As a research assistant studying virtual reality (VR) I’ve been given opportunities to scale Everest, explore Mars, and even compete against a robot in a game of ping-pong (spoiler alert…I lost). Of course, this has all been virtual. In reality, my experience as an RA within the Institute for Hospitality & Tourism Research has taken me far beyond the immersive worlds shown through head-mounted VR displays.

This past year I’ve been able to attend conferences in both Hong Kong and Quebec City, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without the support of TRSM and the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management (and of course, some hard work).

My jaunt to Hong Kong was the result of winning 2nd Runner Up for Best Undergraduate Research Paper for the 3rd Global Tourism & Hospitality Conference put on by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel & Tourism Management. The paper, entitled “Gen Y, Virtual Reality & Tourism”, was a qualitative study assessing the motivations of Gen Y in using VR for travel-related purposes. Having never been to Asia, the feeling of having the opportunity to go to Hong Kong and present my own research was indescribable. Of course, the city was spectacular. I managed to find some free time to check out some tourist and local hotspots, and eat a bit too much (OK, way too much) dim sum. However the highlight of the trip was presenting my findings to academics who attended the conference from around the globe.

Juleigh in Hong Kong

The excitement I experienced in Hong Kong was extended as our research team found out our collaborative quantitative study, “Virtual Reality and Implications for Destination Marketing”, was up for Best Paper Award at the 2017 Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) international conference. Very shortly after returning from Hong Kong, I was on a plane to Quebec City (still unsure of which time-zone I was in) to present alongside my research mentor, Dr. Tom Griffin. Though we didn’t take home the title, the study was well-received, and it was an honour to present to top professionals from industry and academia. It also set the stage for two more studies on VR & Travel that we are developing this summer.

As I’m going into my final semester this fall, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my experience at Ryerson. Through working at the HTM Research Institute, I’ve been able to achieve more than I would have ever imagined. I have won scholarships and awards, participated in an array of interesting studies and in working with the institutes professors and researchers, I’ve broadened my mind and my skill set. But by far the biggest takeaway has been the passion I’ve developed for research.

Juleigh with VR Headsets

So much of my success and positive experience at Ryerson have centered around the HTM Institute. I would encourage both new and current students to stop by and keep up to date on the job opportunities that exist within the department. I would also encourage industry to consider partnering to discover insights and collaborate with some of the brilliant minds housed there.

If you have any questions, or just want to beat me at a game of VR Ping-Pong, stop by — the doors are always open!

Posted by Juleigh Giberson

Juleigh is a 4th year Bachelor of Commerce student in the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. She is an award-winning student leader and has been recognized for her work in research, entrepreneurship and leadership. Juleigh works as a Research Assistant in the Institute for Hospitality & Tourism Research, studying the impacts of virtual reality and destination marketing.