Next Step Connections’s Basril – culinary chronicles and tasting transformation in Singapore

Next Step Connections (NEXSTEP) specializes in curating and delivering transformative programs and personalized learning encounters across Asia. Our core emphasis centers on immersive, hands-on education that takes university students, working professionals, and organizations within new and enriching environments. We offer a diverse selection of program options, from online and offline international student internships to tailor-made study tours and professional development journeys for businesses, catering to the unique needs of individuals and groups.

 

As a frontrunner in experiential learning, we prioritize the significance of on-site engagement. Collaborating with global enterprises, we facilitate both local and international experiences, with a primary focus on the APAC region. Anchored in our strong belief in the transformative power of real-world experiences, we diligently craft learning environments that deeply resonate with our students. Whether delivered virtually or in person, our unwavering commitment is to ground students in their journeys, empowering them to embark on profound paths of transformation.

Basril Zam, a Singapore-based tourism veteran since 2005, is a sales and operations manager in his day-to-day life and dabbles into his lifelong passion with NEXSTEP: educational exploration. “That’s a passion that I just cannot shake off,’ admits Basril in an interview with us.

 

“It is the dream job that I used to think is the best thing that could ever happen to anybody. Just bringing people around and telling them the things that you love about your country and what you love about being in the outdoors. I still do that over the weekends, evenings, sometimes I take leave just to do such tours around with students, with tourists, even corporate clients as well,” shares Basril, who used to run his own travel agency with his family and became a licensed tourist guide in 2008.

 

For NEXSTEP, he works alongside Vincent, another resident coordinator with NEXSTEP, and handles the backend work in Singapore for educational tours. Vincent is “the guy on the ground” and Basril is the one curating the tours and managing all things backstage.

 

Between him and Vincent, “I think we found a perfect partnership where Vincent is the guy on the ground, and I tend to be curating the [programs] and doing the back-end work while he manages the face of it. I am currently the spectator, but not jealous yet,” tells us Basril jokingly.

Being a resident and a tour guide, he can bring people around with ease and effortless knowledge. Through his passion, he infuses meaning into every experience and activity. With NEXSTEP he has the opportunity to do more than what the usual parameters are with ordinary tourists. “Being localized was something that I thought they needed to have so that they can venture around having fun, being safe and just making the best out of it.”

 

As the creative nucleus behind the tours, he ensures that the students have both the local perspective, as well as the tourist one, for a well-rounded idea about what the city can offer. For example, instead of taking buses or private vehicles Basril always tries to come up with “slightly off-beaten path journeys” with walking at the core of the immersive experience with the city. 

 

Up to now, though, Basril’s personal favorite experience with NEXSTEP has by far been the cultural immersion program. With the help and input of a staff member from the Western Sydney University professors, he has organized cultural meals that encouraged students to learn about Singapore’s multicultural and multiracial communities.

 

Basril seamlessly weaves his personal journey into an immersive gastronomic adventure, blending cultures through cuisine. Amid today’s divisions, he transcends barriers via food, eloquently conveying this unique endeavor. “We operated within those realms, those boundaries,” Basril describes, outlining the meticulous orchestration of cultural encounters. This collaboration goes beyond the classroom, as he intricately melds his cultural identity with culinary experiences, creating more than just meals.

With an intricate understanding of Singapore’s multicultural essence encapsulated by CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Others), Basril becomes a cultural mentor. His personal journey mirrors the very tapestry he guides students through a medley of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Japanese heritage. 

 

In crafting cultural immersion programs and carefully curated dining occasions, Basril’s own nostalgia converges with the explorative spirit of the students. Through this culinary prism, Basril deftly dismantles the barriers between generations and cultures. In a world that often seems fragmented, his fervor for uniting people through shared culinary experiences shines as a testament to the redemptive power of food.  “Above all, it was an opening experience for us because we’ve never done this kind of arrangements before. We’re keeping it in our secret arsenal of tours to expunge out to people who are asking for something unique,” says Basril. 

 

In addition to the varied ethnic groups (CMIO) in Singapore, each group has different racial and religious backgrounds. For example, explains Basril, “in Singapore, we have Muslims from different racial backgrounds, you got Indian, Muslim, Chinese Muslims and Caucasian Muslims etc.” While Vincent focuses on Chinese food, Basril takes the students to Malay food experiences and their colleague Raj to Indian. They always take the students to local places where tourists have never been. They built a rapport with the local vendors thus transforming the program into a deeply personal experience. 

 

“It represents me as a person. You would probably categorize me as a Malay but like in other countries, you have a lot of mixed heritage individuals. If you look at my eyebrow, it looks Indian, if you look at my nose, it looks Indian. My hair looks Malay. Essentially I am Indian by race, but I’m also Chinese, I’m also Malay and I’m also Japanese. When this came to be, I was excited because I know the restaurants that I normally will go to because I’m a Muslim, but let me say I only halal food. So I need to know where the Chinese Muslim food is, as well as Indian Muslim food, nice Malay food and Western food as well,” shares Basril humbly, encapsulating the richness of his mission.”

Basril’s own explorations of identity converge with the very city he is introducing his students. The food experience reflects Singapore’s as a vestige of modernity with a rich cultural, ethnical and religious legacy. With a resolute focus on marrying the theoretical with the experiential, Basril orchestrates an environment that propels students beyond the classroom confines. 

“In Singapore,” he explains, “we pride ourselves in the capability to be a launchpad for people who want to venture into other parts of Asia.” Through guided exploration, students not only grasp academic concepts but also cultivate an enriched perspective rooted in cultural nuances. As students contemplate embarking on immersive experiential journeys, Basril’s voice reverberates as a reassuring guide. “I think the best thing in this era is that kilometers, are just numbers,” he affirms. Basril dismisses geographic worries, highlighting the closeness modern connectivity brings. Technology’s constant presence diminishes homesickness that could deter students. Basril’s viewpoint envisions students boldly embracing transformative experiences, assured that physical distance no longer hinders connection.

When musing on his impact, Basril’s words resonate with a profound sense of purpose. “I always feel that the possibilities are limitless,” he exclaims, underlining his belief in the far-reaching influence he imparts. Every interaction, every journey, becomes a conduit for change, a stepping stone on the path to self-discovery. Basril’s reflections mirror his own journey – each chance encounter, every twist of fate, has shaped him into a conduit for students’ growth. The lasting message he instills is one of embracing opportunities, saying yes to life’s offerings, and embracing the unpredictability of the journey. 

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