STEF DEN BOER IN WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO:
“Just do it and go with the flow – you’re missing out if you stay at home”
One of the development programs we focus on together with our The World of YES team is providing international internships for facility management students. We are very involved in the preparation process but also stay in touch with a lot of the students during their internships. We always love to hear about their stories and experiences, which is why we also want to share that with you – starting today. In the first edition of “The Student Experience”, we catch up with Stef from The Netherlands, who interns with The University of Curaçao. Of course we are dying to know if he is enjoying the island life!
YES: First things first: how have you been?
Stef: “I’m doing very well, I’m really enjoying my time here on Curaçao so far. I just got started again after a week of holiday leave as I had my friends from The Netherlands coming over to visit. We’ve had a great week together, they love the island as well so we’re already planning on coming back here next year.”
Y: That’s awesome! We get a lot of students who will return to their “second home” some day, but you have a little over two months of internship left. What was the experience like for you when you arrived on the island?
S: “Well I flew in on Friday and went to my first day of work on Monday so I didn’t really have that much time to settle in. The first week or so I really needed to get used to the time difference with The Netherlands as well as the heat (at time of departure it was Dutch winter time, red.). During my first week at the office I had a tour through the office and campus. After that I just did all kinds of tasks for different departments to get a feel of the organization.”
Y: Can you explain to our readers what kind of internship you are doing at the moment?
S: “So I’m in my third year of my Bachelor degree study in facility management and this is my second internship period. I’m currently with the University of Curaçao and the internship lasts about five months. I’m working along with the FM department for two days a week to learn more about what they do and why they do it. I assist the facility manager in several project such as the procurement of lighting or thinking about a key distribution plan. Besides that I focus on my own research (which is also a school assignment). The research topic is to write a risk assessment and evaluation plan that focuses on all aspects of safety, environment, ergonomics and health in relation to the employees. I am now in the stage of examining theory, doing observations and starting quantitative research among the employees. After that I’ll start assessing the risks and its impact, probably together with the facility manager.”
Y: What do you think is the main difference between The Netherlands and Curaçao when it comes to facility management?
S: “I think in Holland we focus much more on the added value of facility management. As a facility management department we always want to make sure that we add value. We always focus on making sure we can add to productivity so that we can add value to the core business. Here on the island, facility management is seen as a necessity or a cost center. We tend to focus on costs and more importantly saving them. I also don’t see that change anytime soon – and maybe it doesn’t have to. But there are no educational programs on the island that teach you about facility management so if you want to progress or professionalize, people would have to go abroad to learn about it and bring back knowledge to the island. So far, that’s just scarce. Also, I see differences in outsourcing. We only outsource cleaning and security whereas in Holland outsourcing is much more common.”
Y: You have been in school now for three years studying FM, do you feel like you have a solid base to perform all tasks and projects involved in the internship?
S: “I think so. Though, for the risk assessment specifically, we do get classes on safety matters for example so that matches very well. But we don’t necessary get classes on how to make a risk assessment so a lot of the content of such an assessment I’ll have to figure out myself. But honestly, that’s part of the learning process so that’s okay. In The Netherlands I was working with a facility provider and they are helping me with some example risk assessments. That way, we can help each other be better. Also, I do feel like with the knowledge that I already have from a Dutch perspective, I can really add value to the organization here. I have knowledge that is new to them and that they can learn from as well as the other way around.”
Y: Do you also see differences between Curaçao and The Netherlands when it comes to culture?
S: “To be honest, Curaçao is pretty developed and I feel like to a great extent we can compare it to The Netherlands. Obviously, that’s also because of the large population of Dutch people moving to the island or coming over for holidays. In the beginning I did have to get used to the fact that everything moves quite slow. Meetings never start on time, it really has that Caribbean vibe of taking things slow which is not for everybody.”
Y: What do you love most about working and living abroad for a few months?
S: “I really like that I have the opportunity to get a different perspective on work and life in general that’s very different from The Netherlands. Everything is so much more relaxed, which is a very nice experience. Though I don’t think we can be so relaxed in The Netherlands because we are much more performance minded so that’s a different mindset.”
Y: Would you recommend an international internship to others and if so, do you have tips & tricks for the students that are now preparing for their big adventure?
S: “I would recommend it, I like the experience a lot. I think it’s very good for your personal development and it would be a waste if you don’t take the opportunity. For those that will be leaving soon I’d say to really prepare yourself well. I took time to arrange travel documents, finances and my budget, rent a car and so on. And other than that: just go with the flow and enjoy!”