Wondering what it’s like to intern abroad in Cape Town, South Africa? Viviana Moreno spent four weeks there as an Occupational Therapy (OT) intern. Learn about her experience gaining practical OT skills and discover what it’s like to intern abroad during Covid-19.
Tell us about your Occupational Therapy internship in Cape Town - what was the experience like?
I went into my internship with an open mind and an open heart and, like a sponge, I absorbed everything I could! From my very first day in South Africa, multiculturalism was everywhere. I loved being pushed out of my comfort zone by meeting new people of all different ages and backgrounds. This diversity meant I had something to learn no matter where I looked.
What advice would you give to other interns who might be wondering how to get involved in an internship abroad, given Covid-19 precautions?
Do it. There’s nothing I can write to explain the magnitude of the experience. It’s so worthwhile and enriching, both to your personal and professional life. There’s nothing like traveling halfway across the world to do something meaningful. Covid-19 had little impact on my trip despite being in Level 4 lockdown. We still found ways to have fun, and while we had different experiences, they were awesome nonetheless. The people I met and things we did because of the lockdown made the experience unique. I felt very safe with Intern Abroad HQ, and everyone was very careful. The only thing I recommend is to always follow CDC guidelines, just like you would at home.
How has this internship helped progress your career aspirations?
Going into my internship, I assumed it would focus on the more traditional aspects of Occupational Therapy (such as fine motor skills), but I was also exposed to the psychological setting. This was hugely beneficial, as psychological/clinical occupational therapy is not very common in America. I can take this new knowledge of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), group therapy theory and psychosocial interactions into my own career moving forward. I’ve even questioned which route I like more.
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What was it like being in Cape Town?
Being in Cape Town was eye-opening and humbling. The landscape alone is so breathtaking and amazing, and you can find so many adventurous things to do everywhere you look, from skydiving and surfing to parasailing, paragliding and hiking. Definitely catch a safari in the garden route or in Kruger National Park.
What was the benefit of doing an internship abroad?
It’s been an incredible experience and a refreshing change of pace and environment. I’d say it’s just what I needed. It’s taught me so much about communication, patience, and compassion - all things that are applicable no matter how I choose to use my degree.
I also feel more empowered to be successful in my field, as this internship has given me tools that I didn’t know I was missing. It shook me out of my comfort zone, and it made me look at everything differently. I have a competitive edge now, and I can’t wait to use it to make a difference in my career.
What were some of the most significant learning points from your internship?
I now feel more appreciative of everyone’s values, perspectives and cultural norms, no matter how different they may be to my own. This internship has made me want to continue progressing, both personally and professionally, by learning all I can, asking questions and being curious. I will keep exploring, and keep reaching outside my comfort zone, because that’s what makes me happy.
What do you recommend interns pack for an experience in Cape Town?
Packing depends on the season, but for winter (May through August in South Africa) I packed six pairs of pants that I could reuse and wash, lots of layers, a puffy coat/jacket for the colder days, and lots of turtlenecks and long-sleeved shirts. Closed toed shoes are also a must. Definitely necessary: an adapter, your laptop, a notebook and pens, a purse or bag to carry around, and a bathing suit for surfing!
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What was the intern accommodation like?
I loved the accommodation. We all had roommates, so we had to be respectful and mindful of those around us. It was important to have a “go with the flow” attitude. Overall, it was great sharing a house with so many amazing people from around the world and was fun always having friends to come home to. We had endless movie nights, gatherings and dinner parties. It was incredible.
What advice would you give to future interns traveling abroad?
My biggest piece of advice is to be open to anything and everything. Be willing to adapt and be receptive to feedback. Nothing is going to be like you expect it to be. In my experience, the South African people were incredibly nice, warm and respectful. Being surrounded by new people in a new environment has made me rethink my approach to issues and helped me be more kind and accepting. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be challenging at times, but it will go a long way in demonstrating your individual cultural competency to any future employer.
Intern Abroad HQ has in-country programs abroad running in 12 of our 14 destinations, with interns starting every week. Find out where you can intern abroad without restrictions right now.
How can I get 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 and there are two options you can take to get the ball rolling.
If you’re unsure of which internship program is right for you, you can simply check availability to submit an enquiry which will help us to point you in the right direction. If you want to chat over the phone, you can also find our full contact information here.
If you already have an idea of what you want to do, and when you want to do it, you can submit your application. It doesn’t cost anything 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.