From Poly to The World: My Global Experience of a Lifetime

By the SMU Digital Marketing Team 

As part of a university education, internships can offer students an insider perspective into the professional world. In today’s interconnected world, an overseas internship has the potential to amplify this manifold; providing those involved with a unique perspective of global working environments rooted within unfamiliar customs and traditions.

As part of the transformative and unique education offered at SMU, students are given the chance to gain real-world overseas working experience through internships in cities such as Hong Kong, Manila, Shanghai, Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City. With the goal of applying what she had learnt in a foreign environment in mind, polytechnic graduate and Final Year Business student Kennis Tan embarked upon an internship abroad.

Having had the opportunity to work with Jurong Port’s joint venture company, Marunda Center Terminal (MCT), situated in Bekasi, Indonesia to gain insights into the local business landscape, Kennis completed the programme with an understanding of how companies in a different country operate, and had the chance to explore Indonesian culture and heritage first-hand.


A sea of opportunities awaits

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) offers a Global Internship Award (GIA) programme to provide high-achieving students with an enriching and meaningful experience in the maritime industry.

The award allows students an opportunity to immerse in experiential learning with international maritime companies in Singapore and around the world. As such, Kennis was able to work at Jurong Port during the first half of her internship and at Marunda Center Terminal (MCT) — a joint venture initiative with Jurong Port in Indonesia — in the second.

“I took on the Port Operations Intern role which gave me a deeper understanding of the entire process flow within a port,” shares Kennis.

“Ultimately, the opportunity of being able to experience the maritime operations in a different part of the world excited me, and prompted me to apply for the programme.”


Overcoming cultural barriers, one click at a time

Kennis (left) and a fellow intern at the Terminal

In today’s globalised world, it has become a requirement for professionals to be able to work and collaborate with people hailing from different countries and backgrounds. Whether it’s working in international teams, or to travel abroad for business or global conferences, the need for professionals to overcome cultural barriers has become increasingly important. As Kennis found out, a smooth transition can be achieved through the use of technology and by venturing beyond one’s comfort zone.

She also noted that the short-term move to Jakarta was a breeze as the interns resided in the city centre, which offered myriad food options similar to those in Singapore. Moreover, language was not a major issue as most people with whom Kennis interacted around her neighbourhood were well versed in conversational English.


A home away from home

For many, Covid-19 has forced us to make adjustments and compromises in order to keep ourselves safe. However, it is still possible to find comfort even in unfamiliar places, as Kennis realised. Her experience of completing an internship while living abroad during the pandemic provides insight into how we can thrive under difficult circumstances.


Kennis (4th from right) and her team at the MCT


“I was apprehensive about having to work in a new environment abroad, with new colleagues and having to adapt to their culture quickly,” Kennis elaborates.

“Many worrying thoughts came to mind on my flight there, but they were quickly erased by the warm hospitality of my colleagues. My team members were easy going and eager to share their experiences accumulated over the years, which allowed me to blend in easily. Additionally, adjusting my mindset to be open to learn helped me ease into the team as well.”

The cultural immersion that came along with this experience was equally as important for Kennis as her professional development. She quickly learnt about Indonesian culture through observing how tasks were carried out differently by colleagues due to their different cultural backgrounds; something that she believes is essential for any student entering a foreign workplace.


Chartering a new course of education

As with most other students who tap upon internships to gain priceless experience in a new industry, Kennis began this internship with limited understanding of the global port sector. During her time in Indonesia, however, she gained invaluable insight into the different situations faced by neighbouring ports—a stark contrast from what she knew before. As such, she learnt that it is important to consider culture, situation and people before providing any type of recommendations.

Furthermore, Kennis – who shadowed an Operations Manager at MCT – realised that everyone has something to share and educate. This knowledge allowed her to develop her business acumen while also learning how to be adaptive in a foreign working environment.

“It was a unique experience for me as I got to participate in their day-to-day activities and gain first-hand experience of the loading and unloading of the various bulk cargoes,” Kennis says.

“The workplace culture there is very collaborative and respectful, where employees are supportive of one another, and place strong emphasis on harmony within colleagues.

Additionally, the working pace in Indonesia differed greatly from Singapore as it is slower. Through this internship, I developed cultural awareness which made me reflect on the importance of team diversity.”


Kennis (2nd from right) and her colleagues visited local attractions in their free time.


The internship also provided Kennis with many opportunities which enabled her growth both personally and professionally. She broadened her views on the world by learning about different cultures and situations which ultimately made her more open-minded towards accepting new experiences—something which will come in handy when navigating through life’s twists and turns.

The strong sense of community among co-workers was also incredibly inspiring for her; they would often invite Kennis out after work to enjoy all that Indonesia has to offer.

“In my free time, my colleagues took me out to try local cuisines as well as drove me to nearby local attractions,” she recalls.

Through this short yet meaningful experience, Kennis discovered just how much knowledge one stands to gain from internships – making this an opportunity not just for skill development but also personal growth. With this transformative experience etched firmly into memory, she now looks forward to venturing further into the region and the world with greater enthusiasm than ever.



Did you know that SMU students have fanned out across the world on study missions, overseas exchanges, summer programmes, community service projects and overseas internships, across more than 180 cities in over 45 countries? Take on the world with SMU’s guaranteed global experiences! Learn more at SMU Open House 2023