Love the outdoors and want to make a career out of it? Like many young people, Stephanie wanted to pursue experiences which would help support her personal and professional development. Equipped with a degree in Natural Science, and passionate about Marine Biology, Stephanie was drawn to an internship abroad, where she could gain academic credit while also putting knowledge into practice. Sounds too good to be true? Read on to learn about the Marine Biology and Reef Conservation internship in South Africa and how you can get involved!
Hi Stephanie! Can you tell us why you chose this internship?
From a young age, I have always had a thirst for adventure and a deep desire to explore new places and experiences! When I discovered Intern Abroad HQ, I was overwhelmed by the number of internship opportunities available. Choosing one seemed like an impossible task, but one thing was clear: I wanted to do an internship somewhere warm. I was also eager to learn about the field of Marine Biology and gain valuable skills that would transfer over to my future studies.
For this internship, I was drawn to South Africa - even though I couldn’t quite explain why - but looking back, I can confidently say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made! My internship experience in Sodwana Bay was truly unforgettable. As someone who loves the water, and grew up as a competitive swimmer, pursuing a career in Marine Biology is a dream come true.
Overall, this program was an incredible opportunity to make a meaningful impact while exploring the beauty of Sodwana Bay’s marine ecosystem. The internship opportunity provided a platform for me to learn and grow in a professional capacity, while also being immersed in a completely new and exciting culture.
Can you please give an overview of how the internship process works?
Intern Abroad HQ specializes in providing international internship opportunities to students and young professionals. They offer customized placements in a variety of industries and locations around the world and they were very easy to work with from the beginning!
While in South Africa, Intern HQ connected me with my host organization to complete my placement. My host organization specializes in unique wildlife and travel experiences throughout South Africa. Their team organizes programs that focus on conservation and sustainability and they aim to provide participants with memorable and transformative experiences. I would say they succeeded in doing so!
What can others expect from this Marine Biology internship?
The host organization collaborates with a Scuba Center at one of the top diving destinations in the world and this place is really the hub of your internship experience. The center’s instructors are friendly and welcoming. They manage the PADI dive courses included in the internship program (Open Water certification is included for a one-month internship and another course for each additional month). You are also able to pay for any additional courses you’d like to add on.
Having the opportunity to dive as a Marine Biology intern was invaluable, as it allowed me to independently collect some of my own data and gain hands-on experience. I learned about the local marine area and the conservation efforts being undertaken to protect it, and I participated in a variety of hands-on conservation activities, such as monitoring coral reefs and conducting surveys of fish and other marine species.
The lecture series on Indian Ocean Ecology presented during the internship was especially helpful, as it provided me with specialized knowledge in the field of Marine Biology. It also contributed to the “Marine Biology and Reef Conservation in Sodwana Bay” certificate that I earned at the end of my internship.
This greatly enhanced my professional portfolio as it showcased my knowledge and skills, but also demonstrated my dedication and passion for the field. The theoretical knowledge gained - such as understanding the importance of marine protected areas and the various threats to coral reefs - also gave me a well-rounded understanding of marine conservation.
The staff and interns, like myself, shared and stayed in the Scuba Center’s adjoining camp. The camp has a unique sense of community and created an environment that fostered friendships. From the braais (South African style barbeque) to the late-night talks under the stars, there is always something to do and someone to talk to. The marine camp truly became a home away from home and a place that fostered many of my most fond memories!
Can you provide insight into the skills that interns might expect to gain?
For me, completing an internship abroad helped tp bridge the gap in my learning, and I am grateful for the foundation it has provided me as I pursue a career in biology. For example, hands-on fieldwork is a crucial part of a biologist’s education and research. It also develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as biologists must adapt to unpredictable conditions and make real-time decisions. I believe that fieldwork is a fundamental and beneficial aspect of a biologist’s profession, providing important skills, knowledge, and experiences that cannot be acquired in a laboratory or classroom environment.
Scuba diving was another unique skill that I acquired during my internship that will be a valuable asset in biology and a strong addition to my resume. This skill is highly transferable and can be applied to various roles, such as emergency response, marine biology, environmental conservation, and tourism.
