Camila Johanek – New York to Cape Town – Internship 2017

Camila Johanek participated in a Counseling and Psychology internship with If I Could… Cape Town.

“Africa was on my bucket list so Cape Town was the obvious place to go.  I was worried about safety and getting around. I knew Cape Town was developed but not as developed as it is, and I thought I’d be alone – but this was definitely not true! If I Could… provided me with a lot of support while I was here. The If I Could… team was really welcoming and genuinely interested in what I was doing, like a little family. They answered all my questions while I was at home, and answered all my parents’ questions too.”

Camila contributed to her host organization in many ways, and each day held new tasks and challenges which kept things interesting. “ I learned that each day is different, so I learned how to see where I could be the most useful and how to really bond and nurture relationships. Interning with If I Could… definitely made me see the future of my career differently. I feel more solidified that I want to be doing work in the field of Counseling and Psychology, and that I’m passionate about these areas.  I need to constantly push myself and put myself in situations that scare the crap out of me so that I can feel more comfortable with myself, and more able to connect with people.”

“I was raving about my first day in Cape Town and having a great time, and I remember my dad said I should be careful and know that some days will be harder or that some days I may miss home and I must just roll with the waves. It was amazing, I grew so much!”

Cape Town highlights
“Hiking up Lion’s Head for sunrise, and the cycling tour around Simon’s Town and the Peninsula which was incredible! I also spent time hanging out with other interns on many intern outings. I can’t decide between the Hout Bay outing to World of Birds and the market, or the wine tasting in Constancia, they were a lot of fun! Being in such a beautiful environment and catching up with everyone was a special way to spend our time.”

Cape Town in 5 words
“I’m trying to think of the right word to describe the people of Cape Town, because they’ve just been amazing. Even my cab driver from the airport was kind and wanted to share his culture with me and how beautiful Cape Town is!”

Magical, welcoming, passionate, spontaneous, home.


Advice to future interns
“Come in with an open mind. Interns should not be afraid to interact with the members of their host organisation. Be flexible with the work schedule and know that things will change according to what is required on a particular day. Computer proficiency will help greatly, as you will be able to help more around the office.”

Jennifer Moran USA

Jennifer interned in Cape Town in 2016 and talks about her exciting experience here.

Get your adventure started by applying for an internship today.

Camille de Vos Australia

Camille interned in Cape Town in 2016 (read more about her adventures here), and shares some highlights about her time. We concur about those sunsets, for sure!

Kaiwen Guo

Describe Cape Town in five words

  • Humble
  • Multi-Cultural
  • Friendly
  • Exciting
  • Beautiful

What is your favourite not to miss activity in Cape Town?

Exploring the culture of the townships

How has this internship experience changed you?

I had a lot of time to think and become more independent.

Any advice to future interns?

Really take some time to explore Cape Town.

Alicia Yan Seattle, USA

What was the biggest lesson you learned during your internship?

Alicia says that she really learned how to be comfortable with herself.  When she started, she admits that she not comfortable with expressing herself.  Through her host organisation and the dynamics with the kids she worked with, she had to learn to be really comfortable.  She’s happy to engage with strangers and be more confident now.

What are some of the highlights of your trip?

The highlights: doing the touristy things was great and Alicia loved working with the kids.  Her experience was so enriching.  Being in the townships and the relationships with students was powerful.  She was happy to be a part of the organization.  She was able to make friendships.  It’s been huge for her.

She says the food is delicious here. The nature – Table Mountain, the hiking.  It seems that many are nature-centered and active which she’s enjoyed a lot.

What did you enjoy most about your host organisation?

Alicia says that the first day of the holiday program she worked on, they created this song for the kids about how they are the celebrities of their life and that we are all human — “you are just as cool as Beyoncé”.  She got thrown in to leading a group which was unexpected.  After being there with them for a month, she was really prepared and jumped in without being nervous.  She created a verse with her kids and they sang in front of everyone.  She felt so energetic and alive.  She was so proud of them.  It felt good to know that the staff thought so as well.  They were really pleased to see that.

What is you most memorable if i could… moment?

