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My Southeast Asia Ventures: My Indonesia internship was 'hugely rewarding', thanks to my close relationships with colleagues

I was offered two options for my six-month overseas internship last July — Germany and Indonesia.

The writer (pictured) visiting Jakarta’s historic Kota Tua on a weekend.

The writer (pictured) visiting Jakarta’s historic Kota Tua on a weekend.

Southeast Asia might not be many young Singaporeans’ first choice as a destination for work or study, but some have taken a leap of faith and ventured into the region.

TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of those who have spent time in Singapore’s closest neighbours for a variety of meaningful pursuits.

In this instalment, Ms Claire Lim, 22, describes how she chose to intern in Indonesia over Germany because of her keen interest in the start-up scene there. She credits her close relationship with her colleagues as one of the reasons for her rewarding experience, which included leading a project typically done by more senior staff. 

I was offered two options for my six-month overseas internship last July — Germany and Indonesia.
While many would have picked Germany, I chose to go to Jakarta instead.
I had discussed my options with Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP), who found the roles for me, and eventually I decided that the job scope offered by Laku6 — a technology recommerce start-up that had recently been acquired by Singapore’s Carousell — was too attractive to pass up.
I saw that this internship would be my gateway to better understand our neighbour. I had visited Jakarta and Bandung in secondary school and even then, discovered immense entrepreneurship potential as I would bring back low-cost cosmetics and trendy items to resell in Singapore.
Through working there, I hoped that I could eventually be a part of the start-up scene in both Indonesia and Singapore.
One of the many things I did before I flew off was picking up a few essential Bahasa Indonesia phrases from my Indonesian domestic helper. That gave me some confidence, knowing I could fall back on Google Translate if necessary.
An initial challenge I faced in my first few weeks there was having to adapt to the norms of the country.
Apart from the language barrier, I quickly learnt that I had to give up wearing sleeveless tops and shorts — despite the hot and humid weather — especially if I intended to walk along the streets at night.
Walking was my preferred mode of transport if my destination was nearby, as it would take longer via car due to the city’s notorious traffic jams.
Luckily, I found accommodation at a kost, an Indonesian boarding house that was a 10-minute walk to my office so I could avoid the jams.
The hospitality of the Indonesians truly blew me away. Before I moved to the kost, my colleagues, many of whom I barely knew, offered to help me look for accommodation and extended invites to hang out on weekends.
They also taught me all that I needed to know to communicate confidently with the pasar (market) and warung (local street food stall) sellers. Wandering the pasars and warungs is now my favourite pastime in Jakarta and I can even haggle for the best price in Bahasa!

The writer (top) having a project discussion with colleagues at their office rooftop.

Recommerce is the business of selling used products. At Laku6, we buy used gadgets from consumers across Indonesia and resell them to both local businesses and consumers. My main responsibilities included conceptualising digital marketing campaigns and coordinating offline marketing plans.
One of the first things I learnt there was the subtle but important differences in the way the different provinces might respond to an advertisement. After all, Indonesia is so ethnically diverse; there are around 1,300 distinct native ethnic groups in the archipelago.
I was also given the chance to lead a go-to-market strategy — typically a job reserved for senior team members.  
This meant understanding two products Laku6 was launching — one allowing consumers to sell their used gadgets without having to leave the house, and the other selling second-hand devices directly to consumers.
I ran digital marketing campaigns, working closely with the social media team to ensure that our messaging was consistent. Once a campaign ended, I would pore over the data to pick out key insights for the next round.
It scared me to take on such a huge responsibility but was also hugely rewarding. I never thought I would get the chance to work on something this important as an intern.
People are surprised when they find out I rejected Germany for Indonesia, but I would not have had it another way. I was lucky to work alongside a group of passionate colleagues, many of whom, much like me, had said no to cushy jobs and yes to long hours and late nights, all because we believed in what we do.
If you are considering coming to Indonesia, my advice is to befriend your colleagues, even those you may not work directly with. Personal relationships are a huge part of the workplace culture here, and I think it will be tough to excel unless you are close with your co-workers.
Ms Claire Lim, 22, is a third-year Public Policy and Global Affairs undergraduate in NTU. She is passionate about marketing and hopes to launch her own e-commerce businesses someday.

If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

Indonesia Internship Southeast Asia My Southeast Asia Ventures

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