Life Changing Learning Tour
On the 17th of May 2010, Monday, we were all set and ready to go on a trip to the Mercure Johor Palm Resort. Even though some of my peers were late for the pre-departure briefing due to traffic congestion, we managed to get onto the coach and depart on time. After an estimated two hour ride from Singapore Polytechnic, we ultimately reached our destination.
We were warmly welcomed by the concierge of the resort upon arrival. However, our assigned rooms were not ready for occupation, so all the baggage were left in the Perkasa Ballroom. After which, we went for lunch as everyone was starving. Lunch was to be a western buffet spread at the Ishwara Brasserie, commonly known as the Ishwara Coffee House. Almost immediately after we were seated, we all rushed to grab the mouth-watering food. Subsequently, we headed back to the ballroom only to see that it has turned into a mass lecture theatre. We were all anticipating another informative lecture by our wise lecturers.
After we had gone through the necessary lectures and tutorials, we began to check into the rooms as they had been occupied earlier. We were given free time to unpack our baggage and were also informed to be on time for dinner. The international buffet we had for dinner was fabulous. Graciously, the resort has also arranged for a complementary karaoke session at The Cave, a themed area of the resort. Several potential superstars from the cohort spared no chances and went on ahead to sing their hearts out. Before long, lethargy clung onto us and we all got sick of singing.
On Tuesday, we took off with breakfast and a lecture on the Introduction to Resort and Resort Management. Following which, the various management authorities from the different departments of the resort were invited to share with us their experiences and discipline. The sharing sessions were very interesting and somewhat amusing. Personally, I found the sharing session by the housekeeper the most intriguing. She elaborates well on the unusual situations that she has been placed in and how she managed to overcome the obstacles and solve disputes.
Thereafter, we were treated to practical sessions at the front office and housekeeping departments. It was an eye opener for many of us as we visited the respective work areas of the resort. That evening, we had a sumptuous Japanese set meal at the Sobasei Restaurant for dinner. Much competitiveness stirred across the dining table during dinner when everyone heard about the upcoming bowling competition taking place after dinner. The resort has done us another favour by reserving the entire bowling alley for the institute. Notably, the previous high score that was set by a student from the past week has been beaten.
Wednesday started out with breakfast and a chain of lectures on the Food and Beverage Management. We shared with everyone else our personal experiences with the Japanese restaurant that we had dinner on the previous day. Then, we were told that the rest of our subsequent coffee breaks will be served by the students who were appointed at the various stations. What we have learnt thus far is now going to be put into practical use. At first, we found many errors and imperfection. But it was inevitable and we were promptly corrected by our lecturers.
Following, we went to a local shopping mall known as Jusco. There, we were given a generous amount of time to shop for merchandise that was to be offered there. Once we got back to the resort, we were given time to place our goods in the rooms and met at the Ishwara Coffee House for fine dining based on a western set dinner. I was dazzled by the spectacular array of silverware. Though it was taught in the books, the set up that materialized before me was simply brilliant. The servers that evening were also exceptionally courteous and professional. In a nutshell, it was a wondrous dining experience.
Thursday began with breakfast and lecture lasted through the whole morning. Lunch was held at the Xin Shan Long, a Chinese restaurant. Then we went on to have a tour around the back of house of the Food and Beverage department. The guide was the Executive Chef, Ravi, the person who is responsible for the preparation of everything we consume in the resort. We were given a rough overview and brief explanation on the purpose of the equipment in the numerous kitchens. At the end of it, we were able to better appreciate the food after looking at how meticulous and tedious the preparations were.
In the evening, the highlight of the immersion programme was just about to begin. The students were separated into two groups; one of which would be playing the role of guests and the other, restaurant crew members. I was assigned the role of the assistant manager of the evening and took the initiative to brief my crew about what was going to happen when we start our operations. To our surprise, the guests who walked in were dressed in sophisticated outfits and spotted bizarre hairdos. After they were seated, they created a whole lot of commotion and almost every crew had to step in to ensure that it does not go out of control. The crew will be graded on how they react and handle the requests and disturbances. The exercise ended with much success and the lecturers were pleased with our performance.
Friday morning was as usual – breakfast followed by lectures. Then everyone would switch their roles of guests and servers. Playing the role of guests this time round, we dressed up in excessive rouge and put on a hilarious disguise. Similarly, we created heaps of problems and threw demanding requests at the servers. To spice things up a little, we even formulated a synchronized scene where we will all hide under the tables when someone yells to warn for an earthquake. Despite all the disrespect and trouble we caused, the servers were simply excellent. They offered alternatives when requests were turned down and handled the chaos in a calm and systematic order. I cannot stress enough how impressed I was of the entire restaurant crew.
A detailed debrief of the whole role-playing exercise was held after lunch. The feedback that was consolidated consisted of very diverse opinions on the practises that both of the crew from Thursday evening and Friday afternoon managed or failed to perform. It was very enlightening to hear from both parties of each meal because the subconscious mind fails to detect certain elements. For example, the golden rule of smiling while serving was often neglected along the way.
In the evening, we had a grand gala closing dinner. The management was invited to the dinner and the lecturer, representing Singapore Polytechnic, expressed his gratitude towards the support that the resort had given. They were also presented with tokens of appreciation by Singapore Polytechnic. The menu was extravagant. It composed of a sushi bar, a grill, a spread of main courses and a fruits and dessert bar. However, things became very different now that we are more profound in our etiquette. The universal rule of ‘ladies first’ was applied intuitively.
After everyone was finished with the first serving of food, the performances which were choreographed before and during the trip took the stage. The performances were absolutely awesome. All the hard work and effort paid off that evening. A birthday cake was also brought forth and we had a combined birthday celebration for a couple of students. After which, some prizes were given to certain individuals based on their remarkable display of personal excellence.
In addition, we even got an after party going on where the music played on and we danced through towards midnight. A handful of students also went on stage to exhibit their vocal talents. The party ended after a while and we all returned wearily to our rooms. The immersion programme has finally come to an end.
Albeit all the fun and games we have experienced, we brought back with us valuable knowledge; knowledge that no textbook can ever impart. By placing us on our feet, we have also learnt to pick up unconventional methods of solving problems. It would be very true to say that the things that can never be taught entirely in lecture theatres are actually the ones that form the core of our industry.