For Celine Yong and Cera Carmen Yeo, 3rd Year Environment Design (EVD) students, their Overseas Student Internship Programme(OSIP) meant 12 weeks Europe – not London, Paris or any large exciting metropolis, but in tiny Megchelen, population 1,000, a Dutch village on the border with Germany.
Both of them were placed at NL Greenlabel, an eco-centric landscape design company with 20 staff, based in Megchelen in the Netherlands. But instead of taking a bus to get the office - they walked there as it was just next door! Dutch hospitality and true apprenticeship at its best, they stayed in their boss’s home, and his family took care of them. His wife provided their meals, and their teenage kids took them sightseeing on the weekends.
The jump from the buzz of cosmopolitan Singapore to a quiet Dutch village took some getting used to. But what kept the girls occupied was a fulfilling time as interns. They found themselves giving ideas for projects, making use of their photoshop skills to render, designing posters, and preparing concept designs for presentations. Despite being students and interns, their views and contributions were taken seriously. The girls also worked at an Eco-Design conference that NL Greenlabel had organised. Because the firm was not big, it was hands-on work with a great deal of learning taking place at the same time.
Cera says she learnt about responsibility, as this was the longest time she had been away from home. The different environment meant that the girls could experiment with new elements in their designs.
Cera adds, “It was refreshing because we could apply unique ideas like green roofs and the use of tall grass in our designs.”
And yes, those years of learning Mandarin in school finally paid off.
“I was shocked to be able to use my Chinese,” Celine adds. “The Dutch designers used Google to translate from Dutch to English, and we did the translating from English to Chinese, especially for the China-based projects.”
After 12 weeks in the idyllic Dutch countryside, the girls took home more than just friendship and good memories, but a newfound sense of independence and an invaluable learning experience.