Shermin Teh, Six Flags Great Escape, WAT 2009

Shermin Teh 4

Last July prior to entering SMU, I attended a compulsory Career Talk organized by the Office of Career Services. The presenter was talking about Work & Travel USA and she said, “If you want to, you can go and work at Disney.” Having always wanted to work in a theme park, being a fan of theme parks and not having gone to USA before, my immediate response was, “I HAVE TO GO!
Because the idea of going for Work & Travel had been on my mind for quite awhile, I signed up for it even though I did not manage to find friends to accompany me. Because Work & Travel had been occupying my thoughts for so long, I was not willing to cancel my trip in light of the H1N1 health scare just weeks before my departure on May 10. Because I didn’t give up on my dream, Work & Travel proved itself to be the experience of the lifetime.
How was it the experience of my lifetime?

Shermin Teh

As SMU does not offer hall life to local students, it was during Work & Travel that I had my first taste of what living with other people would be. I recall the excitement in stocking up food from Wal-Mart, the joy of decorating our room with what little funds we had, the nights where we would stay up and chat. I recall doing things I’ve never done before in my life too, for example, washing my own clothes, making my own bed, cooking my own meals. I was also amused when I had room mates that snored! Indeed, living with other people requires much patience and love. My 3-month “hall life” not only made me more independent, but helped me appreciate the comforts of my home.

Shermin Teh 1When I first started traveling, I felt insecure and unconfident. I heard so much about how nasty the Americans can be, how people fall into tourist traps, how one may get mugged and how easy was it to get lost. Not only was I traveling in a place I’ve never gone before. I was alone without my family and I have never gone abroad for such a long time (11weeks!) previously. However, as I traveled to more places, it became easier to read maps, find places of interest, hunt (and bargain) for the cheapest deals and travel like an American. I am proud to say that throughout my stay in USA, I have never gotten lost before! I told my travel buddy, Agnes, that as long as you give me a map, I can navigate any city in the world! And I say that with utmost confidence.

Traveling as always been my hobby, and needless to say, traveling USA had been a blast. Throughout my 11-week stay, I’ve been to 9 states, namely, New York, Massachusetts (Boston), Florida (Orlando), Nevada (Las Vegas), California (Los Angeles & San Francisco), New Jersey, Illinois (Chicago), Arizona and Ohio and sat a plane 12 times. No matter how many places I’ve been before, the experience in a new place is always different and exciting. Till today even, I cannot believe that I’ve gone to Disney World at Florida! It seems too much a dream to begin with. It’s always an enjoyment to learn people’s way of life, what sort of food do they eat, how do they travel about, what are their traditions etc. Having traveled so extensively surely broadened my horizons and appreciation for different cultures.

Shermin Teh 3Shermin Teh 2Definitely, work took up a bulk of my time when I was in USA. It was through where I worked, Six Flags Great Escape at New York, which I first worked with Americans. It was difficult at first to communicate with Americans as singlish was hard to comprehend. However, this obstacle was removed when I picked up the American accent within a week and could communicate with the Americans like an American. It was also at The Great Escape that I overcame my fear of being on water for extended time frame—I had to operate a boat! Work didn’t feel like work at all, simply because I was having fun every second! Everyday was something to look forward to because everyday was different– operating a different ride, working with different, fun team members and meeting different guests. It never fails to make my day whenever I see that my guest had a good time under my service.

What were my biggest take away from this experience?
2 things: friendships and an aspiration for my future.

Shermin Teh 5As the saying goes, no man is an island. This experience had been so enriching due to the people that journeyed alongside me. The friendships I’ve made with fellow Singaporeans and Americans, the memories we have, are priceless. The best friend I’ve made from this trip is Agnes (picture on the right), my room mate, my fellow SMU school mates and my travel buddy. I only knew her through this trip and I was shocked to find out that we were doing the same course and yet have not known each other’s existence. Our friendship blossomed so much that we even choose to take classes together and meet up frequently in school.

Furthermore, I had such wonderful American friends that it became tough for me to leave The Great Escape. However, technology has proved to serve us well in the aspect of connecting people across the world. Good bye is not forever!

Work & Travel USA has also helped me develop an aspiration for my future. Before the trip, I always had a passion for the hospitality industry, wanting to seek a career in the airports, hotels, theme parks, Integrated Resorts etc. However I was afraid that the passion was not sufficient to sustain me through work. To test myself, I chose to work in a theme park. And after 10 weeks of work, not only did I not find myself dreading work, I became even more determined to impact lives through the joys of a theme park. As such, to understand theme parks more, my next goal is to get an internship at Disney World. Although the prospects of working in a theme park seem dull to many, the satisfaction i get out of it offsets everything else. It beats sitting in an office staring at numbers and I am willing to offer my lifetime commitment to bringing sunshine to a person’s life.

Shermin Teh 7

My 11-week experience is so fulfilling that what telling others about it through words, photos and videos does not do justice to it. “You gotta go and experience it yourself—this experience of a lifetime,” I tell all my friends who were inspired to embark on similar escapades. Indeed, it had been an experience of my lifetime. . .