By Rachel Chiu
From working in Disneyland to watching models strut down the runway during New York Fashion Week, overseas internships can provide novel experiences and the chance to explore industries beyond what Singapore has to offer.
The most magical place on earth
Disneyland is a beloved destination by both children and adults, and for second-year student Tshua Chenlyn, it is no exception.
Over the recent summer break, the 20-year-old Nanyang Business School student flew to Orlando, Florida to intern at the famed Walt Disney World from May to August.
When she first received an email from NTU’s Career and Attachment Office on the chance to intern at Disneyland Orlando, Tshua jumped at the opportunity and applied for it immediately.
Not only would she get to meet characters from the Disney shows she watched growing up, she was also excited to interact with people from all over the world.
Tshua’s role involved managing the theme park’s attractions, greeting guests and answering their queries.
Her most heartwarming experiences involved interactions with guests, creating “magic moments” when employees would go out of their way to create memorable experiences for the guests.
“Once, it was this kid’s birthday and he really wanted Mickey Mouse to give him a birthday cake. When he went off to have his dinner, we got a card and wrote wishes on it for him, including Mickey’s signature,” she said. Tshua and her fellow employees then left the card in his stroller as a surprise gift.
Even though they were not obliged to get Mickey’s signature and they did not manage to see the boy’s reaction, they did it as they knew it would make his day, she added.
However, Tshua had a few bad encounters as well with unruly guests who refused to comply with park regulations.
On a few occasions, they refused to park their strollers at the designated spots despite having been told not to do so. Some had complaints about the rides as well that left Tshua feeling helpless. Other times, they would make assumptions about her that she found frustrating.
“Some guests from Western countries take one look at your name tag and automatically assume that you can only speak Chinese,” she said.
“I just told them that we can speak English because it’s Singapore’s first language,” said Tshua, adding that she had to maintain her composure even though such exasperating incidents occurred frequently.
Despite these incidents, Tshua kept a positive attitude and took them as learning experiences. She learnt how to handle unreasonable guests professionally and politely, and continued spreading joy as a Disney ambassador.
Interning at Disneyland often felt like a vacation due to its strong “work hard, play hard” culture.
Tshua was free to enjoy the rides after work and on her off days, had free access to all of Disneyland’s parks as a staff perk.
Tshua said: “This experience has really been like a childhood dream come true because I got to dine with beloved characters such as Ariel, Rapunzel, Prince Eric and many more.”
A sweet start-up
While on a one-year leave of absence from school, third-year student Donavon Ng, 23, interned at New York-based Sweet Technology, under NTU’s Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme.
The start-up is devoted to developing an online application that provides a single channel for food companies to collate orders and manage their inventories.
Sweet Technology also offers a delivery service for its own bakery.
The Nanyang Business School student, who recently came back from his year-long stint, chose to intern in New York as the city is ranked second globally for its significant start-up culture, just behind Silicon Valley.
Ng chose Sweet Technology because it was a young company that could offer him learning opportunities.
“I was looking for an early stage start-up with a small team so that I could be more hands-on and challenge myself,” he said.
As Sweet Technology is still in its early stages, Ng often had to rely on himself when it came to decision-making.
When Ng first joined the company, there were only three full-time employees and he was the only marketing-focused staff.
“I was on my own for a lot of things like planning and website developing,” he said.
With only four people in Sweet Technology, everyone, including the founder and developer of the company, worked at a communal table formed by pushing four desks together.
“Even though there is still a chain of command in place, there is no huge disparity between myself and the people in charge,” he said, making it easier to pitch his ideas directly to his bosses.
Ng and his colleagues had fun at their workplace as well, often dressing up together for events such as Halloween and celebrating Christmas together.
“My favourite experience has to be the visit of the small chai and turmeric concentrate manufacturing plant,” he said.
“They were one of our very first customers and I was really proud to see how our software was able to allow their company to become more efficient.”
Occasionally, Ng helps out in Sweetist, the delivery sector of Sweet Technology. He likened its operation to “the UberEats of bakeries”.
For his help, he was rewarded with pastries from top bakeries, a staff perk he enjoyed.
But, the biggest perk on the job would be the autonomy he was given to experiment and make a direct impact on the company’s strategy.
“If I were in an established corporation, with years of protocols in place, it would be more guidance-based and it would not be easy to make a change.”
From watching models strut down the runway, to preparing fashion weeks, fresh graduate Eunice Foong had the experience of a lifetime in New York City exploring her passion for fashion.
Formerly from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Foong did her Professional Internship last year as a project and production intern at Eyesight Fashion and Luxury, a company that organizes fashion and luxury events in New York, Paris and Milan.
“I believe that overseas experience and exposure is crucial for us to broaden our horizons,” said the 24-year-old.
“This is especially important for what I am interested in since Singapore’s fashion and creative industry is small and thus limited, as compared to other countries.”
Since New York is one of the world’s fashion capitals, the city was the ideal destination for her to learn as much as possible, she said.
Her job included scouting and proposing venues for fashion shows, and helping to coordinate and execute them.
A highlight of Foong’s internship was helping out for the 2017 fall/winter season of New York Fashion Week.
During that period, she helped to liaise with vendors and plan production schedules, as well as fashion show rehearsals. She also analysed fashion shows, identifying what could be improved in the future.
For Foong, this opportunity was like a dream come true.
“I remember when I was just watching YouTube videos of fashion shows in the past, but now I actually get to contribute and be a part of everything,” she said.
Foong said her first fashion show for the Japanese brand ADEAM, was particularly memorable.
“It’s the first time I saw everything being put together. It’s very surreal seeing the runway in real life for the first time.”
Being part of Eyesight Fashion and Luxury was nothing short of a miracle. Foong had emailed over 50 fashion companies in New York before she got a response from Eyesight.
Foong knew her company represented fashion designer Victoria Beckham’s personal brand, and British label Self-Portrait, a brand she liked.
“It’s unbelievable that I actually got to represent them.”