Gan Yi Shin is a Year 3 Ngee Ann Polytechnic student currently pursuing a Diploma in Business Studies. She had the opportunity to be attached to Kurumba Resort in Malé, Maldives for her six-month-long internship programme, from March to August 2014.
She takes a boat from the airport. She looks up and sees an endless blue sky. Her feet press into the soft sand as she walks along the shore, listening to the crashing waves. The Sun’s warmth embraces her in the morning, and at night, the blanket of stars send her into a peaceful slumber. But no, she’s not on vacation – she’s hard at work.
Made up of many islands, most of us see Maldives as a slow-paced environment perfect for some R&R, but that’s not the case for Gan Yi Shin. In March this year, Ngee Ann Polytechnic sent her and her fellow course mate packing and on their way to a resort in Maldives for their six-month-long internship programme.
Events, events, events
Yi Shin was attached to the Learning and Development Department of , a sub-department under Human Resources. Her job scope included organising and conducting workshops and Human Resource programmes for the resort staff. She also had to support her team members during inter-resort competitions like volleyball and cricket.
Yi Shin was part of the organising committee for Sports Day
One of the events Yi Shin helped to organise was resort’s Sports Day, where they had activities like beanbag games and soccer.
During these events, Yi Shin would get to witness the Bodu Beru, a Maldivian drum performance. The drums are made of bamboo wood and stingray hide, and the performance is said to have African roots.
“The beat of the drums made me want to stand up and dance!” she chirps.
A truly Maldivian experience
As Yi Shin walked around the island, she saw housewives sitting outside their house cutting vegetables while men were fishing or working at the capital. Since most of the locals earned a living by exporting tuna to other countries, it was also not hard to find locals “organising” them by grade.
Yi Shin also got to try an undhoali, a traditional swing locals sat on by the beach.
“When I’m lying back, looking at the bright sun and feeling the breeze… it feels like I’m dozing off into my paradise.”
Learning and growing
The hardest obstacle Yi Shin had to overcome was the language barrier. The Maldivians knew how to speak English, but she was not used to their accent and initially found it hard to hear what they were saying.
She overcame this by using hand gestures and over time, learnt to understand them. She also got to step out of her comfort zone and approach the locals if she needed help.
Yi Shin says that she’s not the kind that will first approach a stranger, “but because the Maldivians are friendly, it encouraged me to ask them and made me more confident.”
The unforgettable ones
Yi Shin (fourth from left) on the Dolphin Cruise with her manager Vinodh (third from left) and colleagues
Despite the age gap, Yi Shin felt close to the managers Vinodh (from Malaysia), Hemant (from India) and Lucine (from Armenia). The three constantly gave her encouragement and advice.
She’s really grateful that they were always there to guide her, “They’re managers, but I consider them as friends.”
Night fishing with her team members (left to right): Hassan, Liza, Jacqueline
She was also close to her fellow four interns, who came from Singapore, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Three of them (the girls) were her roommates, who stayed with her in the resort area catered to the staff.
On their off days, they went to the beach and the capital, Malé together, where they visited cafés and bought daily necessities.
Still a paradise
The team’s catches were cooked immediately
As part of their monthly team outings, Yi Shin got to try night fishing with her team. She even caught a giant red snapper! The great catch of fishes were marinated and grilled on the boat. Accompanied by loaves of bread and the wonderful evening breeze, Yi Shin described the experience as “shiok”.
Creating a paradise for others
Yi Shin and her friends Liza, Асем and Jacqueline on their last day in Maldives
Yi Shin says she found happiness at work. It was heartwarming as she and the other staff members prepared little gifts or surprises, like bouquets, for guests celebrating their birthdays, honeymoon and the like.
“We go all the way out for the guests. Rather than stating it as a job, it is a passion to serve the guests and allow them to indulge in paradise. It is our joy,” she beams.
So after six months in Maldives, what does she hope Singaporeans can learn from Maldivians?
“It’s possible to work hard and play hard at the same time,” she believes. “Nowadays Singaporeans tend to bring work home even after working hours, but we can all learn to pamper ourselves.”
Yi Shin has definitely learnt how to care for herself whilst caring for others. Many of us can say we’ve enjoyed their internship experience, but how many of us can say we’ve found our paradise there? A land so serene is certainly worth a visit, and Yi Shin’s colleagues will always welcome visitors with a smile.
Have you been on an overseas internship? Share with us your story in the comments, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’d love to hear from you!