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Journalism in South Africa by Cheyenne Turcotte

Other volunteers in Cape Town

After graduating from college, I knew I wasn’t quite ready to jump into a career immediately. I found myself on the Projects Abroad website late one night and after reading other volunteer stories, I fell in love with the idea of a Journalism project in South Africa. Not only did it offer me real journalism experience on a magazine (my chosen field of work), but it allowed me the option to extend my stay and volunteer on a conservation project in Botswana as well. I booked my trip right then and there.

Arriving in Cape Town

Blurry eyed and jet lagged after 3 days of travel from western Montana to the southern tip of Africa, I was more than a little terrified when I stepped off the plane in Cape Town. My mind was put at ease when Denver, the driver who would be the first and last face I would see in Africa, tossed my bags in the van and told me to “get ready to fall in love.” And he was right!

We whizzed down the road and he told me various fun facts and safety tips while pointing out the landmarks we were zooming passed. Before I had time too fully process the fact that I had actually arrived, Denver was gone and I found myself standing in front of an iron gate. Behind that gate was the woman who would be the most wonderful host for the next 8 weeks, Pam.

Support system in South Africa

I could not have asked for a better house mom. Pam was kind, accommodating, and incredibly funny. She took care of me when I got sick and was always eager to discuss the nature of our work. Her family became my own, even for the short time I stayed with her, and I credit a large part of the success of my trip to how comfortable Pam made each and every day. She was always making sure we were all warm and well fed and would bring us extra blankets on those cold Cape Town winter nights!

Not only was my host family experience amazing, but the volunteer coordinators were always available if you had a question, needed a lunch buddy, or needed help planning a weekend adventure. I spent a large amount of time at the Head Office, due to the nature of the Journalism project and being greeted by the same smiling faces every morning made falling into a routine a breeze.

My placements

Lunch time at a coffee shop

My editor on the Journalism project, Rebecca, is a woman whom I greatly admire. Not only was she knowledgeable and helpful but she gave you the freedom to largely run your own project. It was important that we were involved and excited about the pieces we were working on, and Rebecca knew the best way to do that was to get us out of the office and onto the streets. She also organised weekly visits to other projects for the Journalism crew, which gave us a great insight to what the other volunteers were up to, but also a great chance to bond as a magazine staff as well.

While I was in Cape Town we had a small group of people in the office, but we all became very close. From our morning train ride to our afternoon doughnut breaks we spent a lot of time together! We were able to attend Press Club meetings and listen to actual working journalists in the area speak about the issues, which really put the news in perspective. The experience of working in an actual magazine office in a real world setting really helped me to solidify my career goals and I came home with a much greater understanding of the entire process.

After six weeks in Cape Town, I left for Botswana to spend a week on the conservation project. If I had more time I would have loved to extend my visit even further. Botswana was the perfect way to end my trip, getting out of the big city to live in the bush was nothing short of incredible. The camp was beautiful and I loved having the chance to get my hands dirty. We spent the days repairing roads, digging up fallen fence line and doing wildlife surveys. The two women who run the camp were fun and knowledgeable and their passion for conservation was infectious. Even though I was only in camp for a week I learnt a lot and was heartbroken to leave.

I could not have imagined a better post graduate trip. If you are looking for a chance to get involved, travel and test-run a potential career, Projects Abroad has the experience for you.

Cheyenne Turcotte

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