Being at the Right Place at the Right Time
Maren studies Environmental Economics and Business Management course in Germany. She had to choose between studying abroad for one semester or doing an internship. Thus, she combed the best out of these two options and did her internship abroad. She looked for several internships. When she found the Events Coordination Internship with Greenpop, she knew that this would be the right thing for. She wanted to combine the environmental part of her studies and learn more about event management as well as environmental activation. Here’s how she experienced her internship in Cape Town.
I lived in Cape Town for three months doing an Events Coordination Internship with Greenpop. Yet, I still find it hard to answer the question “How was it?”. This is just too hard to answer. It was the same when I wanted to write this blog post. What should I write about, what is it the one thing that made this time so special? What have I actually done in Cape Town?
After all this time back home though, I tried to answer this question for myself as well. Which moments were my “key moments”? When and what did I learn? When did I feel like engaging with the people around me and the country I have lived in the most? To answer all these questions and write it down, I made a “Top Five Key Moments”-list, which I cannot see as a list but more as a summary, and so it goes.
1. Working and participating at the Hogsback Festival of Trees
So, this was part of my internship. Halfway through my time in Cape Town, a couple of my colleagues, Misha (Greenpop-founder), Cassie (Events Intern) and Ruan (Urban Greening Intern) and I left for the festival to host the tree planting session at the Hogsback Festival of Trees and to be a part of the whole event.
On our way to the festival, we stopped at a couple of places along the Garden Route. It was the perfect start for our team. We stayed over at Nature’s Valley for one night. We visited a couple of lookout points and enjoyed our trip. Arriving at the festival, we started planting trees pretty much right away.
On the first weekend, we planted together with 35 school kids that came over to Hogsback for planting and learning about sustainability. In one day we managed to get 400 trees in the ground. I was pretty overwhelmed by the motivation and speed of by which these kids dug holes, engaged with everyone and gave these trees a new home. The rest of the weekend, we participated in workshops and going for a little hike with our team.
In the following week, Cassie and I joined Misha on some school talks in Grahamstown. The three of us went to the city and spent a night there. At that time, Cassie and I continued working on our daily office work. We researched universities and topics for a new activation and sensibilisation project Greenpop was working on. When we went back to Hogsback, we met our team again and on the weekend the final Hogsback Festival of Trees started.
Planting trees with hundreds of people, while someone is playing the drums, the sun is shining and everyone is just sharing their stories with each other is probably not only in my “Cape Town Top Five”, even more on my “Moments-I-am-super-grateful-for”-list. We also went for a little adventure the next day. With the Greenpop team, we went to a beautiful lookout point including a hidden waterfall. It was the perfect way to finish our two weeks of working and living together as a team. The work, the atmosphere but, most of all, I felt like I was at the right place at the right moment. Which also brings me to number two of my list.
2. Stepping out of my comfort zone and falling right into a new one
Yes, that might sound cliché and it is. But before I have moved to Cape Town, I had lived abroad already so I didn’t think that it would be such a big challenge. I can tell you though, it was. Each time going abroad means stepping out again because you never know what to expect. This time I was struggling to settle in, to be honest, it is not always easy to just arrive and be in a new space. But after a little while, and especially after the Festival of Trees, I can definitely say I found myself in a new comfort zone.
The Festival just helped me to settle in even more since Cassie (from France) and I were the only foreigners in our team. That helped so much to engage more with locals and to be able to learn from them about their lives. Living with a bunch of internationals in a flat and even sharing a room with up to five other girls is a challenge sometimes. However, the Loft became my home and the people I lived with were more than just flatmates. All of us came to Cape Town for internships and all of us went through the same. Sharing these experiences with people who are in the same space as I just made it so much more fun. And it was again little moments, like having an after-work drink on our balcony, dance-offs in the kitchen and little weekend adventures.
Also, working and meeting up with all the local people and having the chance to really get to know their culture, the variety South Africa has to offer, and all the different sides of the city helped me to settle in. It made me feel like just having a normal daily life in a really good kind of way.
3. Working at a school camp and the first Fynbos planting day
Another part of my internship was a four-day trip to Grabouw, where we hosted a school camp for a bunch of learners and talked with them about sustainability, discussed how to act water-wise, and planted a couple of trees and some fynbos (fynbos is the local indigenous vegetation). The camp was in my third week, so I started almost right away with an actual event into my internship. I am beyond grateful for this experience. Cassie and I were part of the logistics team. Therefore, we were mainly involved in coordination behind the scenes of events. Think about things such as time schedules, preparing the next program, preparing the meals and so on. For me, the most exciting parts though were the ones where we had time to engage with the kids and help the facilitators with the workshops.
I was super impressed by all the ideas, knowledge and interest those 15-years-old learners showed. We talked about life-cycles, being water-wise and sustainable lifestyles. But there was one special moment. We talked about life-cycles and Matthew, the facilitator, asked me to tell the learners how the game we played with them was a major part of my studies (Environmental Business Management) and moreover of our future economy. In this moment, I could feel I was in the right moment at the right time. I could see them being so interested in what is possible. That was when I saw how much we were able to learn from each other in only a couple of days.
I had that feeling another time when Greenpop started the project “Fynbos for the Future” at a school and all interns were able to participate. That day, we planted a whole fynbos garden at a primary school. The kids advocated for their garden and seeing their future belonging so much to nature was definitely in my “Cape Town Top Five”. It also opened my eyes again for all the opportunities we have. There is potential for a greener and better tomorrow. That might sound super cliché again, but each time I watch the video of that project, I am super grateful I was able to participate and engage with all my colleagues and all the kids.
How can you add value in your Nonprofit Internship? Check this blog with more experiences (and check the video Maren is talking about)
4. Working in the Greenpop office/environment
My colleagues bring me to number four. When I thought of office jobs, especially in open-plan offices, as an internship I usually thought of a loud and messy atmosphere where everyone is just working and the interns only get the basic tasks, which are not really interesting. But working in the Greenpop office changed my perspectives on this whole construction. The office is open, bright and friendly. There was always a reason to laugh, no matter if it were those little moments in between work or on our regular check-ins with our supervisors or with Nadine, the office manager, and all the interns.
And every Friday one intern and one staff member cook together for staff lunch. Everyone gathers around the table and talks about their week. Friday lunches made the whole office atmosphere even more familiar and personal. Sharing a meal with everyone and being responsible for the meal every once in a while lets you grow as a group. Especially my supervisors Misha and Carla gave me the opportunity to participate in actual programs. I got a lot of responsibility, which gave me a feeling of estimation.
Each of us interns had their little project. For example, I created a program for faculty-led trips together with Carla, Misha and Cassie. I learned more about the working field and I was also able to include things I had learned at university before. It was a good balance of learning and bringing in knowledge.
5. Sunrises & Sunsets
Each time we went to the beach after work for a sunset, got up early at Hogsback and saw the sunrise, or that one time we even managed to get up at 5 a.m. (to be fair, my roommates managed to wake me up) to hike up Lions Head for the sunrise, just gave me goosebumps. All these little moments were little key moments themselves. Sunrises and sunsets are such a little thing but it’s all those tiny moments that made those three months special.
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