Edwin See Choon Khiat, Morey’s Piers, WAT 2011

“What spurred me?”

When I noticed the email regarding Speedwing Work & Travel program, I just had the feeling that this was one opportunity that I could not miss. I had heard so much about it from my senior.

Being a typical Singaporean who was skeptical, I went around asking my seniors to enquire more about their experiences during Work and Travel. I received positive feedback from the majority of them. Thus, I decided to sign up for the workshop. I kept an open mind and wanted to see what does the Speedwing Work & Travel had to offer me.

I found the representatives from Speedwing very sincere in recommending the program to us. They were not there just for sales, but rather, telling us what to expect from it. They informed us about the fun that we would have, and also, the possible downsides that some of us might find.

Working in a world-renowned tourism spot or theme park is definitely something that a typical university graduate would not experience. They informed us that it would be a fun and unique working experience. I was really excited about working in a theme park myself as I have always loved visiting one. The idea of being able to make friends from the other side of the world was also very appealing to me.

Speedwing also informed us of the possible tough working conditions that some of us might not be used to. Also, the possible issues that we might face between colleagues and employer; just like any other job out there.

This honesty made me more at ease when posing questions to them. And, in retrospect, the replies that I received were often very true and representative of what I was going to expect back then. In essence, it cleared many of my doubts.


“Knowledge gained”

I would label my own personality as pretty independent. It was my first time being away from home for such a prolonged period.? Hence, this program allowed me to test myself: how well could I adapt, and take care of myself in this new environment was then a big question mark.

Being able to take care of my own daily needs in every aspect is something that made me feel really good about. It was not as easy as I thought it would be.

We often had to take care of our daily meals via cooking as eating out can be more costly and unhealthy. This was not a huge problem for me as I often cook in Singapore. However, something that I did not anticipate was the grocery shopping for my meals. From choosing the type of cooking oil to buy, how much grocery to buy each time, how much to spend, to which supermarket to go for, was something new and interesting for me.

Choosing my own accommodation was something refreshing for me as well. As it was flexible for us to pick our own housing from a list of available landlord, some of us had a hard time deciding the optimal one. I settled for a cheaper one that was closest to my workplace. It does not have air condition and was not as spacious as the places that my friends lived in. However, I saved some money from it and location was my main concern.

Another important soft skill that I picked up is socializing with different people from all over the world. Singapore is a tourism hub. We often see people from all over the world here. However, I did not have much opportunity to interact with them on a regular basis.? That includes my project mates who are foreigners on an exchange program. Naive, it might sound, but I always thought all Caucasians are more or less the same. I was pretty surprise that Caucasians are actually very excited to make friends with Asians. Somehow, I used to have the impression that people are only comfortable in making friends from the same ethnic groups. During the trip, I learnt more about the many different cultures of different countries. From American, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain, Macedonian, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Taiwan, Hong Kong, to China. Due to my limited geographical knowledge, I had not even heard of some of theses countries and never had I thought that I would make good friends from these places. Some of them are almost the same size as Singapore, or had an even smaller population than us!

Another thing that I picked up is how to have fun in a foreign place! It sounds easy but this requires some effort. You need to keep an open mind to everything! That is the first step to having fun. With an open mind, you meet many new friends and try out many new activities. I always thought that I am not a sight-seeing person when it comes to travelling. During 1 of my off days, I decided to give it a try and tag along with my bunch of new friends to Niagara Fall. I was totally blown away and experience a sense of satisfactory in a whole new way.


“My Great Takeaways”

As globalization becomes an integrated part of today’s life, it is essential to be equipped with the skill set to be able to communicate with people from all over the world comfortably. This comes with experience. During the first few weeks in the United States, communication was hard. It was not because people were unfriendly; rather, it was due to Singapore’s culture being more reserved and communicating only when we need help. Initially, I chose to only interact with my colleagues that came from Singapore. I was afraid to talk to the people of another skin colour. I did not know how to communicate with them. I did not see a need to approach them. On my second week there, I made my first group of ‘foreign’ friends just outside of walmart. I recognize them to be working in the same amusement park as I am. They were at the same bus station as me and my friend. We started talking, and only to realize they held the same fear I had regarding communicating with ‘foreign’ friends. They were from Ukraine and English was not their first language. However, language was not a barrier for us. This group of friends became one of my closer buddies around there and we went on a travelling trip to New York City together.?

It took me awhile to get use to this whole new culture, and appreciate that many others out there are genuinely friendly people. This definitely helps in my future career when it comes to communicating with everyone, regardless of his or her backgrounds, and also helps in daily life outside of my career. The world is so much better when the barrier of communication between people wanes off.

Needless to say, the world and travel also helped me to further develop my independent personality. Being able to take care of your own daily needs in a land far away from home and not being equipped with everything you need was a pretty tough job.


“Will I recommend?”

I would definitely recommend this program to the majority of my friends. I believe they will definitely have a blast and learn some valuable skill sets from this and could carry it with them for life. Such rewarding experiences include but not limited to making friends all over the world, being more independent, having fun while working at an amusement park, partying, sightseeing, cheap shopping, or just chilling by the balcony and exchanging cultures.

If you are willing to open up and just have fun, you will love it! Let me just share a story in case anyone is contemplating due to worries about being away from home by yourself. I have a friend that did not know how to use a stove during the first day when we arrived. By the end of it, she managed to cook for us, and that meal taste pretty awesome! Also, along the way, you will receive so much help from people and before you know it, all your worries are solved.

Nothing in this world is perfect. A small handful of people might not enjoy work & travel as much as I did. If you are against stepping into the kitchen; if you will not and cannot work for people; if you do not wish to make new friends; then you might find yourself not having as much fun during the Work & Travel program. Otherwise, this program is customized for you: stop contemplating and sign up for it right now!