiration. Cooking to me has always been a form of expression and the best way to tell someone you love them unconditionally. My grandmother has been the person who has always inspired me to cook and to take care of others. She taught me that love is shown through what you give, not what you have. I aspire to be at least half the woman she is, and to perpetually cherish food and the connection that we form with the people we meet along the way. That’s why the Hospitality Management degree is the ideal career path for me.

Why did you choose the CIA?
At the CIA our motto is “Food is Life” and to me that is a reflection of choosing to live a life that is driven by demonstrating consistent care as well as mastering the art of staying passionate, successful, and humble throughout the path I embark on. I’ve learned that every moment in my life is momentous and valuable, and that I can share my passion for taking care of others through the generosity that hospitality embodies.

Hospitality is about generosity, and treating each other how I would like to be treated. When I share a meal with someone, I’m telling them that I care, that I love them, and that I acknowledge their importance in my life. Food and hospitality embody what I want my life to consist of, and the CIA is providing me with the knowledge, experience, and tools to pave my career path. Anthony Bourdain once said “You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”—and from the CIA I’m taking unique experiences and top-tier education. I hope to achieve a place in the hospitality industry that enables me to create a positive change in people’s lives, and this is an opportunity available to all CIA students.

How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
The CIA is the school of my dreams, but getting here was not an easy path. I was born and raised in Nicaragua, where resources were very limited to our family. Obtaining an education was important, and those who were able to earn a college degree were considered lucky. Being raised by a single mom isn’t easy, and scholarships and grants are the reasons why I’m able to attend the CIA and pursue a career that I’m passionate about. I will be the first to obtain a college degree in my family in the United States, and this degree is ultimately dedicated to her because she has given me everything she has to help me succeed. I’m immensely grateful that the CIA offers scholarships and grants.

“If you are considering the CIA, I would say go for it! It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and sometimes you have to trust your instinct and trust the next chapter of your life; after all, you’re the author.”

What do you like best about the CIA?
There are countless enjoyable activities to do at the CIA, and that’s what I love the most! Being the “new kid” is not a dilemma that you’ll ever have because of the inviting community we have on campus. There are heaps of clubs that you may join, and if there isn’t one you particularly have a preference for, you can start your own club! There is an activity happening daily on campus, and some of my favorites include the extravagant Bingo night at the end of the semester, Movie Nights at the Marriott Pavilion theater, and Fall De-Stress Fest because they always bring in the cutest therapy dogs! The Group Exercise classes at the gym are so much fun as well, with my favorite being Spin. Also, my personal favorites include trips to New York City for a Broadway Show, Hotel Tour, or to see the Rockettes perform!

Additionally, we have an excellent support system in terms of stress and needing someone to talk to. CAPS is our counseling and psychological services on campus. The incredible staff is there to help with stress, anxiety, transitions, or whatever else you may need to talk about. My overall college experience has been absolutely exceptional. I’ve had the opportunity to meet inspiring and creative individuals and I’ve made everlasting, incredible friendships!

Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I’m the founder and public relations manager of The Hospitality Management Club, and was a United Nations youth ambassador. I was also a resident assistant, have written some blog posts for the CIA Blog, and volunteer for the CIA Community Outreach Day.

What is your favorite dish to make?
My favorite dish to make is Chef Cat Cora’s “Kota Kapama,” which is chicken stewed in garlic and cinnamon. I enjoy making this dish because it fills the kitchen with a delicious aroma that instantly captivates anyone who walks in. It’s the kind of dish that simmers on your stovetop for around an hour, and I love having it during the wintertime with extra mizithra cheese grated on top.

How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food and hospitality?
The CIA should be everyone’s first choice for pursuing a degree in the hospitality industry. The new Hospitality Management program is perfect because through the courses that we take we are establishing a strong foundation that will enable us to pursue any career path that we choose within the industry. The capacity to be able to connect with others is a beautiful thing, and through the hands-on experiences we are able to develop our interpersonal communication and leadership skills.

What are the best lessons you’ve learned while at the CIA?
We are biologically primed to seek out success and to always pressure ourselves to have it all figured out. I recently took a psychology class with Professor Fischetti, and we touched base on topics like respecting human diversity, identifying different ways to manage stress, and encouraging a work-life balance, along with many other helpful tools that I will be able to apply not only to my future career path, but my personal life as well. I learned that laughter can heal, and it’s okay to have a sense of humor during stressful and hard situations in our lives. I also learned that a leadership role doesn’t only come with responsibilities of the job description, but also with the responsibility to take care of your employees and ourselves and to provide the support that they need. We can’t do things on our own in the hospitality industry; we will always need a helping hand, and learning to care for each other in the ultimate meaning of our career path.

What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
Obtaining a CIA Hospitality Management degree will open so many career paths for me. Some career choices I’m interested in at the moment are event planning and hotel operations with sustainable and ethical practices. I plan to obtain a master’s degree as well, hopefully in sustainable tourism and eventually have the qualifications needed to work for the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), and be able to apply my skills and knowledge to improve tourism in developing countries.

CIA has an incredible and reputable networking system and we have all the opportunities to network with almost anyone in our industry. What has helped me the most with paving a career path is meeting hundreds of eminent employers at the Career Fair, having access to easily apply to internships through Culinary Connect, and having the opportunity to attend UN conferences in New York City with my United Nations youth ambassador position. Most important, my degree advisor, Dr. Joy Dickerson, has been my mentor and go-to person for anything. I’m grateful that the CIA is composed of kind, brilliant, and resourceful professionals like her.

What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
From time to time I would encourage students to attempt things that they think are beyond their capacity. It’s important to challenge yourself, and you’d be surprised how much you will learn about yourself. Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t have your life figured out or planned out. Believe it or not, we’re all trying to figure out who we want to be and what we want to do. Life is a process, and it’s okay to take it little by little, day by day because you’ll find your way. If you become anxious, are stressed, or feel lonely, you’re not alone—I’ve been there. Reach out to a friend, a family member, CAPS, or someone you trust. Practice self-care, cherish your inner peace, and don’t allow others or anything outside of you to control your emotions.

Failure is inevitable, and sometimes the most profound life lessons are hidden within failure and loss. One of my favorite quotes to live by is “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” If you are considering the CIA, I would say go for it! It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and sometimes you have to trust your instinct and trust the next chapter of your life; after all, you’re the author.

Alesandra Sarria is a CIA student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management at the college’s New York campus in Hyde Park. Born in Nicaragua, she currently lives in California’s Orange County.