Melissa Maniam Crater Lake, WAT 2012

I can still remember vividly the night before my departure for what was WAT2012/melissa_maniam_Crater_Lake_WAT_2012_2.jpgto become the best trip of my life. It was undeniably terrifying to come to terms to the fact that I will be staying in a foreign country, far away from home for the next 3 months. A mixed of emotions engulfed me when I came to terms that it is time to be independent. On one hand being anxious of what is to come, I started questioning myself, will the people in America like me, will I have a hard time adapting to the lifestyle there. On the other hand, I was extremely excited for the new experience that awaits me. What was truly unexpected was that this trip was going to be an experience that I will never forget. This may sound very cliche, but having gone through the whole journey; it is entirely surreal. I have learnt so much from the trip and gained insights to things that I would have never imagined doing. This adventure enabled me to realize the important things in life, such as appreciating my family and friends.








It was a simple conversation with my friends that led to greater things to come. We were discussing the possibility of going on a trip together as one of close friend was graduating. Hence, the topic of “Work

and Travel” surfaced. This was how everything started. We began to discuss and research on the places we could go, before and after attending the session Speedwing organized in our school (Nanyang Technology University). The session gave us details and an overview of what the program was about and the locations we could choose from. There were additional information on the website, regarding the employers available. We also research on the different locations to get a better understanding of the national parks and how to plan our travel destinations.

Never in my wildest dream will I ever imagine this to become the most enriching journey I ever had. Honestly, there were moments of hesitation and the non-stop questioning of how will I be able to survive on my own. However, after discussing with family and friends, I knew I had to take the first step in becoming more independent in life. Moreover, a vastly different working environment was bound to bring about greater life experiences. Hence, we made the decision to head to Crater Lake National Park to work.

There were numerous experiences that changed my perspective on life and they had tremendous effects on the way I will handle situations and even in my thinking. The ability to work in a national park’s gift shop was an exceptionally rewarding experience. I was able to meet people from all walks of life and they were willing to speak to me about where they came from. They were also interested as to how I got a job in a national park and which country I was from. Compared to Singapore’s working environment, in the US, people were more approachable and friendly which made working challenging yet fun. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and get a hang of approaching customers and striking a conversation with them. The experience made me more outspoken. My managers also educated me regarding the products sold in the gift shop. The majority of the products were made in America and some made locally (Oregon). Hence, I was given more information on the background of the products and why some were exclusive to Crater Lake. This gave me a chance to widen my exposure and gain insightful knowledge.

This trip was immensely enriching due to the beautiful people I’ve met throughout this experience. They were willing to go all out to make me feel welcomed and also brought me to many different places. As I was working in a national park, getting to town required individuals to drive more than an hour. Everyone was informing us that they were heading to town and asked us to join them. Subsequently, we made arrangements to head to town together and they brought us around. It showcased how hospitable the Americans were as they were more than willing to bring us around despite their own busy schedule. They were also taking the initiative to bring us to town (Medford and Klamath Falls), which requires a 1-2 hours drive. My manager and his wife brought my friends and I along Highway 138 just to view all the different waterfalls. It actually made me realized that I should enjoy such moments in life and appreciate the kindness of my new friends. We must always learn to enjoy the kind gestures of others and never take things for granted. We should also treat others like how we want to be treated.

The other experiences that left a deep impression were the days that I had a chance to spend time with the Americans and the rest of the internationals. We usually have a gathering on our off days and the rest who were working were able to join us after work. The Americans knew that we missed Asian food a lot. Hence, they organized a sushi-making party for us. We were able to head to town to get the ingredients before heading back to Crater Lake to start the food preparation. We had a chance to interact with each other and had a great night just spending time together and making the best of what we had. This was the moment that had me thinking that in life, it is important to slow things down and reflect on what is going on to fully appreciate such moments.

I also had the opportunity to spend 4th of July in America. It was a day we were all awaiting for, as it was a chance to experience the American culture. Hence, we head down to Diamond Lake to view the fireworks. We had the chance to go out on the speedboat to enjoy the magnificent view around Diamond Lake. Around 8-9pm, that was when the fireworks started. The whole day was so beautiful as we had a perfect view of the lake and of course great friends to enjoy the moment with. It made me realize that there is so much more to life, including the wonderful experiences and opportunities. We should always take the chance to travel around the world, as we never know what awaits us.

After leaving Crater Lake in early July, I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. These places had so much to offer and numerous sightseeing chances. All the different states were so enjoyable. This trip made me more determined to travel to more places in the future and take the chance to see the world. There is so much more to learn and determination is key. This journey made me more independent and I learnt how to adapt to different situations.

Having experienced the whole adventure, I would highly recommend this trip to everyone. This journey is really a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. It is definitely worth taking up this opportunity as the trip had so much to offer. There are many life lessons to be learnt throughout the whole journey. The experience is truly enriching and it allows you to get to know and understand the people you are travelling with better. Moreover, it builds up one’s independence and life skills such as communication and learning how to deal with different situation. It is an eye-opening moment to learn more about the American culture and values. It also allows individuals to make new friends, and some are now friends for life. It enables us to become closer with those we travelled with. In addition, we learnt how to look past the flaws of others and instead focus and appreciate the positive aspects of individuals. It is a chance to learn how to tolerate and deal with all obstacles in life and become a stronger person from the various experiences. Therefore, it is definitely worth embarking on this program and journey.

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. This phrase sums up the entire trip and the greater things to come in the future. In life, we need to take chances and risks in order to achieve more. Chances like this do not come everyday and we will never know how much we will enjoy such adventures till we tried it out.

Most importantly, this journey enabled me to realize that in life we need to step out of our comfort zone in order to achieve more remarkable experiences. Humans are very afraid of change, but once we step out of our comfort zone; we will obtain diverse insights to situations in life. It will definitely change our perspectives. It has enriched me in terms of my perception towards life, friendships, new cultural experiences and just opening my eyes to a wider world. I will never ever forget the beautiful people I’ve met along the way, the mesmerizing sceneries, and all these memories will be kept in my heart forever.

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