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.
Response from Paradise Interns
Thanks for leaving a review. I'm glad you enjoyed the majority of your internship, loved where we placed you and felt that you learned quite a bit. However, I’d like to address a few of the concerns that you brought up.
First off, I’m very glad that you found the majority of the Paradise interns team very supportive. As a small business, it has taken a lot of work to get together a team that can assist our interns in the ways needed. As the company has grown, I no longer take as much of an intern-facing role, but am regularly behind the scenes making sure that everyone is on the same page and everything runs smoothly. With my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis at the beginning of your internship, I had to rely on my team much more and I’m glad they were able to come through.
As for the deposit, I am sorry that you felt anything was unclear. Our entire team has all rules clearly outlined in the Intern Responsibilities board. This has not changed since the first day you were an intern and, upon reading this thoroughly, you would have found answers to any questions you had.
The monthly meetings have nothing to do with the rules, but are strategy sessions where your work and analytics are reviewed in order to see how your company’s social presence is faring. Tweaks are made to content and strategy, but there are no changes to your responsibilities.
As for deductions to your deposits – it’s best if I can explain our business model. The way we are able to keep this free for interns is by charging companies for this service. In order to keep clients, it’s important to deliver upon what we promise. This means if we have promised a company 4 Instagram stories a day, the company needs to receive this. As interns are being ‘paid’ in diving and other perks regardless of their performance, we use the deposit to ensure the work is being done.
We are extremely up front with what constitutes a deduction from deposits from day one. These are outlined clearly on the Intern Responsibilities board and, again, did not change from the very first day. In fact, we gave everyone additional leeway as the program continued so that our team would be deducting less than initially stated.
Which brings us to the recent COVID-19 issue that interrupted our regular internship. On March 16, 2020, after closely following the effects across the globe, we called a company wide meeting. At this meeting we explained that we were concerned about the safety of our 30 interns in Indonesia and we strongly advised them to go home. In addition to to our interns’ safety, we believed that tourists taking resources away from an already impacted healthcare system would be unethical. In full transparency, we also said that we did not know whether our clients (the companies that they were placed at) would make it through the impending cease in tourism and that Paradise Interns did not know if we would, either. While we did not know what this meant for our own operations, we explained that flights out of the country would only be harder to get and borders were tightening up. We also expressed concern at the economic implications of COVID-19 would have on the tourist reliant economies surrounding our interns’ placements and what this would mean in regards to the safety of our interns.
Following this meeting, we regularly updated interns on developing stories regarding the spread of the coronavirus. However, interns asked us to stop sending updates to the group because they were seen as, and I quote, “sensationalist” and “bumming them out.” We were concerned that, by being in Indonesia, they perhaps were not aware of the full issues that would be arising as President Joko Widodo had just openly admitted to suppressing Indonesia’s COVID-19 data. We spoke with similar companies and consulted with our legal team and were advised that we should take cues from similar study and work abroad programs and recall all interns immediately.
Just a day later, on March 17th, 2020, we called another meeting. In this meeting, we issued a directive. All interns who wanted to stay with Paradise Interns would need to return home. As all of our interns are adults (ages 21 - 40), the choice was up to each individual with a full week to decide. However, we could not take on the liability or ethical responsibility of having interns in our program abroad at this time of global unrest. Our team is small and we did not have the resources available to adequately assist any interns in troubles they may face if staying in Indonesia under our program. It is imperative to our operation that our team is able to support our interns to the best of our ability.
Just 7 out of 30 interns decided to quit Paradise Interns in favor of staying in Indonesia. 5 others decided to leave the program as they didn’t want to work on Paradise Interns without the full guarantee of being able to receive the benefits from clients who might face bankruptcy. These interns, by quitting the program, did lose their deposit, but made the choice on their own. I understand the choice wasn’t ideal on either side, but hard choices are being made by the majority of global citizens at this time. The rest of the interns have returned to their home countries and are working remotely, still within the program. They will be receiving their full deposit upon completion of the internship and are free to return to Indonesia when this global pandemic clears to collect the benefits owed by the companies they were placed at.
As for how this relates to you: Upon receiving the mandate to leave Indonesia and complete the program remotely, you let us know that you would be staying in Indonesia, effectively quitting the program. We thanked you for your time and sent a termination letter. We removed you from all networking apps and client platforms, as is standard for offboarding interns. However, we did give you time to retrieve any work so that it would not go to waste. We did not respond to your further emails insisting we create another option because we were busy supporting the remaining interns who were still in our program. In the next few days it became increasingly harder to get flights home and we wanted to ensure we were doing everything we could to support those who were actively trying to get home.
As we predicted, the regions our interns are placed at effectively closed down completely, causing further difficulties for expats to repatriate. You, along with a few other interns who chose to stay in Indonesia and quit the program, chose to go home amidst the closures and had great difficulty doing so – as was our original concern. If anything, the difficulties you ended up facing validate our mandate to return home.
Of all people, I wish this had gone differently. COVID-19 put Paradise Interns in a position where we needed to act quickly and decisively to ensure the safety of our interns. We knew that our decision was going to be wildly unpopular and polarizing, but stand by our decision as the only responsible and ethical choice. This is my livelihood and my passion. We’ve been successfully growing and graduating an increasing number of interns for over 3 years without any problems and, like so many other small businesses in the world, COVID-19 has put the future of our business at risk. I’m sorry this didn’t go as planned and wish you all the best in the future.