HISSOC interview #1 – Nishta: Persistence is essential in the discipline of History!

During the recent holiday, instead of going overseas for holidays or spending their time relaxing at home, a few of our history majors chose to spend their holiday differently – doing internships. HISSOC caught up with some of them to bring to you their enriching and fulfilling internship experience. To start off this series of interviews, we have Nishta, a year 2 History major, to share with us her 5 weeks internship with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in the Public Affairs Department (PAD), Heritage & Social Responsibility Branch.

How did you get the internship and why did you apply for it?

I learnt of it through the email sent out by the History Department. I then submitted the relevant documents and was called up for an interview at the Police Headquarters (PHQ) in Novena. During the interview, I was quite nervous because it was my very first internship/ job interview. I stumbled on basic questions, like my intended first day… Haha! After a while, I became more at ease as my interviewers were very friendly. They informed me that a fellow History major friend, Mei Ling, would be on the internship as well!

I was hoping that through this internship, I would be able to figure out how history, as an academic discipline, is being practiced in the working world. Also, the opportunity to study Singapore’s social and cultural history in the previous semester (HY2254 under Dr. Chua Ai Lin) had piqued my curiosity in this subject.

 

How was your first week of internship like?

On the first day, one of the NSFs (National Service Full-time) gave us a walkthrough of PAD and introduced us to everyone in the department. We found out that the department was really extensive, and was made up of people with various specializations… there were people who dealt with TV shows like Crimewatch and Mata Mata as well. I felt very welcomed. After that, our supervisor let us go to their room of heritage-related archives and we read old Police Life Monthly magazines!! Thereafter, we immediately started to work with existing Oral History Interviews.

In the later part of the week, we also went for a guided heritage tour at the Police Heritage Centre to familiarize ourselves with the basic organizational history of the police force in Singapore. We were still learning the ropes in the first week, and so we asked our supervisors many questions. They welcomed these questions, and were very patient with us even though they were quite busy.

 

What were the job scopes of your internship and how did you find it?

For our December stint, our main task was to handle oral history interviews of retired police officers. So, after our supervisor was done with the preliminary interviews, we would tag along to conduct these interviews. After the interview, we transcribed the raw interview footage and did a short write-up on it. Each interview with a retired police officer took several hours and transcribing each interview took several more! Although it was time-consuming, it was an enriching experience. There was this one time that our supervisor asked us to craft the questions for the interview, based on her preliminary interview, which we had lots of fun doing!

 

Since you had conducted a number of oral interviews together with your supervisors, what was the most striking and/or interesting story you have heard of?

All their stories were very interesting and exciting, and it’s difficult to choose one. But, there was something that most of them mentioned which I felt was particularly heartwarming.

In the initial stages of their career, many of these officers had to serve 24-hour shifts. Often, their workload was so great that they worked many hours more to complete their work. That was the norm… However, many of them reflected that the strong sense of comradeship and camaraderie shared amongst the officers helped them pull through those trying periods. They supported each other, and helped lighten each other’s workload – even when they were off-duty!

 

Has this internship made you view police differently?

Yes definitely! I didn’t know much about the force before. The internship allowed me to better appreciate our pioneer police officers, for all the sacrifices they made for the safety and security of early Singapore. I was awed by their unmistakable passion and dedication to this common, uniting cause. In the early years, police work was culturally unpopular, had long working hours and was extremely dangerous. But they still did it! In fact, our current police officers continue to build on the legacy left behind by their predecessors. Kudos to them!

 

Through this internship, what were your takeaway/s in relation to history?

During the internship I was struck by the amount of historical information that was available to us. I realized that if you take the time and effort to carefully curate, analyze and make sense of your sources, it could be extremely meaningful. Persistence is essential in the discipline of History!

This internship experience was pivotal in my own growth as a History student. Throughout my time in NUS, I was trying to reconcile the ideals of History with the realities of the ‘working world’, hoping to see how the things I have learnt in History could be applied… how it would pan out tangibly. History is not only a source of nostalgia, but also a means of access to more critical perspectives and insights! Seeing how a keen sense of history added value to an organization like SPF inspired me. I guess that’s really what I treasured the most, which makes me hugely excited to return in May! :)

If you wish to know more about her internship experience, feel free to email us at communications@nushissoc.org

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