Obtaining a scuba diving certification requires dedication and training, demonstrating a willingness to learn and a commitment to personal growth. Whether as a hobby or a career pursuit, scuba diving can be a valuable asset in building a well-rounded and impressive resume, especially in the field of marine biology.
What challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
When I first signed up to complete the internship a friend of mine had decided she was going to come with me but decided at the last minute to back out. It was a big step for me to go from completing this journey with a close friend of mine to doing so alone, especially in an area that was unfamiliar and almost exactly on the other side of the globe.
However, this gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. My willingness to do so really helped me to succeed! Whether it was scuba diving for the first time or engaging with locals and fellow interns from different backgrounds, I found that approaching each challenge with an open mind and a willingness to learn was essential to my success.
In addition, the supportive and inclusive community created by my host organization and the other interns made it easier to navigate any difficulties. For example, the guidance and mentorship provided by the coordinator was really helpful. From his daily marine conservation discussion to the lectures and dive briefings, I had access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise that helped me develop my skills and understanding of marine conservation.
What was it like sharing the experience with other like-minded interns?
I have discovered that the dive community is a welcoming and unique one! It brings together individuals from all over the world who share a passion for exploring the underwater world. The culture of a dive community instilled a sense of connection to the ocean and a commitment to preserving it for future generations. This shared camaraderie was a large part of making the marine camp feel like home, allowing us to connect with so many like-minded people.
We shared the same living space, ate meals together, and participated in group activities. It was so easy to form bonds with others when you’re spending so much time together, and from hearing past stories, it was common for the campers to become like a second family to one another.
We always supported each other through the challenges of camp life, whether it was dealing with homesickness or pushing through a tough day. The internship experience created a strong bond that lasts - for many of us, Sodwana Bay was more than just an intern opportunity; it was a place where we felt like we belonged and had a second family.
How has this internship ultimately shaped your career prospects?
Interning abroad provided an opportunity for me to build connections with potential employers. For example, it allowed me to expand my network beyond my home country and connect with professionals in my field who offered different perspectives and insights.
I had the chance to meet with individuals that own dive charters and companies as well as Ph.D. candidates currently working in the field of marine biology. These connections have proven to be invaluable when it comes to securing future job opportunities, both in my home country and abroad.
Moreover, interning abroad demonstrates to potential employers that I am adaptable, open-minded, and willing to take on new challenges. My international experience has also made me stand out from other applicants and showcases my willingness to take initiative and pursue opportunities beyond my comfort zone.
Overall, this internship abroad provided me with a transformative experience that allowed me to grow both personally and professionally and it also gave me both professional experience and valuable connections that have helped me advance my career goals.
What are the most lasting impressions of this Marine Biology internship?
I am so grateful to say that I had an experience of a lifetime! It’s difficult to put into words just how impactful this experience has been for me, but I can confidently say I have created lifelong memories. I was blown away by how much my experience exceeded my expectations, and I am so grateful for the choices that led me here! The lessons I learned about teamwork, communication, and adaptability will undoubtedly benefit me in the future, both in and out of the field of marine biology and conservation.
I am grateful to Intern Abroad HQ and my host organization for providing me with this unforgettable opportunity to explore a new culture, learn about marine conservation, and make meaningful contributions to the conservation of the marine ecosystem in Sodwana Bay. From the amazing people I met to the incredible places I explored, I was constantly amazed and inspired by the world around me.
This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, taught me new skills, and gave me a newfound appreciation for different cultures and ways of life. My scuba diving and marine conservation experience have given me a unique and impressive skill set, as well as a passion for adventure and exploration. It’s a truly special feeling and I can’t wait to see how it continues to shape my future.
For anyone looking to step out of their comfort zone and explore a new culture while also gaining valuable work experience, I would highly recommend looking into the programs offered by Intern Abroad HQ! My experience with them was truly life-changing, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Marine Conservation Internship in Sodwana Bay, South Africa!
Ready to start planning your own internship abroad? Here’s how to started!
Our step-by-step guide on how it works provides you with more information on how to get started. The process is user friendly - just submit your application to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and won’t take more than 5 minutes. However, your formal expression of interest provides the foundation for us to help you take the next steps.