There’s no specific thing but the day to day, it’s the connections.  She’s met some incredible people who she will remain friends with beyond this.  It’s all the nights of dinner and drinks.  It’s the little things and experiences that make it.

How has this internship experience changed you?

For Alicia, she says that she’s come to find her own strengths and weaknesses by living independently, working in a foreign country.  She feels she’s grown a lot.  Interacting with people from a different background has been challenging but she’s adapted and grown.  She feels that her perception of the world has changed for the better.

Ketevan Marr

Describe Cape Town in five words

  • Beautiful
  • Affordable
  • Nature
  • Multi-cultural
  • Nice

What is your favourite not to miss activity in Cape Town?

Walks in and around the city

What did you enjoy most about your host organisation?

They gave me a lot of opportunities, let me be flexible and take initiative.

Advice to future interns:

Stay longer, because you really can’t experience the place in a short time.

Koichi Sato Japan

PicsArt_08-22-11.01.08What was the biggest lesson you learned on your internship?

My biggest lesson was to learn how to work in the the development sector in an international environment. I also did not have any practical experience before, so I really learned a lot by observing projects in the field.

What are some of the highlights of your trip?

Mzoli’s outing in the township with the team was one of my highlights. The food was good and it was a really fun outing. I also really enjoyed climbing up Lion’s Head to see the beautiful views of Cape Town.

What is your favourite not to miss activity in Cape Town?

The townships and the food at Mzoli’s

What is your most memorable if i could… moment?

The organised outings on a Friday afternoon so we can connect with other colleagues

How has this internship experience changed you?

I am a lot more confident.  I believe I have also improved my English so there is less of a language barrier.

Winnie Atim USA

screenshot_2016-09-09-16-56-17Describe India in five words: “Cultured, beautiful chaotic mess, great.”

I met really great people on my trip. I had great colleagues and met other interns that I now call friends.

How has this internship experience changed you?

My work ethics have changed through this internship experience. I never thought that I could be good at doing admin. I also now have a different view on life. Children in New Delhi will do anything for their families and will work to make a living and to support their loved ones.

Sloan Tandet Alabama, USA

What was the biggest lesson you learnt?

I really learnt how to be patient. I also learnt how to deal with colleagues in the medical field and learn the different cultures in South Africa. It is important to be respectful and mindful of other people from a different background.

Describe Cape Town in five words

  • Lively
  • Dynamic
  • Friendly
  • Welcoming
  • Joyful

What is your favourite not to miss activity in Cape Town?

Mzolis braai – in the township

How has this internship experience changed you?

It’s taught me to be more persistent and patient.

Sophia Gaillard USA


Yingie Asamaowei Nigeria

Alex Finocchio USA

Irene Muthui

Lauren Greehy United Kingdom

“This internship in Cape Town not only allowed me the opportunity to begin my research while being abroad,” said Lauren, but also exposed me to a very different and diverse environment.” Click here to view more of Lauren’s story.

Mandi Heyne USA

Tah Tabod Cameroon

Camille Serrano Massachusetts, USA

Sarah Farah Ahktar New York, USA

Thank you so much for the amazing experience you gave me in Cape Town. Everything from the intern outings to my interaction with each and every one of you is something I will treasure forever. Being here, through this programme, has helped me grow and taught me so much.

Christophre Woods New York, USA

Amanda USA

The reason I chose Cape Town was because of if i could…! When I was searching for internships, I was not set on a specific location. I was mainly interested in women’s advocacy and the way that if i could… spoke about women’s advocacy was close to what I was looking for. I think if i could… appeals to a certain group of people, it’s very clear from the way the programme is presented and what the goals are. I like that if i could… is not just taking anyone but people who really want to make a difference.

I feel like I had a very unique experience at my host organisation because while I was here we officially became a non-profit organisation and we don’t have a budget, so it was literally me and my boss who work on it full time. I kind of became the person who got involved in idea generation and it worked well because we are from different generations – I have that younger perspective and she has all the knowledge and connections, being a Capetonian. I supported in different ways, from setting up standard operating procedures for different branches of the organisation, to emailing people and adding people to our mailing list. I became an integral part of the organisation and kind of did everything!

