NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A family vacation to Yellowstone National Park started it all. When she was 14 years old, Stephen F. Austin State University senior hospitality administration major Nancy Layden fell in love with the mountains, hot springs and geysers of the world's first national park.
"I always said I was going to come back here and work, and now I have," Layden said.
Since May, Layden has been interning at the Three Bears Restaurant in West Yellowstone. For more than a month, she has been learning the ins and outs of running and working at a restaurant in a top tourist destination. Her daily activities vary from working as a hostess, and shadowing the manager and executive chef, to conducting inventory.
"This has been a really great and eye-opening experience," Layden said. "I'm the first intern the restaurant has had, and I've enjoyed seeing the business management side of a restaurant."
A Houston native, Layden attended SFA to pursue a degree in wildlife management, but she changed her major after she became interested in hospitality, travel and tourism.
A few years ago, a flier announcing the Three Bears Restaurant internship caught Layden's attention. With the help of Dr. Chay Runnels, associate professor and hospitality administration program coordinator at SFA, Layden applied for the internship and was selected.
"It's been really amazing. I've met all kinds of people, and it's been interesting seeing what I've learned in class applied in an actual business," Layden said.
She added the experience also has given her the opportunity to learn about other cultures by working alongside people from Romania, Bulgaria, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Another perk, Layden said, of working in West Yellowstone is having access to Yellowstone National Park. In her free time, she explores the park with friends and has picked up photography as a new hobby.
Layden plans to graduate with her bachelor's degree in hospitality administration in August, but as an early graduation gift, her parents surprised her with a Nikon D5500 camera and a night photography workshop in Yellowstone. Since participating in the workshop, Layden has continued exploring Yellowstone with her camera in hand.