Student Talk is a series of interviews with students that have developed their thesis under my supervision at IUBH University of Applied Sciences on projects we have designed for and that have achieved an outstanding performance.

The main purpose of Student Talk is to showcase talented students, support their professional digital trace, highlight their ideas and hopefully inspire new students.

In this issue we open the stage for Leonie Vreden. She is a highly dedicated alumni that investigated how cancer patients reflected on their consumption of luxury products and experiences and the effect consumption has on happiness and well being.

Leonie, the stage is yours!


1. Tell us a bit about your life story, where you come from, what study program you attended, what are your passions and what are you doing at this stage in life. 

I was born and grew up in Bad Honnef (Germany) a beautiful small town along the Rhine river and close to Bonn. The town is known for its beauty and relaxing atmosphere, as the town is surrounded by the “Siebengebirge”, seven mountains that carry out a calm ambience and are perfect for hiking and strolling around.

When I was 15 years old, I had the desire to experience life abroad, out of my familiar surrounding. Therefore, I decided to spend one high school year on a boarding school in Canada. The experience of living in a different culture, speaking a different language and getting to know interesting people from around the world, fascinated me and enriched my personal development in many ways.

Moreover, helping my fellow students and contributing to the community has always been a desire that has lead me to the duty of the student speaker during my high school and University time.

However, after I graduated from high-school in 2014 in Bad Honnef and having attended another study program in cologne, I decided to lead my career into the hospitality industry. As I was always part-time working in restaurants and hotels I already collected experiences in the gastronomy in various ways before. That’s why my journey lead me back to my hometown Bad Honnef, where I started studying Hospitality Management at IUBH in 2015.

After three years being a student of IUBH, I gained valuable experiences on a personal and professional level: During my internship at Hotel Adlon in Berlin, my contribution to the community by being part of the student representatives as well as the network I was able to built during this time.

After graduating from IUBH a few months ago, I started working at “25h Hotel The Circle” in Cologne which included contributing to the grand opening of the hotel in August. Having taken along this unique experience, I felt the desire to specify my current knowledge in the direction of Marketing.

As I chose Marketing as my elective class in my 5th semester, it already generated great interest in this field. Moreover, I repeatedly had the chance to have a glance into the marketing department of Hotels I worked in as well as a marketing agency.

Therefore I just started my Masters in the field of Marketing at the HMKW (Hochschule für Medien, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft). I’m looking forward to expand my knowledge by getting a deeper insight into the field of marketing.

2. You have developed a research thesis of exceptional quality. How would you describe your study (Please include research aim, when it took place, method (s), data collection process and sample sizes)? 

I started writing my Bachelor Thesis in February 2018 , shortly after completing my last exams, and deciding to have Prof. Dr. Tigre Moura as my supervisor. The Thesis is under the general topic of happiness and consumption.

The crucial topic of happiness in relation to the consumption of products and experiences caught my interest from the beginning, as I believe that this specific topic concerns all of us, especially nowadays, in a world of endless consumerism. I was keen to get a deep insight into this topic as I was hoping to learn and develop myself from this research.

The research is specifically focusing on the self-reflection on consumption of luxury products and experiences to identify the impact on happiness.

Luxury and Experiences: How does consumption impacts happiness?

We decided to approach the topic from the perspective of people who experienced a severe health condition (cancer, heart-attack etc.), as such experiences provoke changed perceptions and values towards life, possibly resulting in changed consumption habits.

Consequently, the study adopts an inductive and interpretivist research approach to gather quantitative and qualitative data from 388 participants via an online-survey and 9 in-depth interviews with people who experienced a severe health condition.

3. What are the main application (s) of your research findings for society or the industry? And how would you suggest for researchers to advance in this topic?

As this research is rather a theoretical framework and not directly related to business processes or a specific industry, the research findings are mainly applied to society rather than in form of managerial recommendations. The study showed, that the experience of a severe illness seems to develop different attitudes and priorities when it comes to spending money.

The feeling of purpose of life seems to emerge conspicuously in the direction of experiencing frequent positive affect in life by living experiences as most people who experienced a severe health condition rather spend their money on experiences than on material possessions.

Therefore, companies dealing with people undergoing a severe illness, possibly even facing a limited life expectation, as hospitals or hospices, should offer the possibility to realize such desires in form of events and adventures.

Moreover, the self- reflection of consumption of experiences and luxury products of people who faced mortality have been in line with results of studies suggesting consumption patterns to maximize happiness, thus such ways of consumption can be generalized. Individuals in general should focus more on spending money on experiences, due to great hedonic value derived, rather than accumulating material possessions.

The topic of consumption and happiness is multifaceted and could also be approached from the perspective of different consumer groups, for example millennial and seniors.

4. If you were to start all over again, what would you have done differently in your study? 

If I would start all over again with the study, I would’ve started earlier reading the existing scientific literature about this topic for the literature review. I underestimated how much time it would take to work through the literature.

Leonie Vreden at the IUBH University of Applied Sciences graduation. Credits: Frank Homann

5. As you have achieved an exceptional performance writing your thesis, what are the main 
suggestions you would give to any student that is about to start or is already writing their thesis? 

I would suggest to develop a rough plan by setting personal deadlines when to have which chapter finished. By developing this plan/schedule you get yourself organized and a rough feeling of the workload. Also, before starting to write, be clear about the research methods, the aim and the existing literature about the topic.

Moreover, try to get as much information about this topic, including existing literature and try to organize the articles on their main topic. Having done that, you will also get an idea of the table of contents and topics concerning the literature review.

Sounds like a lot of work before even starting to write, but it will bring clarity and you will thank yourself later. However, the most important thing when writing your bachelor thesis is that the topic is of your personal interest, otherwise the research will be difficult and hard to conduct.

6. How important is music in your life and what does it mean to you? 

Music is very important in my life as it accompanies me in everyday routine activities as well as on special occasions. It is a way of calming myself and venting negative emotions, especially when playing piano myself.

7. What were you listening to while writing your thesis? In addition, what would suggest for anyone to listen while writing his or her research? 

While writing my Bachelor Thesis, I didn’t listen to any music because somehow it is distracting me from reading and concentrating. But on my way to the library and back home, I was listening to Music that cheers me up and brings me in a good mood, mostly music that I can sing along with.

8. Finally, what are your next professional plans and how can employers find you? (e-mail and LinkedIn links)

Currently I’m doing my Masters in Marketing and Mediamanagement in Cologne at the HMKW (Hochschule für Medien, Kommuniktion und Wirtschaft). Besides that, I’m part-time working in the 25h Hotel The Circle, as I don’t want to loose the connection to the hospitality industry, especially to 25h Hotels.

However, after finishing my Masters, I’m excited to collect new practical experiences in the field of marketing. I would love to start working in a big company as I think that working in a conversant company after finishing my studies provides me with valuable knowledge and experiences useful to start off my career.

I’m very pleased to have the ability to do my masters in such an interesting field which is represented in almost any business. Potential employers can find me on LinkedIn or via E-mail.