One of the main reasons I wanted to do an international internship was for clarity in my career, and to determine whether I want to go into non-profit work. I haven’t 100% figured that out yet which isn’t a bad thing at all, but I think what it did show me was more of those skills I want to harness at work. I learnt a lot about my interests and what I want to do more of when I go home, and I learnt how to speak up for myself in the workplace which is such a valuable skill to have.


Ennie Coker USA

New intern Ennie Coker chats with our public transport orientation guru, Sivu, about her first impressions in the Mother City. She takes a public minibus taxi on her own, talks about her first day working with children with disabilities in Cape Town, and gives a shout out to her new friends at if i could…!

Caitlin o’ Brien

Roxana Bell Washington, USA

Kaitlin Emmons Massachusetts, USA

Danielle Willig New York, USA


Alexia Chauliac Paris, France

I heard about Cape Town from friends, and the weather was a big factor for me in choosing the city because it’s winter in Europe right now. Also the fact that South Africa is English-speaking was a plus for me. I heard about if i could… from someone who was also interested in joining the programme but couldn’t come in the end. I think the website is good and I enjoy the newsletter a lot.

I was an intern at a social development NGO working primarily on the Re-imagining Khayelitsha project. I did a lot of statistics and profiles, participating in community mapping workshops on the ground, social demographic profiles, and finally looking at environmental impact assessments in the community. I also worked on the organisation’s Vision 2020 project for the City of Cape Town, on a series of eight maps.

I like to meet new people and discover new places, so this experience was cool for me. I met great people, and the experience at work was positive. Cape Town is a beautiful city so it was nice to go around and see the sights, the surroundings. I think the experience has definitely changed me, and the internship strengthened my [professional] vision. I am now going back to France for a few months and I am open to a new opportunity!

I’m very satisfied with if i could… and my time in Cape Town. The support I received from if i could… was a big help because coming from another country isn’t always easy.

Sonia Ferdousi London, United Kingdom

Before I came to South Africa, I was working at British Sky Broadcasting (Sky TV) but felt I needed a change, so I booked my internship and came straight to Cape Town! I found if i could… by just doing a search for internships abroad. It was my first time moving to a different country for several months, and can honestly say it was the best experience of my life! I have found Observatory, and Cape Town, to be an eclectic, vibrant and welcoming place to be, and I am certain that the friendships I have made will be long-lasting!

My internship has been with a Hout Bay-based arts education NGO. We work with youth effected by extreme poverty with the arts in order to help them achieve social empowerment. The children we work with are amazing and have had a much bigger effect on me than I ever anticipated. I think that this NGO was a perfect fit for me as I am passionate about using the arts to help the community, and the children have made it very easy for me to love what we do! In fact, I am hoping to come back to Cape Town as soon as possible!

Mia Thuelund Hansen Copenhagen, Denmark

I chose to apply for my social justice internship because of the relevance it has to my study in sociology. In addition to this I had heard a lot of nice things about Cape Town from a few of my friends who had been there on vacation. I got a great impression of the city – vibrant and full of possibilities. I was mostly involved in a campaign on safe sanitation. I was a part of conducting research “on the ground” as well as analysing data, and writing reports on sanitation issues and conducting research. The biggest highlight is definitely the work that I was a part of at my host organisation and all the experiences I got there – both work-wise as well as socially. The most important thing I learned was that I am now totally sure that I want to work in an NGO that focuses on subjects revolving around minorities, marginalisation, social justice and human rights.

To future interns I would say, be open-minded and try not to let prejudices affect the way you see Cape Town and the people living there. As soon as I made my own impressions and got comfortable, the whole internship experience exceeded all my expectations.

Stephanie Hale Connecticut, USA

I was very excited to have the opportunity to do a line of work I really care about in a new country and learn about South African culture and society in a very hands-on experience. I was nervous about where I would be placed to work but I love where I work now and couldn’t have been placed at a better organisation. I would definitely consider continuing to work here, study here, or possibly even move here. I love living and working in Cape Town and am proud to be part of my host organisation because of the great work they do. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work or live. I am constantly meeting new people, seeing new things, and learning more about South African culture and society.

