Matthew is studying his BA in Neuroscience and Behavior with a minor in International Development Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He joined the VACorps program in June 2020 and participated in a remote internship at an NGO that empowers and improves the lives of girls from vulnerable communities through football.
“If there was one phrase that described my remote internship experience in South Africa it would be “journey before destination.” While the end product (in my case a framework for a new sports development program) was well worth the many weeks of hard work, it was the relationships that I formed along the way with people within and around the communities I was serving that set this experience apart.
I originally chose South Africa as a destination for an internship because even remotely, it is an ideal place to see the fruits of both domestic and international public health development programs in action. What I was not aware of (and what ended up being one of my favorite parts of the experience) was just how rich and diverse South Africa is culturally while still maintaining a fairly universal workplace culture structured around familial relationships. From the moment I first interacted with my supervisor and my “buddy” through VACorps, I felt known, valued, and appreciated in a way that I had not anticipated and very much appreciated. Specifically, within VACorps, I was able to develop a close bond with my “buddy” Kuselwa; she not only did an amazing enhancing the cultural learning experience but also provided a weekly opportunity to relax and chat informally about all things South Africa.
If I had to choose one thing that I liked the most about my internship site, it would be the workplace culture. Somehow, my supervisor and my fellow interns and I created and maintained a workplace dynamic that always felt laid-back and non-intrusive while still pushing us to maintain the deadlines that we set for ourselves. This aspect of workplace culture was quite unique for me, as it is quite different than anything that I have experienced in America. In terms of things that I will miss the most, I think that the unique workplace dynamics in place will be one of the most prominent.
Overall, I had an amazing experience interning through VACorps! I would highly recommend that they make an effort to continue working with my internship site in the future, and I hope that someday, I can work with them again to visit South Africa in person!”