I chose Cape Town as the place to intern abroad because I felt as if it could give me a new perspective on healthcare and allow me to do extended hands-on work compared to back home in the states where my scope of practice as a nursing assistant is very limited. Cape Town had always been a city I had wanted to visit in order to learn about the culture, so when the opportunity proposed itself to combine two things I’m passionate about, namely healthcare and travel, I decided to take a leap of faith and fly across the world- by myself.
What I loved most about interning in South Africa were the people I met along the way and having the chance to be exposed to so many characteristics of South Africa that not many people have the chance to experience by just visiting the tourist spots. I was able to build relationships with many of the nurses and doctors in the clinic. This enhanced my time at my internship placement and I built many everlasting relationships with other interns from various areas around the world.
Working in a clinic I was exposed to the harsh lifestyle of townships that many live in, however I also had the opportunity to explore the beautiful sites and history of South Africa. During my internship, I grew both personally and professionally. I discovered that personally, I am a very independent and courageous person, that can tackle much fear- from getting on a plane to travel by myself across the world to jumping off one of the world’s tallest bungee jumps. Professionally, my internship site helped solidify my career choice of becoming a physician assistant and brought to light goals, such as ensuring patients understand their medications, to fulfil as a provider back in the states. I will never forget one of the doctors who took her time with each patient making sure they understood the medications they were prescribed, even taking the time to demonstrate how to use an inhaler for asthmatic patients regardless of how long it took for them to grasp it. This doctor had a huge impact on my goals as a future healthcare provider.
After six weeks of living in Cape Town, what I came to love most was immersing myself in the culture through the people I worked with in the clinic and the dishes I tried from various regions of South Africa. I also fell in love with my surroundings because everywhere you look, the backdrop is incredible and it became a place I was lucky enough to call home for a short few weeks.
I would definitely recommend this program to anyone else because you get the best of both worlds. At your internship site you recognize whether the career you chose to pursue is the right fit or not for you and you are exposed to certain areas of your field you may not get exposure to otherwise. While you gain knowledge into your future career, the program also does a great job of balancing the work-travel lifestyle allowing interns to see as much of Cape Town and the surrounding areas as possible.
With so much support from the VAC staff and having the chance to explore such an amazing and growing city, I would recommend this program to anyone unsure of their career choice or just wanting to get more exposure in their field.