Mireille Ines Koriciza Bujumbura, Burundi

My internship was a great experience. These 6 months were so incredible! I learned a lot, shared a lot and received a lot as well. Just a BIG THANK YOU to if i could…, you rock with your work, keep making things great for all of us interns, and for your new interns coming as well… Keep shining. I am really willing to come back, one day you’ll receive a call 🙂

Kathy Evans Connecticut, USA

My favorite part about working at my child welfare host organisation was the people who I got to work with and meet during my internship. I really loved going into the townships and getting to know the locals, especially when I was able to speak with them in isiXhosa… if i could… provided a 9-week course in learning isiXhosa and I frequently used the phrases I had learned to communicate with locals and the people I worked with. Cape Town has provided me with many opportunities for self reflection; I constantly contemplated my role in this society and how I will continue to make a difference in the world that I live in.

My advice to other if i could… interns is: Don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be afraid to take a little bit of risk, only if you can find your way out. Cape Town has changed me for a lifetime; the experience of living on my own and all of the people I have met will continue to impact the way I live my life. I have met people from many walks of life and from around the world; I have begun to create an invaluable network of friendships and connections that will allow me to continue traveling and seeking adventure.

Christian Kirkham Utah, USA

I chose if i could… because their website looked very professional, and in my Skype interviews I had the feeling that things were more established with the company. I was impressed with their professionalism, and dedication to help me find an internship. I chose Cape Town because I wanted to experience something new and to further enhance my international perspective.  I thought since I was fluent in Dutch, I could possibly pick up Afrikaans quite easily. I had been to South Africa once before and I loved the land and its people. I wanted to explore it further, and I was very interested in the history of the country. I feel I have learned how to adapt and work hard in a variety of settings.  It has made me more aware of global problems and I have learned new ways to help people in need. I feel it’s helped me appreciate how hard the South African people have fought (and are still fighting) for equality.

Andrei Russia / Vancouver, Canada

I completed my if i could… internship at the first African-based organisation solely focusing on the transgender community. The aim of the organisation is advocate for the rights of transgender people and to provide help, advice and information for those who seek to adjust their lives to live in the opposite gender role, as to that assigned to them at birth, or who are working to come to terms with their situation despite their genetic background. The organisation provides resources, information and support to transgender people, their partners, families, employers and the public.

My work focused on a research, advocacy and report writing for the organisation. The motivation behind the project was that according to globally-conducted research, transgender individuals are the most marginalised when it comes to homelessness. Previous studies suggest that not only are they disproportionately represented in the homeless population but also that access to shelters by transgender people is inhibited due to several various barriers. This research study attempted to analyse the barriers transgender people face when accessing shelters as well as explore their experiences within the shelter system. The report would not be possible without the participants, and I hope that it will help to create community dialogue through partnerships between the transgender community, NGOs, and the government.

My advice to new if i could… interns in Cape Town is to keep your mind, eyes and heart open! There is beauty all around you 🙂

Thandeka Dhlamini Zimbabwe / London, United Kingdom

I found out about if i could… on the internet and considered South Africa because I always wanted to come here for longer than a week. After applying, Candice stayed in touch with me throughout the entire process. I’ve already been to Johannesburg and Pretoria, but Cape Town and its beautiful beaches made my decision that much easier.

My internship was at an organisation who runs as a non-profit that mostly works with refugees. Through my host organisation I had the opportunity to visit several communities such as Khayelitsha, Philippi and Gugulethu, where I went into primary schools to teach pupils about other countries and foreign cultures.

if i could… helped me a lot and I like the way things are done. Whether it was fetching me from the airport and showing me my way around to and from work, I would definitely recommend if i could… to friends and family back home. I used to be afraid of South Africa because of what the media portrays it to be, but once you come to the country you get to see that it is not like that at all. I encourage people that have only been exposed to the tourism part of South Africa to just come and stay even if it’s for three months or even longer, to learn about the different cultures that are found in South Africa.

