Leila El
Illinois, USA

“I really can’t say what it was that drew me to Cape Town; all I knew was that I wanted to experience something different. It’s incredible how much I learned about myself, both professionally and personally just by relocating. I mean, 8,500 is no small feat, but by all means was worth it. During my stay, I was interning at Living Through Learning, a NGO which focuses on bridging the gap that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds face if they don’t have the marks on final exams to enter tertiary education. I bore many roles, but I was placed as a Marketing Intern. I had absolutely no experience in Marketing, but when in Cape Town, sometimes it’s best to just say, “sure, why not?” I had the incredible opportunity to explore all around the city visiting high schools and recruiting students. Although I was just an intern, I was given just as much responsibility as any other member of staff, and even had the chance to represent our organization as a guest on a local radio station. My entire experience was incredibly eye-opening, allowing me to truly reflect on what a privileged life I lead as an American, but also appreciate the order in the disorder and the sense of “Ubuntu” in which the country thrives. The experience really cannot parallel any opportunity I would have found in the States, and for that, I’m grateful for the partnership between the University of Illinois and VAC, and decided, “sure, why not?” Looking back, it’s hard to highlight just a few things that I miss, because I truly miss everything. I miss being able to see Table Mountain on my walk to work in the morning. I miss hanging out at Forex like it was my second home. And most of all, I miss all the extraordinary people, interns and South Africans, I was so fortunate to have the chance to meet. I can’t be certain what the future holds for me, but a trip back is definitely in store.”