A wise man once told me it’s not about the destination, but rather about the journey. For me, Cape Town was a journey to grow both professionally and personally in ways I had never imagined. My time in South Africa cannot be measured simply by days on a calendar, but rather in experiences and life lessons that I will carry with me forever.

I am forever grateful to the amazing VAC team that answered all my questions and Skype calls. To everyone who had a hand in my internship placement, I cannot thank you enough. The placement site, staff, and supervisor chosen to work with me was a match made in heaven. Additionally, thank you to VAC for organizing the incredible Friday VACtivities. I was always looking forward to which amazing and always surprising activity we would embark on next.

I could not have asked for a more rewarding and educational internship. I worked at the Dual Diagnosis Unit at Akeso Psychiatric Clinic, where I was treated as a staff member. The patients at Akeso have a mental illness as well as a substance abuse disorder, where they complete a 21 day in-patient rehabilitation program. During my first few weeks, I was actively involved in observing therapy sessions. Soon after, I was co-facilitating group, family, and individual therapy sessions. I also had the privilege of working alongside a prominent psychologist specializing in the treatment of sexual offenders. My internship was everything I had dreamed of and more. Not only did I develop myself professionally, I grew immensely as a person by challenging myself to go beyond my comfort zone.

Outside of my internship, I took advantage of everything this incredible city had to offer by packing my weekends full of Cape Town’s most exciting attractions. I went diving with the ocean’s greatest predator, great white sharks. Went on a fantastic road trip with friends on the Garden Route, where we let loose and became wild spirits. I crawled through caves and hiked up mountains. I went snowboarding in the hot sun down giant sand dunes and surfed on the beautiful coast. I saw Table Mountain and the gorgeous city from a bird’s eye view by paragliding and taking a helicopter ride. I interacted with wild animals while on a safari game drive and at animal sanctuaries. I took in South Africa’s unique history by visiting various historical museums and taking an in-depth look at life in the township of Khayelitsha. Not to mention having the incredible opportunity to listen to Archbishop Desmond Tutu lecture on religion, human rights, and ethics.

As I say farewell to South Africa, I know that my time and experiences here will continue to affect my life in an immensely positive way. I leave Cape Town with stories that will be told for years, friendships that will last for decades, experiences that will stay with me forever, but my most precious souvenirs are the memories that will last a lifetime.

-Leah Kaylor