Rachel Petua Uganda / Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I had a wonderful time in Cape Town during my internship. I learnt so much, which allowed me to leave with a very open mind. My internship saw me working at a popular local radio station where I helped produced content for a popular morning show. I had the opportunity to go out into the streets and interview people and ask them what they thought about issues that were going on in Cape Town and also to find out what they thought about the show itself. Some of my favorite experiences was having the opportunity to interview Claudia More, an extremely talented new musician and also interviewing His Grace, Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Going through an internship program like if i could… was really beneficial to me because they actually place you in an internship, help you find accommodation and help with a lot of other logistics like picking you up at the airport and showing you around to get familiar with the city. I would definitely encourage anyone to come down to Cape Town and experience it for themselves. It’s an extremely colorful city with lots of friendly people and I would definitely come back to visit it again.

Tej Mishra Bhutan, South Asia

I was born in Bhutan after which I moved with my family to a refugee camp in Nepal. At the moment I’m completing my Masters in Public Health at Boston University School of Health in the United States. I first found out about Cape Town from seniors at my university which is what initially sparked my interest to do an internship abroad.

I was told that Cape Town would be an ideal place for me to do an internship so I went on to the internet and came across the if i could… internship programme. I did my internship at Creative Consulting & Development Works, if i could…’s parent company that does research, evaluation and communications consultancy work. I worked on areas relating to consulting and proposal writing.

if i could… was very helpful for me from the beginning of my application to the time I arrived in Cape Town. Without if i could…’s assistance, I doubt that my internship would have been as successful as it was.

Allison MacDonald New York, NY, USA

Matthew Thomas London, United Kingdom

I was very eager to gain some extra practical experience in the realm of International development and if i could… matched me with a very good NGO. Previous to this trip, I had already visited South Africa on two separate occasions so I feel that the cultural transition wasn’t such a big deal this time. However I feel that working and living here as opposed to simply vacationing has opened my eyes to many things I hadn’t previously been aware of. I feel that I have become more integrated into the society and have become more aware of the good and the bad aspects of the country.

I am now about halfway through a 6 month visit and would love to stay here for longer in a working capacity as I feel that Cape Town is a great City and definitely somewhere that I could call home. I would definitely recommend Cape Town as a destination to friends and family, I feel that it is a city which has something to offer everybody. In the field of International Development, I believe that it is a particularly great place to undertake an internship, due to the vibrancy of civil society here.

I have had a wonderful experience in Cape Town; it is such a vibrant city with something to suit every individual. I also loved my time at my host organisation. I really respect the work which they are doing and feel that I am learning a lot whilst meeting extremely interesting people in the process.

Jeremy Atterman Florida, USA

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege to work in Cape Town at a leading child welfare organisation. It is a great experience to work in an area like Cape Town; this city not only provides a beautiful setting with countless activities and adventures, but it also has a real-world feel to it that makes the work I do feel important. Unfortunately, Cape Town and South Africa in general have a growing issue of child abuse, gang violence, drug use, etc., and to work with my host organisation to combat some of these problems is truly rewarding. I’ve gained a lot of experience working alongside dedicated social workers, and I know that this experience will help me in years to come as I continue my work in social work and psychology.

Meghan Hasset New York, NY, USA

Living in Cape Town and working with a women’s rights group in Gugulethu allowed me to fully experience the two faces of Cape Town…whether it’s trying chicken feet, learning Xhosa songs, going to a beach with a colony of penguins, or seeing the Philharmonic play Mendelssohn in the botanical gardens over wine and cheese, there’s so much to explore. Previously I lived in the UK for a few years with my family, but I’ve never travelled completely on my own so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Cape Town and intern through if i could… especially as I would be working in such a hands-on environment like women’s development.  Being just 19, I’ve never lived on my own before – just in university dorms, but the college cooks for you. So I had to adjust not only to the new place but also the fact that I was totally dependent on my own resources. I would definitely consider living here or visiting here in the future, Cape Town is a fascinating place, especially if you’re working in government, law, social justice or development as there is so much going on. There is nowhere else in the world where you can swim with penguins, climb a mountain, visit a winery, and have a cool nightlife all in one place.

