Southeast Asia might not be many young Singaporeans’ first choice as a destination for work or study, but some have taken a leap of faith and ventured into the region.
TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of those who have spent time in Singapore’s closest neighbours for a variety of meaningful pursuits.
In this instalment, Ms Claire Lim, 22, describes how she chose to intern in Indonesia over Germany because of her keen interest in the start-up scene there. She credits her close relationship with her colleagues as one of the reasons for her rewarding experience, which included leading a project typically done by more senior staff.
I was offered two options for my six-month overseas internship last July — Germany and Indonesia. While many would have picked Germany, I chose to go to Jakarta instead. I had discussed my options with Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP), who found the roles for me, and eventually I decided that the job scope offered by Laku6 — a technology recommerce start-up that had recently been acquired by Singapore’s Carousell — was too attractive to pass up. I saw that this internship would be my gateway to better understand our neighbour. I had visited Jakarta and Bandung in secondary school and even then, discovered immense entrepreneurship potential as I would bring back low-cost cosmetics and trendy items to resell in Singapore. Through working there, I hoped that I could eventually be a part of the start-up scene in both Indonesia and Singapore. One of the many things I did before I flew off was picking up a few essential Bahasa Indonesia phrases from my Indonesian domestic helper. That gave me some confidence, knowing I could fall back on Google Translate if necessary. An initial challenge I faced in my first few weeks there was having to adapt to the norms of the country. Apart from the language barrier, I quickly learnt that I had to give up wearing sleeveless tops and shorts — despite the hot and humid weather — especially if I intended to walk along the streets at night. Walking was my preferred mode of transport if my destination was nearby, as it would take longer via car due to the city’s notorious traffic jams. Luckily, I found accommodation at a kost, an Indonesian boarding house that was a 10-minute walk to my office so I could avoid the jams. The hospitality of the Indonesians truly blew me away. Before I moved to the kost, my colleagues, many of whom I barely knew, offered to help me look for accommodation and extended invites to hang out on weekends. They also taught me all that I needed to know to communicate confidently with the pasar (market) and warung (local street food stall) sellers. Wandering the pasars and warungs is now my favourite pastime in Jakarta and I can even haggle for the best price in Bahasa!