I wanted to travel somewhere during my summer holidays, since I have volunteered (Reach Out Volunteer Scuba Diving and Marine Conservation Program) in Cambodia in late 2016, my parents didn't let me go on another volunteer program. So, I searched for an overseas internship program.
Why did you choose VACorps?
I wanted to have an internship that is in the Medical field - more specifically Physiotherapy if possible. VACorps of South Africa offered that, and so I found the program for me!
What was your favorite part about South Africa?
I loved how there are so many things to do and see in South Africa, even just in Western Cape province - getting close with the African penguins at Boulders Beach was amazing, Garden Route wildlife safari tour was incredible, Table Mountain was breathtaking, Cape Point was absolutely beautiful, and Blouberg Beach was unreal!
What made your experience abroad unique?
It was getting the chance to see both the beautiful and the ugly of South Africa, I got to see the rich neighborhood from the Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Tour, and I got to see the other side in Khayelitsha, the township where I had my intern.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They had weekly activities which were fun to get involved in.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I could have spent 1 weekend to take a free diving course and get a license because that would have been so cool to get in addition to my diving License.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
In the morning, a few other interns and I Uber to the community health clinic in Khayelitsha from Observatory. I observed how the physiotherapist treat the patients and do certain tasks with the physiotherapist in the room. In mid-afternoon, we would go back home and I check out some places to go for the weekend and journal. I would then go for dinner at Mama's Kitchen at FOREX Bar in the evening.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoyed going to the tourist attractions and take nice photos and cherish those moments.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
There was open kitchen, and I shared the house with six other housemates. I liked having some housemates to share stories with every day and as travel companions.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
That South Africa has 11 official languages, open your heart and mind to learn either Xhosa or Afrikaans from the locals in your working environment. South Africa is known as the "Europe" of Africa - being more modern than its surrounding countries, so do not expect huts in Cape Town.
What was the hardest part about doing an internship abroad?
I think the hardest part of doing an internship abroad is probably the language barrier between us the international students/interns and the locals who do not speak English very well. As I observed how the physiotherapist ask the patients about their conditions in Xhosa, I wish I knew more Xhosa than just the basic conversations so that I could have understood what they were saying instead of waiting for the physiotherapist to briefly explain their conditions.
What surprised you most about Cape Town?
I was very surprised about the culture shock of "fat" being a compliment as it meant having access to resources and having provisions and being happy. Whereas, being thin may cause others to start being more concerned whether you're feeling stressed.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before doing an internship abroad in South Africa?
One thing I wish I would've known before doing an internship abroad in South Africa would be the types of activities they offer there - like free-diving courses that can get you certified! I would've signed up for it straight away if I knew about this earlier.
If you could go abroad again, where would you go?
If I could go abroad again, I would like to go to an European country like Spain or Scotland, or South American country like Brazil or Argentina. So I'm debating on whether to learn Spanish or Portuguese.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of doing an internship abroad is?
I feel the biggest benefit of doing an internship abroad is answering my own questions about the country that I was in, by being there physically to clear up the confusions and misconceptions I had. Another benefits would be achieving the goal of interning abroad and being empowered to be better after being inspired by more incredible individuals that I met there.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Cape Town, South Africa?
My packing tip would be to bring both cash and card to South Africa, so that you wouldn't run out of cash. Another one would be a windbreaker as it can get really windy in Cape Town.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I think I really want to become a physiotherapist; it's been confirmed!
Would you recommend VACorps to others? Why?
YES, because it's so worth it.
Samantha Leung is originally from Hong Kong, but half-Singaporean (her mum is Singaporean). She studies at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Physiology. Samantha has volunteered abroad in Cambodia for two weeks for Scuba Diving and Marine Conservation Program on Koh Rong, with a one-week Elephant Sanctuary extension near Siem Reap from November to December 2016.