Neema Ndunguru Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I joined Creative Consulting & Development Works as a Research Intern while pursuing my post graduate degree at the University of Cape Town. Under a leadership style that was both participatory and goal oriented, I quickly learnt the value of being guided by a greater vision while making room for creative ideas along the way. Working with both local government and private sector helped me better understand these environments and has assisted me in my current position as a Project Manger responsible for various projects across Africa. It was also an honor to have worked in a team with bright and innovative minds from a range of countries. Colleagues who, until today, I am still in touch with and who I continue to admire.

What I appreciate most, however, is the responsibility that was entrusted on us to achieve each projects’ objectives. This not only taught me the importance of playing my part, and doing it well, but also built confidence in my role as an individual and team member. I am grateful for the opportunity and wish Creative Consulting & Development Works all the best in the quest to positively contribute to the progress of our society, and continent.

Alex Gish Kentucky, USA

In Summer 2012 I was home looking around for opportunities to intern abroad. It took some searching, but when I came across Cape Town and if i could… it really clicked. I have always been interested in South African culture and if i could… seemed great. And so I went. Upon arrival it was clear that it would be an incredible experience. I worked in Athlone and did a lot of field work in the townships.  This was such an invaluable experience. I worked with an organisation who supports refugees, on their anti-xenophobia campaign in areas like Nyanga, Khayelitsha, and Gugulethu. I saw incredible things, met inspiring people, and did some very important work. I also experienced things that really opened my eyes and things I never would have been able to experience in Western and other more developed countries.  Interning in Cape Town was an incredible experience, both professionally and personally. I learned so many things that continue to guide and influence me today.

Yvonne Sibaya Zimbabwe

My objective, as an intern, was to allow myself to be in an environment in which I could synthesize my theoretical knowledge with practical experience while I was pursuing my Bachelor of Social Science Honours. Part of my objective was to be in an environment that would help me bridge the gap between my Tertiary studies and being in a full time work environment.

My internship helped me decide on the types of work environments and the career path I wanted to explore within the long term. Whilst the opportunity was challenging and demanding I learnt to push myself and excelled more than I thought in the classroom. I attribute part of my success to the practical exposure as it gave me a platform to see how theory could be translated into action within the workplace. An internship requires one to demonstrate that they can function professionally in the workplace and if one wanted a place to bridge the gap between studies and the working environment, and my internship certainly gave me that and more. It was a small part of my career path but was instrumental in the professional I am becoming.

Kate Davidson Colorado, USA

Interning in Cape Town was a great experience that has already helped me secure a prestigious internship in the USA. I gained some great experience evaluating a new programme for my host organisation. I also gained a new perspective on public health by working directly with the population in Khayelitsha. Cape Town is a great place, especially for immersion into the public health field. if i could… provided support during my internship that made Cape Town fun and easy to navigate.


Eliza Campbell Boston, USA

Interning in Cape Town has been great because it has such a dynamic civil society and on top of that it’s an amazing city to explore.

Sanni Edinburgh, Scotland

Doing my internship in Cape Town has been a great experience. if i could… made the whole process fast and easy, and they supported me throughout my whole stay by picking me up at the airport, finding me an apartment and staying in regular contact with me. Their service is friendly and professional and they have great contacts in the development sector. I was extremely happy with my internship, which matched my skills and expectations perfectly. And what better place to do your internship in than Cape Town with its friendly people and beautiful surroundings – the only thing I didn’t like was having to leave!

Siphokazi Mlandu KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

My internship helped me translate my research theory into practice. I was involved in developing research proposals, questionnaires and data collection using different methods. I played a huge role in undertaking telephone research to develop different service directories. Generally, the projects I was involved in gave me a platform to engage with people at the grass-roots level and an opportunity to network with various sectors in the Western Cape Provincial Government such as Department of Health, Department of Economic Development and Tourism, local municipalities, and many NGOs and CBOs. I also attended a number of quite interesting conferences which broadened my horizon.

Helina Meri Ethiopia / Washington D.C., USA

The time I spent working at Creative Consulting & Development Works was exciting and enriching. We were a tight-knit team with a dynamic and progressive leader – so our projects were diverse and the approaches we took were creative. Clients were satisfied and continually sought our services, and those of us on the team really enjoyed coming to work. All told – it was a wonderful experience that I’m so grateful to have had!

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