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Why I Didn’t Go For Orientation Camps, But Interned At A Startup Instead

It’s this time of the year again, the time for full-on scrutiny, controversy and outcry against orientation camps.

To some, orientation camps are a rite-of-passage, marking the crossover to tertiary education and a new phase in life. To others, it gets freshmen ready for varsity life, thus earning the reputation of being absolutely necessary to attend, otherwise the first year will be hell.

Over the years, much has been said about the matter. There are probably many reasons why every freshman should attend such camps — having fun and forging friendships, talking to seniors and getting a glimpse into varsity life, knowing the campus and system like the back of hand, to list a few.

However, I concede that those are pretty compelling reasons, I did not attend such camps, and these are the reasons why.

  • Having fun and forging friendships
  • Having a glimpse into the future
  • Building cool stuff and learning skills
  • Knowing what you want to do

But first, here’s a brief background — I have interned for 6 months in a tech-media startup, and 4 months in a wedding startup (yes, you got that right).

Having Fun And Forging Friendships

Image Credits: Yale NUS
Image Credits: Yale NUS

Indeed, orientation camps can be a whole lot of fun and I believe the atmosphere and activities is definitely conducive for forging friendships and building bonds.

Similarly, if not more, an internship at a startup is exciting and action-packed, just like a rollercoaster ride. The daily hustle with your team and opportunity to meet amazing people in the ecosystem is a rock-solid foundation to forming new and everlasting friendships.

In a startup, no two days are the same and there is always something new and unexpected at every corner. Today, you might be planning an event —  conceptualising themes, pitching during sales meetings and forming partnerships with industry players. Tomorrow, you could be spearheading the marketing division —  strategising marketing plans, designing collaterals and churning out articles to grab people’s attention.

Taking charge of initiatives and actively transforming ideas into reality will be a daily affair. From excel sheets to happy faces at your events, and wireframes to fully completed sites. Being able to create something out of nothing has been one of my most exciting and satisfying experiences so far.

A fledgling company in its infancy, a startup’s life is filled with uncertainty. Everyday, we are faced with new obstacles, bigger problems to solve and a constant search for ways to survive. It is in these tough times working with your team to build a better product and searching for sustainability that you form bonds and friendships.

Extending our runway was an insurmountable challenge for us, but we cracked our heads together to find other ways and pressed on. With a great team on the same page, it felt like we could do whatever we set our minds to and nothing seemed impossible.

Along the way, joy, desperation, fatigue, exhilaration and depression are just a few emotions you’ll get to know, and it is through these tough times that your friendships with your team is forged in steel.

Of course, the opportunity to meet amazing people and make new friends is aplenty. Be it attending events with entrepreneurs, having meetings with VCs, industry veterans and big names you only see in the papers, you can definitely broaden your horizons and make friends with the coolest people out there!

Having A Glimpse Into The Future

Image Credits: anewworldsociety
Image Credits: anewworldsociety

The new systems, procedures and campus are definitely a pain in the ass. Talking with seniors and having their advice and notes gives freshmen a good glimpse into varsity life, like the winds giving small boats a push into the open sea.

Conversely, a startup internship throws you right into the ocean and thunderstorms, opening your eyes to the truths of life. From seeing how different people lead differently to understanding how tough life really is, you’ll be in for an eye-opener.

Of the things I saw, I experienced the devastation of a massive layoff and saw the rebuilding of a company ground-up. Also, I experienced the challenges and uphill battle of starting up, from raising funds (or failing to do so), building our product with a two-man team and convincing users to come onboard for free. Something I know now is that just because something is free, it doesn’t mean anyone will want it.

An internship at a startup destroys the rosy picture of entrepreneurship and its glory painted by the media, exposing the challenges, setbacks and happiness that every entrepreneur faces in its rawest forms. Well, starting a business is anything but being your own boss, having flexible hours, or even enjoying the luxuries of life. In fact, it is like being on the world’s longest and most dangerous roller coaster, not knowing whether you’ll fall to your death in the next plunge.

Indeed, that sounds pretty pessimistic, but it sets us in the right mindset. The mindset that life (especially startup life) is a journey that is anything but smooth sailing, and only the ones that persevere through the storms will reach the promised land of success.

Building Cool Stuff And Learning Skills

Image Credits: 3daystartup
Image Credits: 3daystartup

At the forefront of technological change, startups often represent small attempts in solving the larger problems around us. As such, an internship allows one to be part of a greater purpose and movement towards change, making tangible impacts on problems faced by real users every day.

When you have piles of work to complete, it sometimes seems pointless to slog for a temporary gig like an internship. However, you know your work matters when you receive words of thanks from your users. You know what you do has a positive impact on real people, rather than just another alphabet and a corresponding score on your results slip.

More often than not, as startups are often cash-strapped, they are always seeking interns to take on some full-time roles and responsibilities. The problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and KPIs to hit are now all your babies. And that is when you will experience all the emotions, setbacks and challenges of starting a business and getting things done.

It is through these responsibilities that you’ll be forced out of your comfort zone, get up to speed and learn faster that you ever did. It is when you learn and internalise more industry terms, people’s faces and names, softwares than you ever would elsewhere. It is when you are forced to strategise, reflect and do things faster, better and cheaper.

After all, for someone who has never volunteered at an event, how do you plan one? For someone who has never done sales before, how do you pitch? Well, you’d have to and you will get up to speed and do it.

Knowing What You Want To Do

Image Credits: thedailypedia
Image Credits: thedailypedia

Indeed, varsity life marks the beginning of a new phase of life, not as a student of the university, but as someone in society. And the question is always “What do we want to do in life?” Since there is probably no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, so how do we find the answer?

Finding the right answer is hard, but finding the wrong ones is not. Going through an internship gives you an uncensored look into the job scope and industry that the company is in. As such, it’s perfect to know whether the job and / or industry is the right fit for you. If it is, congratulations! If it isn’t, you can now move on to the next job or industry interest on your list.

In my case, I was planning startup tech events in my first internship. While I enjoyed the industry and ecosystem, I thought events wasn’t the best fit. That’s when I started my second internship doing Business Development at an early stage startup and now I know that this is actually pretty fun.

In any case, you are now one step closer to finding the answer to the question you’ve probably been asked since young.

In summary, this is why I chose to spend my time interning at a startup instead of going for orientation camps. This is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone’s choices, nor a criticism against orientation camps, as I’m in no position to do so. I simply hope to provide a fresh perspective to current or future freshmen on the opportunities out there, and if you have some time on your hands, do give an internship at a startup a shot!

This article was contributed by Amos Goh from Bow & Tiara, a wedding discovery platform featuring wedding artisans and their stunning work. 

 

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