Shawnae Huffsmith
Montana, USA

As my last year of graduate school was arriving, I wanted to experience as much variety in my internships as possible. My school, Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, sent students to Cape Town last year through VAC. I spoke with the students who’d ventured to Cape Town and they described their experiences as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” and “the best time of my life”. After hearing their stories, I swear I wanted to book my ticket to Cape Town the next day! I applied to VAC’s program and the rest was history. I was placed at an internship site called Tembaletu in Gugulethu. Tembaletu is a school for children with disabilities. I kept an open-mind going into this internship because I really had no idea what to expect. I completely fell in love with the students. I know I was supposed to go into this internship teaching and providing the students with knowledge on their ailments and disabilities, but ultimately the exact opposite happened. The students ended up teaching me! I looked forward to going to work everyday because I couldn’t wait to learn something new. I would join the Grade’s 1 and 2 in their classrooms as the teachers instructed on Xhosa lessons. I was able to learn basic Xhosa with the children’s help. The students also taught me life lessons and truly what to be thankful for in life. Every child I worked with, regardless of their situation, had the best attitude and the biggest smiles on their faces!


Additionally, VAC was very helpful in providing opportunities to explore Cape Town. The Friday activities put on by VAC were such a great way to meet new interns and try something new. I will never forget some of the most beautiful and epic hikes I explored around the city. I tried surfing for the first time in my life and now I can’t wait until I have the chance to go again! I rode an elephant and fell in love with the gentle giant. This experience pushed me to leave my comfort zone and try something new almost every weekend. Furthermore, VAC placed me in a house with so many other interns. I have made some really good friends since I first arrived to Cape Town. I became friends with people from all over the world… France, Switzerland, and Sweden; just to name a few. I will never forget this internship because it afforded me the opportunity to be submersed in a completely different culture. I can honestly say this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and one that I won’t forget. I grew as a person and I can’t wait until I am able to return to South Africa!