Traveling to a completely new country is a must-have experience for anyone who wants to grow professionally, academically and personally. Some find adapting to a new culture challenging but this was not the case for Hanseul Choi who was already on her second trip to Cape Town.
Hanseul came from South Korea to explore Cape Town for the second time in two years. She was accepted for an internship with one of South Africa’s most influential refugee organizations through if i could… In this post she shares her journey, the challenges and highlights of her internship and Cape Town trip with the senior program coordinator, Stephanie toe Water.
Stephanie: What type of work did you get involved in during your internship?
Hanseul: I helped with the monitoring and evaluation of the peer support group that the organisation was running. I also did research on art therapy and peer counseling as the organisation is trying to improve their peer support program. I also worked in making the staff and performance appraisal forms; I got to observe the group sessions themselves and managed to do a funding proposal. She [the organisation’s director] gave me the opportunity to do many different things. I wish I could be here longer, two of three months would be ideal.
Stephanie: That’s fascinating! Did you have any interesting findings from the research you conducted?
Hanseul: That was the fun part really. The research was really fun because all these different methods are being applied around the world.
Stephanie: Could you run me through a typical day at your host organisation. What was your schedule like?
Hanseul: I would go and complete my tasks for the day. I would speak with the director often. When I got home in the afternoon I’d shop for food, and from 4pm-6pm was the time I’d use to speak to my professor on Skype. So I’d be busy until dinner time. After that, in the evening, I’d hang out with my housemates and we’d cook dinner together. Then hang out and take some time to myself in my room.
Stephanie: What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from this internship experience?
Hanseul: That there are nice people everywhere. In every culture and every country, there are always some bad people too. So I kind of see the universality of things around me. Fundamentally people are really similar. I also realized that if I respect people, regardless of their background, they feel it and it’s always better to have that fundamental part to communicate effectively to have a joyful experience.
Stephanie: How will you apply the skills you have learned?
Hanseul: I am really glad I got the opportunity to observe the group sessions because I really see the value of them and the need for them. The idea of this peer group counseling session is such a good idea that I can apply, not just to vulnerable groups, but to everyone, anyone who has mental health issues.
Stephanie: What were some of the highlights of your trip?
Hanseul: In general the trip was relaxing and really nice. I also gave a presentation on South Korea to the staff. Because they are from so many different countries they take turns to introduce their country’s culture during the staff meetings every week. Then I got to present a little bit, and people were very curious because they don’t see a lot of Koreans here and it’s very far away. Many people think Korea is a very traditional country, which it’s really not, it’s actually very modern. It is so big and I did share that it went from war in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but in 50 years it grew to be the 13th biggest economy in the world in such a short period of time. It’s a really unique and interesting country, it’s the only country that went from a recipient country to a donor country.
Stephanie: Were there any challenges during your trip?
Hanseul: I would get migraines and a little bit sick. So for one or two days I would feel lethargic. It wasn’t just the heat or anything, I just get them often. Then I would feel that I’m not getting things done because I’d be really slow. But the Director would check on me often, she was really kind.
Stephanie: I’m sorry to hear that but I’m glad the organisation’s director was so accommodating and helpful. What about after work activities. Did you enjoy the outings that we organised for you?
Hanseul: Yes! the outing to town was one of my favorites. It was such a relaxed trip.
Stephanie: What has been the most memorable moment?
Hanseul: The most memorable moment of my internship was getting to meet the refugees and migrants during the sessions. I felt like I was really part of the refugee support work. It was so inspiring to just be able to talk to so many migrants from so many parts of Africa.
Hanseul’s host organisation had only great things to say about her and similarly, Hanseul enjoyed her experience working in Cape Town’s NGO sector.
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