Cultivating connections: Vincent Tan’s role in Next Step Connection’s educational odyssey

Next Step Connections (NEXSTEP) is an experiential learning company that specializes in offering transformative programs and experiences across Asia. We provide customized learning experiences for university students and working professionals, with a strong emphasis on on-the-ground learning. Our programs cater to individuals from around the world, allowing them to engage in life-changing overseas experiences. 

Through both virtual and abroad placements, focusing on the APAC region and partnering with startups and corporates alike, we push participants out of their comfort zones. At NEXSTEP, we aim to deliver cutting-edge, invested learning opportunities that have the power to change lives.

Vincent Tan, a Singapore-based tourist guide, has not only taken the baton from his father but also forged a unique path of his own. He is dedicated to his calling and passionate about his chosen mission: people. He works with our team at NEXSTEP as a local guide and resident coordinator in Singapore, but his qualities and responsibilities extend far beyond that of your standard tour guide. He guides students on site but also on their individual experiences abroad, thus serving both as a mentor and as a guide for life-changing experiences.

With over a decade of experience in tourism, Vincent is a real people person whose passion shines through: “this is what I really want to do. It is something I truly enjoy,” confesses Vincent to us candidly, “I treat [everyone] like my family, and I really take care of them.”

His origin story with tourism started unexpectedly with his father asking him if he would be interested in helping a friend who had just opened a travel agency. Recalling this period, Vincent explains, “I thought, why not? I’ll give it a shot.” This spontaneous decision held the promise of what would become a fulfilling and rewarding path in his career.

His journey at NEXSTEP started at the end of 2022 with a study tour. In his characteristic curious tone, he replied to the short-term opportunity proposition and said, “Hey, why not?”

His task ahead was to be NEXSTEP’s representative on the ground in Singapore while the students were there. He had to “look after them and see to it that they had their needs met. If anything were to happen, we would be there for them. And that was in addition to bringing them around to all the business visits, site visits and doing the actual tour guiding,” explains Vincent.

“My first group was with WSU, Western Sydney University and I found myself genuinely impressed with the students and how hard they worked, how intelligent the questions they had asked me were; they worked hard and played hard. Their approach was a perfect blend of commitment to their academic pursuits and a desire to enjoy themselves and explore the city, fully immersing themselves in the experiences it had to offer.” 

He continues by highlighting why he enjoys his work. The first one is how rewarding it is, “one of the things that really gives me great satisfaction is when students really enjoy themselves. Coming into a foreign city and really not knowing anything and then being there for them and being this source of information where they can come reach out to me anytime and I’ll be able to help them out for whatever it is. And then them going out and having a good time on their own as well as with me. Then at the end of the trip, just coming back to me and saying that this was like the best trip ever. That does it for me,” concludes Vincent with emotion.

The second is precisely the reason why he decided to join NEXSTEP. The synergy and the cooperative spirit of the team left an impression on him. Even though most of the communication is remote, there is a lot of support whenever needed. “I never really felt like I was on my own and having to figure things out. Anything I didn’t know, I know that I can just reach out, and all the questions will be answered.”

As for his most memorable experience working with NEXSTEP, he recalls his initial student group in January with WSU, where at first, a few of the students were a bit more withdrawn than the rest.

“By the 3rd or 4th day they really started coming out of their shell and the whole group just started being very synergized and doing everything together. I was just so happy to see that, and I like to think that I was a part of that, having them feel at home and feel comfortable and safe in a new environment.” Witnessing the learning curve of some of the students, how they evolve and slowly but surely harmonize with the rest, how they become more themselves as time passes, and finally, how they adapt to the new environment – is one of the most fulfilling moments for Vincent on his journey as a part of the NEXSTEP team. He puts a lot of heart into developing and cultivating relationships with his clients, and palpably seeing them evolve in such a meaningful way is part of why he loves his role.

Speaking on why he believes it’s important for a student in today’s world to be exposed to different environments and to immerse oneself in different cultures, he explains, “To understand on the ground, learning experiences rather than just learning in the classroom, out of the textbook. And I think that applies to everyone, not just to the students.

Say, for example, they come to Singapore, and they might have plans to work in Singapore. The trip itself is a real eye-opener for them into how the city works: how to get around, what the corporate culture is like in companies in Singapore, what the locals are like, what the local culture is like; and then they get to pick up a little of Singlish, which I try to give them a little bit of knowledge on that. From there, they feel like, hey, I could fit in here, I could work here, I am comfortable here. You can’t learn that from a book, so when we travel, that is what we learn to take in.”


When asked what advice he has for students who experience homesickness or other natural fears commonly experienced, Vincent explains that “stepping out of your comfort zone is essential, especially when you’re accustomed to the familiarities of home. Often, the routines and comforts we know can hinder us from exploring what lies beyond. It’s when we venture into the unknown that growth truly happens. Breaking away from the safety net of familiarity requires courage. Once you embrace this change and resist the urge to retreat to your comfort zone, you’ll likely discover something pleasantly surprising. The foreign experiences and unfamiliar cultures you encounter can reveal hidden strengths and capabilities within you. This transformative journey holds the potential to reshape your perspective.” 

As a self-described tourist guy, Vincent gets exposed to people from all over the world. He calls this opportunity a window that opens up. He shared with us what impact he envisions leaving on students around the world as part of his many encounters and windows. 

“My aspiration is that they emerge from the experience enriched by the local culture they’ve embraced and the insights we, as on-site coordinators, have shared with them. Even after the program concludes, some of them maintain contact with me. For instance, when they notice me posting pictures of the current group I’m guiding, they’ll reach out. There was this homesick girl who had a special affinity for Boost juice. She playfully urged me not to introduce my current group to Boost because of her passion for it. I shared that I was part of the first team that managed and opened the inaugural Boost store in Singapore, which created a strong connection between us. This connection seemed to coax her out of her shell, fostering a meaningful rapport.

Ultimately, I hope they depart with not only with a reservoir of knowledge and experiences but also with an additional friend gained from the journey. These relationships, forming during their time abroad, could be one of the most lasting takeaways.”

His vision for students resonates deeply – to foster a connection with the local culture, to bridge cultural gaps, and to leave a lasting impact. Through his personal interactions, he aims for students to leave not just with knowledge and experiences but also with newfound friendships forged during their transformative journeys. 

Guiding students through Singapore, he evolved into much more than a guide, becoming an anchor and support for those in unfamiliar surroundings. Vincent’s encounters with students reveal the remarkable transformation that can occur when individuals step out of their comfort zones.

With this, Vincent’s journey aligns seamlessly with NEXSTEP’s mission to redefine education through immersive experiences, nurturing future leaders who are not just confined to classrooms but prepared to thrive in a diverse and dynamic world.

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