I wasn't sure whether or not to leave a review but I think it's important for anyone in the future considering this program to hear both sides of the experience.
I'll start this review by echoing what others have said: it's an incredible opportunity and I made lifelong friends. I started the Paradise Internship in January 2020 as a non-diving intern. The first month was great - bootcamp was intense but I learned a lot. I made some amazing friends and the PI staff who taught us the course were absolutely brilliant - down to earth, incredibly friendly and helpful and went out of their way to support us. I have nothing bad to say about them whatsoever. Due to some very sad personal circumstances, we didn't get to meet one of the staff members and unfortunately didn't really hear from her throughout bootcamp.
The course was missing a fair few elements that we'd been promised to learn about (video editing being a major one, as it was a weekly requirement for our entire internship with a threat of losing our deposit money if we didn't stick to this), to the extent that our entire cohort of interns decided to speak to the PI staff and voice our concerns. While some elements were then included at the end of bootcamp, video editing wasn't.
I was over the moon with my placement and felt it matched my personality perfectly. I settled in immediately and made lots of friends. The weekly support from Elisha was brilliant and I loved being able to learn more about blogging/writing from Rika. I was really happy with how everything was going.
The issues began when the Coronavirus hit. Everything seemed to turn upside down in a matter of days. We all received a message from a staff member telling us that we had a group meeting the next day and, if we didn't attend, we'd lose our $1000 deposit just like that. In the meeting she gave us three options - to stay and continue (but not recommended), to leave and continue the internship from home, or to quit the program.
She warned that most of our companies would probably go bust and there was a chance PI would do the same. She said - fairly casually, I felt - that she’d love to give us our deposits back there and then but, due to our contracts having a force majeure clause, she wasn’t able to. I pointed out that most of us had never received contracts (that we were supposed to get mid February before we moved to our placements) and she said - equally casually - that we had even less working in our favour then. Many of us recorded this conversation as we were unsure on the legality of this result.
After much consideration and speaking to my family and manager, I decided to stay. This was the decision of most interns. The idea of going home, when many of our home countries were in (and continue to be in) much worse situations with the pandemic than Indonesia, seemed to be nonsensical. As did the thought of booking last minute flights home while also being warned that we likely wouldn’t see our $1000 deposit again.
Here, I want to stress something a staff member mentioned in her reply to previous interns - saying that "They will be receiving their full deposit upon completion of the internship.” A staff member warned us on the group call that there was a fair to medium chance that we wouldn’t receive this money back even if we did continue, as it had already been spent ($1000 x almost 30 interns from the November and January cohort). A staff member said she would do her best to make sure those who continued the internship from home got their deposit back eventually but she couldn’t promise due to the fact that it had already been spent. Some interns decided to pause their internships from home after hearing this. This was also a factor in my (and other interns' ) decision to stay in Indonesia.
The next day, we received a directive from a staff member saying she'd limited our options to leaving Indonesia and continuing our internships from home, or staying and losing our deposit and any support from PI. After speaking again to my family and manager, I decided to stay at my placement. I notified the PI team and, before I’d even got a reply, I had my access revoked from not only the programs that we had used with PI, but also business manager on Facebook for my placement's account. Shortly after, there was also an attempt to change the Instagram password. My scheduling account was deleted, along with the work I’d created for my manager for the following week. I had to message the PI team and ask them to please un-delete my account to access the pre-approved work.
I decided to stay in Indonesia alongside three of the other interns and am very happy with my decision to do so. Fortunately, my manager here has been incredibly supportive not only to me but also to the other Paradise Interns who have stayed on the island.
Overall, I’m very glad I took this opportunity with Paradise Interns and it’s given me the chance to live in Indonesia and now pursue other freelance opportunities. It's effectively forced me to take the leap into freelancing that I was hoping to take in July when the program finished!
However, I’d advise against the program due to the financial uncertainty of its future and the, in my opinion, careless and casual attitude shown by a staff member when it came to supporting almost 30 young people who’d quit their jobs and uprooted their lives to move to the other side of the world.