Many people come across advertisements about Work and Travel each year, be it through brochures, emails or whatever other sources and would go “hey, that’s cool!” But most would stop right there. So what is it that exactly spurred me into taking that extra step? The work experience you get from an internship would definitely help build up your resume, help you pick up necessary skills and you would probably have some fun along the way. But what I wanted was something different. I wanted to have the experience of working in a different country, having a taste of what it is like to live in a different country and do some travelling as well. Work and Travel thus seemed a perfect fit for me.
AsI continue to recount my experience, I will not focus on just myself becausewithout my amazing friends; it really wouldn’t be that much of an experience atall.
Wechose Cedar Point as our work destination. It is one of America’s top roller coaster parks and islocated in Sandusky, a small city in the stateof Ohio. Whenwe first arrived, we were extremely excited. Whether it was our first “cookingsession” or our first training session, I will not forget the smiles and senseof anticipation that we had. First day of orientation and I guess questions oneverybody’s minds were “How would my work be like? Would I get along with mycolleagues?”
I could still rememberhow anxious I was while waiting for the very first guest at my candy floss pushcart. As a food host, I had the opportunity to interact with many internationalemployees and guests from all over the world. From having to ring up long listsof customers’ orders to cleaning up kitchens at the end of a hectic day, it didtake a bit of effort from me to do my job. Communication was also an issueinitially, be it with my colleagues or with the guests. I had to consciouslyremind myself to speak proper English and cut down the “Singlish”. Similarly,understanding the accents of people from all over the world was something thatwas not so easy.
Fortunately, my co-workers and the guests were very accommodating. They gave me as much time as I needed to learn. My supervisors were also very supportive. For instance, whenever I had insufficient working hours, he will always try his best to accede to my request despite working under tight constraints. These were things that I really appreciated.
The people behind my motivation at work.
There is really no experience that canquite compare. Working in such a dynamic environment surrounded by some of theworld’s best roller coasters and games is something that an ordinary summer jobcan’t provide. One of the best rewards that I had was seeing the joy andexcitement of the guests while having fun with their friends and families.I witnessedmany 1st-time rollercoaster riders, and special moments that guests sharedwhile at the park. Along the way, I also brushed up on my interpersonal skill.From a relatively soft spoken Asian (as compared to the westerners), I becamemore self-assured and even had the confidence to start a conversation with mycustomers. Of course not forgetting my culinary skills that have improveddrastically. From tasteless and bland chicken soup, I can proudly say that atleast my dishes do not get charred now.
There is more than just work of course.During our off days, we get to go to the park and take rides for free. I wouldnot forget the exhilaration I felt as I took the “Top Thrill Dragster”. It hitsa top speed of about 120 miles an hour in just 4 seconds before beginning itsascent up a 90 degree incline to a height of 300 feet and then going back downagain. All in merely 17 seconds. Cedar Point also arranges trips that employeescan sign up for. One of the trips we signed up for was Niagara Falls. I can only say that the Niagara Falls epitomisesthe beauty that Mother Nature can present.
However, it was not all fun and games.As weeks passed, naturally bouts of home sickness started to creep in. Some ofus missed food back home while others were getting too bored of having to dohousework and of course our family members were dearly missed. Neverthelesswhat really helped was that we had strong bond which pulled us through. Wehelped each other out when any one of us was having to work long hours on certaindays and kept up a positive attitude to keep our spirits high. One example Iremembered was when one of us had to work till almost mid-night without havinghad dinner, we kept some food for him so he could have his dinner when hereached back to our apartment. These were the little gestures that reallybonded us and made us feel like we were home away from home.
As time ticked down to the end of ourwork period, it was an emotional rollercoaster (pardon the pun) for us. On onehand I guess we all were really thrilled about travelling, on the other, wewere going to leave behind lots of friends we made along the way. It was hardto say goodbye to the people that helped shaped such a memorable experience.Before leaving of course, we made an effort to meet every friend we made alongthe way to say goodbye. It got emotional as we knew we were going to miss everysingle one of them.
Trip tothe Niagara Falls
Through the experience of working andliving overseas, I believed everyone of us picked up something valuable thathave enriched us. For example, we learned how to manage our finances better.Wecouldn’t justspend whatever we had as we had to budget for things like livingexpenses and our travelling plans. Also, I am sure we all learned how to bemore independent. Through simple things like doing our own laundry or having tobuy groceries, we all learned to be less reliant and be more independent.Though it meant hard work sometimes, I believe it made us become more mature.
Of course the travelling was anunforgettable experience. Watching the unbelievable fireworks at Disneyland,the sight of the White House in Washington,the delicious philly cheese steak in Philadelphia,the photo-taking at the Statue of Liberty, the stories are endless. But I’lltry my best of course.
Our first stop was Washington D.C.The first thought that comes to most peoples’ mind would be the White House. Itis more than that though. The place that lingers vividly in my memory would bethe Abraham Lincoln Memorial where the former president of the United States of America was being recognizedfor his leadership and efforts in preserving the Union of the United States.
Our next stop was Florida,Orlando. Thisis of course the place you need to be if you are looking for fun in theme parks(not for rollercoasters though, Cedar Point is still the best for it!). HarryPotter World in Universal Islands of Adventure wasin a class of its own with its outstanding 3D ride and spectacular backdrop.For Disneyland, dumbstruck would be an appropriateword to use when one witnesses the amazing fireworks at night.
Welcometo the wizarding world1!
Philadelphia was our third destination. Not the mostwell-known city in the world but few know that America was indeed “born” in thiscity. I believe understanding the history of the place you visit gives you a somuch more different perspective to the one you had of the country before youcame. And this city is well-steeped in American history as you can get.
Of course, we could not leave without visitingwhat is recognized by many as the greatest city in the world- New York City. I never imagined I would oneday come up so close to the Statue of Liberty. I could still remember usfrantically taking photos with the life-like wax figurines at Madame Tussauds.I seldom get the chills down my spine which happened when I visited the GroundZero museum. The sight of New YorkCity on top of the Rockefeller Centre was just a sightto behold. Walking through Times Square felt like we were being part of a Hollywood movie setting. In short, NYC was just anexperience I will never forget.
As the day came for us to go back home,I think most of us were happy we were going be home with our family after threemonths. However, having to finally end this Work and Travel Programme thatbrought us the summer of our lifetime was indeed really hard.
You could go for an awesome “grad trip” when you graduate, or go ona student exchange programme in one of your school semesters. But what makeswork and travel stand out is that you not only get to work in a diverseenvironment, you also get to learn about a very different working culture – arare experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. This isn’t just your usualsummer job; it is more like a paid holiday. Youth comes and goes in a flash somake it worthwhile and enjoy this amazing experience.