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Grace looks back on her experience as a Marketing Intern in Cape Town

Grace Kellet, International Relations student at North Eastern University in the United States, came to Cape Town for a Marketing Internship. As part of both Penda Photo Tours, a photography travel company, and Penda Trust, its aligned photography NGO,  she did content marketing, marketing research, and fundraising. Here is how this marketing intern experienced her stay in Cape Town.  

I arrived in Cape Town for my Marketing internship with no idea what I was getting myself into. Being halfway across the world, knowing only one person in South Africa, and having little experience in marketing and communications, I was not necessarily confident. Somehow, it all worked out. Thanks to the Penda team who provided incredible support. They believed in my ability to succeed, despite my own doubts. I have been here for nearly six months. Honestly, I’m stunned by how much I’ve learned and accomplished!

Opportunity to expand professional skills

Social issues and international politics motivate me a lot. As a student of International Relations, that is basically a prerequisite. So, why did I choose something entirely different as my internship? Penda gave me the opportunity to expand my professional skills into the area of marketing and communications. At the same time, they provided a socially-minded mission that I could stand behind: to create positive change through photography.

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As a marketing intern at Penda, I did much more than I expected. I do quite a lot of social media and blog-writing but have also been given fantastic, unforeseen opportunities. Perhaps my favorite experience over these six months was joining a tour for a day. We went to Khayelitsha, the largest township in the Western Cape. We walked the streets with and spoke to locals, as well as nonprofits. This made me experience how Penda integrates the company with the nonprofit, for a unique and socially-minded holiday experience.

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Involvement in the strategy development

Another highlight of my time here as a Marketing Intern was actually having the opportunity to be part of strategy meetings with the founders, Marleen and Greg. They treated me like a member of the team, not just an intern. And encouraged me to provide my own feedback while also learning about what goes into growing a small business. During these meetings, they introduced me to new analytical programs such as SEMrush. I learned how they can be utilized in developing a digital marketing and communications strategy to grow Penda’s visibility on Google. Through this, I now have a deeper understanding of how Google works, and what sort of content it looks for, something I have never understood and has already become highly useful in developing new content for Penda.

Natural Wonderland

A secondary motivational factor in taking this internship was the location. I have never been to Africa in general, and I had heard exciting things about the excitement that Cape Town can offer. In the past few months, I definitely had my fill of both fun and challenges in this small section of the world. Perhaps my favorite things about living here are the incredible nature and light wherever I turn.

And the fact that there is literally always some event or activity going on. I have climbed one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world (Table Mountain), have swum with African penguins at Boulders Beach, played with monkeys at the World of Birds park and swimming with seals in Hout Bay. I have road-tripped down the Garden Route, marveling at the dramatic coastlines and mountains along the way, and so much more. This really is a natural wonderland for anyone, even those of us who usually prefer urban life. Perhaps the biggest challenge was the need for a car as there is so much to see outside of the city center.

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In the city, the events are virtually endless; from Festivals to First Thursdays, to Tuning the Vine, and those are just the larger of the events. I never found myself to be at a loss for what to do on any given day. If anything I have become overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume of choices, prompting me to take a step back and breathe for a beat.

I will miss the NGO work environment

The end of this Marketing Internship is approaching and I can honestly say that leaving will be bittersweet. I will miss the incredible support and inspiring work I have received and contributed to at Penda. The work environment has helped me to grow in my professional capabilities, and for that I am grateful. The warmth and the beauty of the Western Cape are other things that I will miss, especially the natural areas outside of the city. And finally, I will miss the motivated and entrepreneurial spirit of the people I’ve met and befriended. Despite its challenges and roughness, I’ll even miss the city itself, a vibrant place in many ways perfect for young adults to live. And (coming from the US) the general cost of living here will definitely be remembered with fondness.

Over the past six months, Penda and Cape Town have become what I know. Every day has come with its set of challenges and excitement. I have enjoyed living among the vibrant and colorful Capetonian atmosphere, but what made my time here memorable was Penda. In my role, I developed a whole new set of skills and a whole new level of confidence to accompany it. I have made deep and hopefully, lasting connections, both personal and professional, and have come to feel a sense of belonging and unity that comes with working with the close-knit, inspired and dynamic Penda team. I’m grateful for the chance to work here. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this group of conscientious storytellers.

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