Comfort is the enemy of achievement.
That was the key takeaway Nur Aliya Fariha had from her nine-month internship with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Glacier Hot Pools’ Customer Service teams in New Zealand.
Coming down from Malaysia to New Zealand as part of the education partnership between Kolej Yayasan Saad (KYS) and Queenstown Resort College (QRC), Aliya was keen to participate in an internship that would enable her to learn more about adventure tourism.
To do so, she knew she had to break free of her ‘safety bubble’ and venture out of Queenstown where most of her friends were based. Otherwise, she would only have had the opportunity to be a housekeeping intern – something she was sure she did not want to do having travelled all the way from Malaysia.
“I arrived in Queenstown in July 2015, which was also during winter. This means that most adventure tourism operators at that time were looking for interns or part-timers who knew how to ski or snowboard. Since I had no experience or skills in either, it was quite hard for me to look for a job in Queenstown.
“That was why I had to branch out and started applying for jobs all over the South Island. I eventually landed an internship opportunity with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Hot Pools’ Customer Service teams in Franz Josef – but it is an eight-hour bus ride away from Queenstown,” Aliya shared.
It was initially hard for her to adjust to life in Franz Josef without her friends by her side, according to Aliya. But when she met people from lots of different cultures and her language skills quickly improved from speaking English at all times, she knew she had made the right decision.
“If I had stayed in my own little bubble in Queenstown, I would never have gotten this experience of a lifetime.
“Being part of the Franz Josef Glacier Guides and Glacier Hot Pools’ Customer Service teams allowed me to witness first-hand what goes on behind running an adventure tourism business. During the internship, I was heavily involved in the processes of making reservations for visitors interested in the glacier walks and hot pools.
“As part of that, I also had the opportunity to meet these visitors, give them briefings before they embarked on their glacier walks and hot pools adventure and even had the opportunity to be a pool supervisor for the Glacier Hot Pools. The briefings allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with people from all walks of life.
“I must say, it wasn’t easy initially having to communicate with people who speak various languages in different accents, but such experiences have taught me a lot and have given me a lot more confidence in myself,” said Aliya.
This built-up confidence has allowed Aliya to be more self-assured when speaking to different people about her culture and where she comes from.
“It’s amazing how much you can learn by meeting and mingling with people who don’t necessarily speak the same language as you, are not in the same age group as you, and come from different backgrounds as you. Since my headscarf was a visual proof of my faith, I had many people asking me more about my culture and religious beliefs.
“Although it was hard at first to answer certain questions, I learnt that it pays to just be honest. I don’t know the answers to all their questions and there are times when I’ll just tell them frankly that I can’t answer their questions. I’ve grown more confident in my communication with people to tell them so and often, I realise that people won’t judge you for not knowing,” said Aliya.
On her free days, Aliya seized the opportunity to engage in activities that are not often found in Malaysia including horse riding, taking scenic helicopter flights above the glaciers and going to wildlife centres to learn more about the kiwi birds.
“I’d also spend time with friends and go for walks on the many public tracks. To familiarise myself with Franz Josef and the glaciers, I’d also take the opportunity to go on familiarisation trips or tours around the town. These tours helped a lot during my stint at the front desk of Franz Josef Glacier Guides,” said Aliya. Overall, the people she met and what she learned from them was the most enjoyable part of her internship.
“My colleagues and I worked as a team throughout my internship. We’d always go the extra mile to motivate one another to ensure the business ran smoothly each day. I learnt to not judge a person on first impressions as everyone is different and has their own stories. It takes a team to build a successful adventure tourism business.
“If there happened to be mess up in an operation, it wasn’t only one person’s fault, and there was shared responsibility. That’s one of the things t I’ll remember most from this internship and I hope that one day, I’m able to practise this mantra and also use the communication skills that I’ve gained in Franz Josef in my career,” Aliya shared.
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