On my first day of work, I woke up at 6:30am and if you know anything about me, that was EXTREMELY early as I am not a morning person. But, I had to get up early because my host mom in Joburg leaves at 7:30am in order to drop us all at work or school. Although this was difficult, I was definitely excited to start working. We pulled up to a three story building with a security at an electric gate. My host mom explained to him that I would be working with an organization in the building and then he let us in. As soon as I came out of the car, he greeted me in Zulu. I hadn’t learnt much Zulu as yet as this was my third day in Joburg. However, by Wednesday of the first week, I responded to his greeting in Zulu!
The organization I’m with had arranged for me to stay in Joburg for one week and then five weeks in Cape Town and the final six weeks in Joburg. So, the first week was a whirlwind. I had a meeting with each division and I also met with the CEO who reaffirmed that he wanted this to be a memorable and fruitful learning experience for me. In order to prepare for Cape Town, one of my colleagues gave me a crash course in Atlas.ti, a software used in qualitative research. I was excited and somewhat apprehensive as most of my research experience has been quantitative but it seems the first set of projects, I’ll be working on will be primarily qualitative but I was up for the challenge.
In Cape town I have been working on an evaluation project for the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Our organization will be assessing whether their higher education training programs adequately prepare graduates to meet the needs of the agricultural sector. I have been helping to transcribe interviews with graduates and will begin analyzing the data this week. I have also been helping to develop strategies that will encourage participation among graduates so that we can gather as much qualitative and quantitative data as possible. This project has been extremely informative as I have been learning not only about the agricultural sector but also about some of the challenges facing South Africa’s higher education institutions. If you haven’t already, check out the #Fees Must Fall movement which has influenced the dynamic at this institution as well.
By now, you may be wondering why I titled a section of this blog post “Flashback to 622”. As you know, I’m a Master’s student at the University of Pennsylvania. During the fall semester of my program, we took a class called “Internship Fieldwork Seminar” but we referred to the class as 622, the number it was assigned by the institution. We learned very practical skills in this class that we were told could be required when we go on our internships. As it turns out, our professor was not kidding. During my first week in Cape Town, we were talking about writing proposals and concept notes. Literally almost everything we talked about in that class has come up in one way or another. But it didn’t end with concept notes. We had meetings to discuss the theory of change or the specific indicators being used by a particular organization. My most recent proposal also included crafting a Gantt chart. In those very moments, I had a deep appreciation for 622 because otherwise, I would be extremely confused and unable to contribute in these meetings. So, a huge shout out to 622 for preparing me for this internship!
Stay Tuned, more to come on Cape Town, a truly beautiful city!
In the meantime, here are a few preliminary pictures from Cape Town: