Infinity Abroad Summer 2019 participant Thor Qiao Hui shares her Work & Travel USA experience.
I have spent my Summer at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, Colorado. In 3 simple words – IT WAS SUPERB! I have experienced way more than I have ever expected, gained life-long friendships and great memories as well.
YMCA owns 2 resort/ranches in the Rocky Mountains National Park – for me, I applied for Snow Mountain Ranch. Starting off with the working life—I was stationed in the Housekeeping department. Occasionally, I was scheduled or voluntarily worked overtime in the Food Service department, but my main working place was Housekeeping.
Housekeeping was NEVER easy, it is physically exhausting, but it brings a lot of job satisfaction. Our main duty is to clean the cabins, lodges, yurts and public bathhouses. As staff members, we are randomly assigned to teams under different team leaders and to different locations every day, which is a good thing as we will have something different to look forward to every day.
Us hardworking housekeepers catching a nap during our 15-minute break
Travelling to different cabins for work in a van
Us housekeepers helped and supported each other throughout the busy days. We entertained ourselves and created our own joy within the packed working hours and that’s why I did make good memories in my workplace.
When we were not on the clock, Snow Mountain Ranch itself has an amount of things to explore, and all by walking distance. Compared to Malaysia, the weather was really dry over there so even in the glaring sun, we hardly sweat. Unlike in Malaysia, you will be sweating by just walking for 5 minutes under the sun lol!
YMCA arranged all kinds of activities for us staffers to do on our time off:
Hangin’ out with the Huskies
It was a free entry for staffs. We get to pet and play with huskies, as long as we followed the safety rules briefed to us earlier. Due to the hot weather, the huskies were not that furry but still, they are adorable!
The Nine Miles
It was like a 45-minute hike to the top, and the scenery along the way up was fabulous.
It was a really great experience to interact with llamas as we rarely see them in Malaysia. We even got the chance to bring them for a walk. They are tame, friendly and hungry always!
Walking the llamas (What an experience)
The Waterfall Hike
Instead of hiking I would consider this as trekking. An American friend leaded us towards the waterfall and we even tried crossing the river to the other side. We made it!
Staffs get free rides as well! The horses there are way buffer and healthier than the ones we see in Malaysia.
All these activities were enough to keep us occupied on our free time, but of course, wandering around only in the Snow Mountain Ranch is not enough. My friends and I also participated in staff trips (graciously organized by YMCA for international staffs) and we used the YMCA’s free shuttle bus to the nearest town – Winter Park.
The Rocky Mountains National Park
I have been to this place twice, on the 15th of June and the 8th of August. Guess what, I saw two different views. This is because the weather was still cold in the early of June so there were snows and herds of animal everywhere.
However, the weather turned slightly warm starting July and the snow just melted and the animals started to hide among the forests.
Before reaching the national park itself, we went to a small museum-kinda-place that explains about the whole history and formation of the park. We even got to see some animal samples there.
The amazing scenery along the road during our June visit to Winter Park
The best spot for a picture
The view during the August visit. A big difference from since June as the amount of snow is significantly lesser
Had a great time with our Chinese & Taiwanese friends
With my Latin American friends
The Grand lake
This is one of the most symbolic places in Winter Park. The lake was clear and pretty and lots of people were there taking pictures (so did I). There was also a street mall by the lake and it was a great place to take a look. (window-shop only, because things there were expensive XD)
And me at the lake
The History Colorado Center
This was one of the staff trips. We had 2 hours to look around but it was not sufficient at all—we could stay there for the whole day just soaking up all the information, history and artefacts in there. We did learn a lot about the history of Colorado including the native American’s culture and some history of Colorado’s famed craft beer scene.
Group photo at the entrance
Beer and wine glass tower
The Colorado Miles
This is the most convenient mall we could find in Denver. However, it requires a 2-hour drive from where we stay to get there. It has a variety of shops in it and we never returned home with nothing.
The entrance of Colorado Miles
The amount of shopping we did, just 2 persons within 3 hours (Oops)
The 16th Street Mall
16th Street Mall is an outdoor mall with musicians performing along the roadside – a unique experience for us Malaysians.
The Winter Park Resort
This is the last stop of the shuttle bus from Snow Mountain Ranch. It is a beautiful small town mainly visited by families. As a YMCA staff, we could request a Grand pass at the HR office to get free access to all the activities over there (thank you, YMCA of the Rockies)!
The Gondola ride
The view from the Gondola as we went up
People queuing up for the Alpine slide!
The Alpine slide was so fun! Basically we just take the ride up to the hill and slide down on this special-modified board. It took me a while to familiarize with the controls, but it was exhilarating!
The mini golf area. The gondola spotted on the left is same as the one I showed previously. A lot of mountain bikers will take the gondola up to the hill and then ride down.
Houses in the Winter Park Resort
Shops in the Winter Park Resort
Apart from activities and trips, we participated in plenty of events as well:
The Independence Day Parade (4th of July)
I am glad that I had a day off on that day. Hence, I participated in the National Day parade held at Granby, representing the YMCA of the Rockies team.
During the parade. There were kids along the roadside waiting to catch (snatch) candies.
At night, the American friends brought us to watch the fireworks. This was the only good catch from my phone but trust me, it was way more spectacular to watch it through my own eyes.
The YMCA housekeeping group photo after the fireworks.
There was a Christian group called the Navigators participating in the Summer Training Programme here, where they worked in different departments at the YMCA as well. I made lots of Navigators friends working in housekeeping and they welcomed us to join their Nav night on every Tuesday. During the nav nights, they will have ice breaking, role-playing, worship and preaching sessions.
Role playing performance
The Kitchen (Bay 0)
The kitchen played an important role for the staffs. Whenever we were hungry in the middle of the night or felt like cooking for our own, we will be there.
The Chinese decided to cook hot pot for our American friends
Group picture session after the meal with some of my American friends– from the Navigators and the LT programmes.
The Chinese gang – Malaysia + China + Taiwan
The YMCA values international staffs as an important culture of their organization. Hence, they held events such as international dinner, international fair and cultural exchange nights for internationals to truly present their own country. This should be the main difference of the YMCA comparing to the other employers in the Work and Travel programme. Hence, I got the opportunity to meet people from many countries over here—more than I have ever expected. I am so grateful I get to work here!
Malaysia presentation night. From the left is Joanne, Hui Chien and me.
We had a session teaching the audience to sing Rasa Sayang.
International fair. This was the poster made by us!
Performance of Rasa Sayang and Gelang Sipaku Gelang.
International Dinner. We literally cooked curry chicken on our own and it turned out great!
Of course, these are just some key highlights. There are way more things that I experienced that if I put into words, this would become a 10,000 word thesis! Simple encounters like experiencing 4 different weathers in a day which was snow in the morning, sunny in the noon, raining in the afternoon following by hail; seeing wild animals everywhere like in National Geographic, and just witnessing how the locals here respect and value them; I saw magpies (a kind of bird) “walking” more than the times they were flying ……
In a nutshell, this programme opened my eyes and made me realize how little I experienced the world as a person. My perspective about Malaysia and other countries has changed, and I felt a strong sense of patriotism and gratefulness to be a Malaysian. This is definitely the best choice I have ever made in my life and I will not hesitate to join the programme again, given the chance!