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Lake Country Faces: Jamaican student embraces Minnesota winter

Jaydie-Ann Cooper, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, came to Breezy Point Resort for a year-long internship last March as a part of her bachelor’s degree in hospitality. Theresa Bourke / Echo Journal1 / 2
Jaydie-Ann Cooper, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, came to Breezy Point Resort for a year-long internship last March as a part of her bachelor’s degree in hospitality. Theresa Bourke / Echo Journal2 / 2

Drastic weather patterns and seasonal changes in the lakes area have made for an eventful 10 months for Jamaican student Jaydie-Ann Cooper, who is an intern at Breezy Point Resort.

Cooper recently finished her bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management from Montego Bay Community College in Jamaica and came to Minnesota to get some hands-on experience.

"If you want to do an internship, you can do an overseas internship," Cooper said of her school's program. "So I came across Breezy Point through a job agency."

In March 2017, Cooper packed up and moved to Breezy for her year-long internship. But it wasn't her first time in the lakes area.

"When I did my associate's degree, I also worked at Madden's," she said.

But that was a summer gig. This time around, Cooper gets to experience a full year in Minnesota as she works several different jobs at Breezy Point Resort.

"I was rotating between departments because that is part of the internship," she said. "So I did front desk; I also did some inspection and housekeeping. I've also worked in the various restaurants. I've even worked in laundry."

One of her favorite parts so far has been working at the front desk and in the restaurants where she gets to interact with customers.

One of the most difficult parts has been dealing with the crazy midwestern weather.

"It wasn't too bad when I just came," Cooper said of her March arrival. "It was kind of cold when I just came. But then all of a sudden in May, it snowed again. And I'm like, 'What? I came in March and this was supposed to be over.'"

Not only was a late spring snow a shock, but arriving in Minnesota was also Cooper's first time seeing snow at all.

"At first it was exciting," she said. "And then the cold hit, and it was like, 'Really? When is this going to stop?'"

The cold is perhaps the biggest change for Cooper.

"Sometime (a couple weeks ago) when we were in minus 26, it was a 100-degree difference for me," she said, noting that the coldest Jamaican weather she usually deals with is about 40 degrees.

But after buying all new winter gear and living in the extreme cold, Cooper admitted she has acclimated somewhat to Minnesota weather.

"I have, which is strange to me," she said. "We were in minus 26 weather, and it went up to zero, and I remember going outside, and I was like, 'This is pretty nice. It's actually warming up.'"

However, she still doesn't spend much more time outside in the cold than is absolutely necessary.

"I've picked up a strategy - it's called avoidance," she said. "Especially when it's in the minus degrees, I avoid outside as much as possible. So I dart from the front desk into the shuttle and from the shuttle into the dorms. And that's pretty much how I've been doing it."

But staying inside all winter isn't as easy as Cooper originally thought.

"My friends here, they want to take me snowtubing. And they said they are going to be taking me ice fishing sometime. So I have no choice at this point," she said with a laugh.

Warmer summer weather took her outside to explore the lakes area a lot more often.

"I did do a little bit of boating, so I was out on the lake a lot, as well as fishing too," she said. "I even tried golf."

The golfing excursion didn't go perfectly though.

"At least I can say I tried. And I've got pictures," she said.

Coming up in March, Cooper will end her internship at Breezy Point Resort and travel back to Jamaica, where she has already been accepted at a school to study for her master's in business administration.

"My aim is to specialize in human resources or general management," she said. "Eventually I'm either going to own something for myself, but I do still want to stay in hospitality. It's just that ... I'm trying to shift it somewhat to not a 24-hour job but something more 9-5, so I'm thinking I really do want to go into human resources."

She already has relevant experience in her background.

"I used to be a manager when I was back home," she said. "I had to do a lot of the recruitment, hiring, putting contracts together, and it's something that I actually liked."

Though Cooper has been accepted into a master's program in Jamaica, her path isn't set, as she also applied to school in Washington, D.C.

Whether she comes back to the United States for school or not, Cooper's time in Breezy Point will always be memorable.

"There's something that's called 'Minnesota Nice.' It's actually a real thing," she said, "especially in the older folks. You find that they're really friendly. And they're willing to actually ensure that you're having the best time here."

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