When I was uncomfortable, lost in translation and forced to abandon my assumptions, I learned to reflect on South Africa from the many perspective of others. My first four weeks in Cape town was accompanied with cyclical emotions as reflected on the history of the country, I experienced a new environment, great challenges navigating a new country, discomfort, joy accompanied with conflicting feelings of awe and empathy for the struggle of the native people in South Africa. These emotional extremes allowed me to see how complex and nuanced a society may be and facilitated the space I needed to question my assumptions and pause before making suggestions with my outside American bias. I learned quickly that Cape Town, although modernized and like many other familiar western cities due to colonization, had a distinct culture, vibrant cities and a dynamic of its own.
Living in Observatory has been an experience as it is a hippy area, melting pot and mecca of racial diversity in Cape Town filled with students, unique shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Later I learned that this unique, eclectic area was not representative of the country, like living in Los Angeles. Working in the City Center, CBD at Startupbootcamp, my internship has really surpassed my expectations learning about the startup ecosystem in Africa. On my first day, I walked into a diverse workplace, in a stunning office space with a team who I immediately felt comfortable with and developed relationships almost immediately. Experiencing an integrated and inclusive workplace has been refreshing and encouraging as I saw the benefits of diversity of thought, perspective, language, dynamics and work pace. I learned that less pressure and more flexibility elicited more positive and amicable boss, subordinate and colleague relations. Also, I saw how unstructured opposed to metric oriented workplaces led to miscommunication, lack of efficient processes and unsuccessful project management that ultimately hampering company timelines, efficiency and objectives that I have been able to help improve.
Meeting people from around the world, working in City Center, Cape Town, visiting the suburban areas, small towns, townships, the Eastern Cape and then experiencing the vibrant city of Joburg gave me a diverse perspective of South Africa. I saw the differences in racial integration and how the history of each city impacted the current racial dynamics between citizens due to imposed oppressive racial distinctions. I saw the uniqueness of South Africa and how it equated to regions of the U. S in terms of racial and inclusivity. For example, Cape Town is a tourist centric city with disregard to the native locals as many people are segregated and there is a clear distinction between the rich and poor that is dictated by the amount of melanin in one’s skin and imposed racial distinction. In contrast, Joburg, although it is not the safest place for a solo traveler without the local knowledge and language, I enjoyed this city for its art, fashion, various cultures, languages, integration of people and the variety of economic diversity. The progression of black natives in Joburg made me hopeful as this contrasted from the natives in Cape Town who primarily worked the land without financial means to enjoy it. This experience so far has challenged me and I am excited to learn more and create new friendships and perspectives with locals.
a motivated, passionate, result-driven student who completed her summer internship in Cape Town, South Africa. Megan, graduated from USC in 2017 with her masters degree in MSc Communication Management.