Year 3 Diploma in Biotechnology student, Julian Sng, shares his overseas attachment stint with Buzz!
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be studying in Singapore Polytechnic, and an even greater achievement to be able to represent the school during my internship attachment earlier this year in the land Down Under.
That’s right. I was given an opportunity by my lecturers in the Diploma in Biotechnology to pursue a ten-week long internship in Melbourne, where I would assist a professor in his research work!
With Brett, one of the most interesting and humorous electrophysiology researchers I have ever met!
Boy, where do I begin? Firstly, the trip didn’t really begin on a positive note! My classmate, Wenhao, who was also on the trip with me, and I nearly missed the flight! (Who would’ve thought shopping at DFS could be so addictive?) When we finally reached Australia, it was about 3pm Australian time in the middle of summer. The temperature was a hot and dry 42 degrees Celsius, and I was pretty sure I could feel myself melting under the scorching heat.
42 degrees Celcius…
However, after the initial bad start, the days just got better! After navigating the equally confusing transit system in Melbourne, we got to go around the different farmers markets, such as Victoria’s Market and Preston Market, where we did most of our daily grocery shopping. That’s right, ladies. We men can cook.
We also visited Chadstone Shopping Centre, the biggest mall in the Southern Hemisphere, and even ended up in the zoo! This was obviously only a small part of our trip, as we got to go to several distinct places in Melbourne where the sceneries were gorgeous! Here are the photos to prove it!
The many hidden arcades and alleyways that line the city
The famous Flinders Street Station!
St. Paul’s Cathedral, almost 180 years old! Victorian architecture is amazing.
Australians are into Phở right now and nearly every other food outlet is a Vietnamese one!
Mornington Peninsula, the lowermost tip of Victoria!
Lorch Ard Gorge! Legend has it that it used to be a huge cave before the ceiling caved in!
The Twelve Apostles, the greatest natural wonder in Australia!
In the first week, we did a lot of exploring in the city because we were given a week to get used to the city, see the sights around where we lived and also to adapt to the weather! Before I went to Australia, my family told me to pack warmer clothes just in case because, and I quote, “Melbourne is known to have four seasons in a day.” Naïvely, I only brought one jacket, and I wished I could’ve brought my entire wardrobe, because there were days when the temperature dropped to 12 degrees Celcius in the middle of the day! Honestly, braving the cold for about four hours during trips were definitely worth it. The sights we got to see at the end of it were nothing short of breath-taking and awe-inspiring. (As you can see, I wasn’t just a lab nerd on internship.)
I have to admit, a group of kids were looking at me funnily after I posed… not sure why.
On a more serious note, the real reason for going overseas for internship was that I wanted to be out of my comfort zone. Don’t misunderstand me, those who intern in Singapore learn a great deal too, and they might eventually develop good relationships with the companies or institutions they work with and even work for them after graduating. Every day after their internships, they would go back home to their family and friends after an arduous day.
This is the complete opposite of what I experienced in Melbourne. When we were there, we had to adapt to a new lifestyle. Wenhao and I came home to only each other, and we had to plan days ahead of what we had to do in both our workplace and during our off days. To me, it was such a great experience, for example being be able to support myself, figure out what to do during the holidays, planning when to wash the clothes or even what to cook for lunch the next day. It might seem like minor things to think about back here in Singapore, but in a foreign land where you’re unsure of a lot of things, planning ahead gives you the assurance you need to carry on with your activities. Especially on days when you feel dull and the routine seems constant, a minor change in the lunch you cook for the next day really makes you appreciate the smaller things in life!
Me and Wenhao at our science building where we interned!
Internship taught me that planning ahead is very important in everything you do. I was asked by my professor to plan an experiment that would last a week, without any instructions or clear protocols. I felt slightly lost when I received these vague instructions, but thankfully listening in class and lab sessions backed in school helped a lot.
Also, it taught me a lot about the importance of the choices I make. A lot of us make decisions continuously without giving a second thought to it, but when your work is constantly submitted and under scrutiny, you tend to think twice and question the reason why you make certain decisions. I learnt it the hard way when I got scolded in the first week of internship after doing a redundant step in the lab, which resulted in me wasting about 30 minutes a day. Seems like a short amount of time, but it adds up, and before you know it, you’ve wasted nearly three hours a week on doing absolutely nothing! This internship really helped me examine what I do on a day-to-day basis, and made me eliminate “redundant steps” to prevent wasting time.
On a more serious note, I did learn that racism is everywhere, even in a country where the Chinese population makes up about 10% of the total population. There were people who would wind down windows and shout obscenities at me when I was just standing there minding my own business! That really came as a shocker as I’ve always regarded Melbourne as an advanced city in both infrastructure and cultural development. I realised that the world is a harsh place, and you will have to learn to adapt and understand that not everyone thinks the same way.
Overall, Australia was a fantastic place to be. It was not just a ten-week internship where I was stuck in the lab from morning till night. It was a journey of discovery, for me to learn more about the world not just from within my comfort zone, but from real live experiences.