“So why did you decide to intern at JUMP! Foundation this summer?” This was the most popular question tossed at me during my first two weeks at JUMP!. And it was the most challenging to answer, without giving too much context. Here’s why: about half a year ago, I decided to take on one of the most nerve-racking summer opportunities offered by Yale-NUS College, the newly-established liberal arts college in Singapore. This opportunity not only involves a long and deep conversation with one of the Deans, but also an arduous three-month long wait before the applicant knows of his/her final summer plan. No details of what the destination or what the job scope is will be given until two weeks before the applicant leaves. Everything is under the hands of the Dean and her crew, to source for something incredible and worthwhile. This is the Mystery Internship.
While some may comment that I do not seem to have a choice as to where I would be allocated to, I relish in this chance to throw myself into the wild and adapt out of my comfort zone. When I eventually found out that I would be joining JUMP! for two months, I was extremely excited because experiential learning and youth development have been my areas of interests for quite a while now. However, I was slightly nervous for the outdoor elements since I am definitely not the fittest person you can find. Also, while living in Beijing should be a breeze since I’ve visited this city for countless times before, living on my own down a hutong was a whole new adventure.
I thought sixty days would take quite a while to pass, but one by one they flew by and soon I was having my farewell dinner with my dearest JUMP!ers. I guess this is what happens when you are having an incredible time, and with the company you can never get enough of. At the point of writing, I am back in Singapore to begin my sophomore year in College. Reflecting on the amazing moments I shared with the people in Beijing hub, the one huge takeaway (amidst many others) that has impacted me the most during my time with JUMP! (and hence I would like to share) is learning to use language as a tool of empowerment.
During my internship at JUMP!, I was given the opportunity to be a facilitator. This means that I took on the role of an “adult” amongst the student participants and was entrusted the responsibility of keeping them safe. One of the activities during my first program was a high-ropes obstacle course. As I had not received proper training (since it was my second day of work), I was deployed on the ground to give safety instructions. This was especially pertinent for the “Spider Web” jump during the obstacle, for which students are to take a leap of faith and jump from a platform facing sideways onto a wall of ropes, for fear of rope burns on their faces.
At the beginning, I constantly instructed the participants that when they are falling, to fall sideways and not straight onto the ropes with their faces. Being young and enthusiastic, most participants jumped fearlessly and landed safely. Amidst the roaring rounds of applauses and cheering, there was one participant who stood rooted to the platform when it came to her turn. With a distinct phobia of height, her hesitation evoked nervousness in everyone around her. Whenever she stepped forward a little to take the leap of faith, she would look down at where I was situated and hastily return to the platform.
In my attempt to calm her down, I said, “Hey girl, don’t worry! When you’re falling, just close your eyes and -”
“She’s swinging, NOT falling!” Justin, a senior facilitator called out to me. In that moment, I instantaneously understood how severely ONE WORD could affect an individual’s confidence and perspective of the activity. “Falling” induces fear and failure, while “swinging” brings with it a carefree sense of joy and fun.
Many times in life, when we speak, we often aim to bring across our ideas as quickly as possible and we forget to think about what connotations certain words may hold. We forget to notice that our diction could instantaneously affect someone who is sensitive to language. We also forget to put ourselves in the shoes of others and wonder if we would, under the same circumstances, like to be told those words. We forget that, perhaps there are alternative methods of conveying the same message and that do not evoke as much harm. The human language is no doubt a tool that we use to communicate. But, to be an effective communicator, it would mean to use language to empower another individual.
With my inspiring team of facilitators on a program!
Over my two months at JUMP!, I have also realised that my colleagues often use empowering language and coupled with their outgoing and amiable natures, I have constantly felt encouraged to achieve beyond what I have set out. One common phrase that we use during meetings and in our daily interactions even, is “let me know what SUPPORT you need”. The word “support” is rather distinct from its popular synonym “help” – it allows the supporter to automatically assume a secondary role in the task that he/she provides assistance with. This also means that the support requestor still asserts some form of autonomy and ownership in the task. The word itself also provides a form of spiritual reassurance, almost like the phrase “I’ve got your back!” – always a timely reminder that one is not alone in a challenging task.
When amidst a group of dynamic bunch who constantly empowers you through their speech and actions, going to work was never a mundane routine – it became something that I anticipated every morning when I opened my eyes and was far more rewarding than I ever imagined. During the second half of my internship, when we were not out on programs, I was working on revamping the Power of Experience website and to set up a solid database of the activities and facilitation tools that JUMP! uses. I also had a chance to be involved in cross-hub collaboration with my colleagues over at Bangkok hub for this project and it was a very stimulating process with loads of brilliant ideas being generated. I really appreciated the working environment, as I could comfortably work by myself when needed and reach out to the team when necessary.
Before I end, I would like to give a special shout out to the team over at Beijing hub: THANK YOU ALL for making this experience possible and enriching for me, and for bearing with my odd sense of humor at times. Thank you for always looking out for me and for all your kind words of encouragement that made my stay in Beijing so much more memorable. I miss each and every one of you dearly and hope to see you all around sometime! Take care and keep JUMPing! (: