Helen Willis attends Thursday's Sunderland University Summer 2016 Graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light Picture: DAVID WOOD

Helen Willis attends Thursday’s Sunderland University Summer 2016 Graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light Picture: DAVID WOOD

Helen Willis is literally moving on after graduation – relocating from Sunderland to Texas to pursue her dream career at one of the USA’s top hotel management firms.

The First Class Events Management graduate, from Houghton-le-Spring, had always worked in hospitality and retail, but when a friend dragged her to an Open Day at the University of Sunderland – inspiration struck.

“My friend was signing up for a course and I was reading the University’s Prospectus while I was waiting, and the Events Management degree just jumped out at me,” the 26-year-old explained.

“In my second year I assisted in the organisation of the Penshaw Bike Fest, I was super shy prior to this and it transformed my life on a personal and professional level. In my third year I spent nine months on placement with White Lodgings Services (WLS) in Austin, Texas. I got to travel and see parts of the world I had only ever seen in magazines or on TV, it was life-changing; it was magical.

“I have been offered a graduate placement in Texas , working as a supervisor in the Marriott Hotel. I cannot express enough my gratitude to the University. I’ve been challenged, changed and ultimately, I’ve grown as a person.”

Helen received her First Class Honours Events Management degree at the annual summer graduation ceremonies this week at the Stadium of Light, where thousands of students are also receiving their degrees from Chancellor Steve Cram.

Sharon Wilson, Programme Leader of Events Management in the University’s Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Events, said: “Helen is an exceptional student in many ways. She comes with natural intelligence and a unique personality which has developed greatly during her time on the course.

“It would be fair to say that Helen has succeeded in the way we imagined, with First Class honours.

“Despite sometimes having self doubt, she has risen to the challenge of a placement abroad and an excellent candidate in national competition The Eventice, Helen has proven that she can now face the future with bright prospects ahead.”

White Lodging Services has more than 30 hotel properties across the state of Texas, representing multiple Marriott and Hilton Brands.

Helen’s contract with the chain runs for a year, she then plans to spend a month travelling the USA, before returning to the UK, with a wealth of experience behind her.