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Journalism in South Africa by Joanna Stahl

Mandela day with some of the children

In July 2012 I started my 1 month placement within the Journalism project. Cape Town attracted me as having been to South Africa 3 times previously (I have family in Johannesburg), I had not spent much time in Cape Town and wanted to explore and learn some more about this fabulous city, and get to grips with journalism. South Africa has always felt like a 2nd home to me as well, so naturally I was drawn there.

Beautiful Cape Town!

I landed in Cape Town to a beautiful morning just as the sun was coming up, over Table Mountain. I smiled to myself as it really was some welcome! Cape Town is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. From the moment I arrived and met Projects Abroad’s driver Denver I felt at ease. Then meeting my host ‘mom’ Tina, who was instantly warm and welcoming, I felt I was going to fit in nicely.

Volunteers in South Africa

I got my induction that same day as I was so keen to go on the 3 day garden route tour the next day (it involved the Bloukrans Bridge Bungee jump I REALLY wanted to do). Vash my Projects Abroad co-ordinator was just as friendly as everyone else I had met, as were the Journalism office when I was given my tour.

The Garden Route tour

Next day I was off for the 3 day garden route tour, although it was really wet and windy I gained a lot from it making friends and meeting people from all the different projects. The socials are a great way to do this and I highly recommend them. I got to do the Bungee Jump on the Sunday and I have to say it was everything I wanted it to be! I highly recommend it. Also in my time in Cape Town I went Shark Cage Diving which was phenomenal seeing Great White Sharks literally right in front of your face.

My Journalism Placement

Me mid-bungee

The Journalism placement itself was very rewarding. You are given a lot of freedom to go work on articles you feel you may be suited to, but there is also help there if you need it. Rebecca and Kelly, the Projects Abroad staff, could not be more friendly and approachable. I did a variety of articles and conducted several interviews. I found these especially rewarding as I had never arranged and followed through with an interview before. I felt like I was leaving a little family when I left the office as I felt so at home and comfortable there.

Being uprooted from Western culture and finding yourself mixing with another community was something that scared me but I also relished. I loved not having the internet and my phone constantly, it was so different and refreshing. By the end of my month in Cape Town I actually felt part of Cape Town. This came as such as a surprise to me as I never imagined myself to feel like this anywhere else, never mind in only a month’s time.

Soup Kitchen for Mandela Day!

Through Projects Abroad on Mandela Day we went to a township and hosted a soup kitchen. This was such a humbling experience as I loved feeling I was able to help, and the locals were so happy to talk to you. One woman sat telling me how much she would love to come to Edinburgh (where I am from) and asking what I thought of her ‘beautiful country’. South Africans are immensely proud of their country, and that is a lovely thing to see.

Projects Abroad helped me really grow as a person. I became more confident in myself, pushed myself further and went totally outside my comfort zone. The staff are so welcoming and really put me at ease when I arrived, and throughout my time with them. I made friends from all over the world, established myself in a new culture and had some amazing experiences also. When I came home and was asked ‘what did you do with your summer?’, to be able to say: bungee jumped, scuba-dived, went on safari, did the fastest zip line in the world, shark cage dived, clapped a cheetah and lion cubs, met people from all over the world, hosted a soup kitchen and worked in journalism in Cape Town, was an amazing feeling.

Joanna Stahl

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