Ireland vs. South Africa: Interview with Carla

By Katie Arango

Get to know more about Connect-123’s fantastic destination cities from the team working hard to bring you the best internships and volunteer positions possible!  Sharing her thoughts on her hometown, a recent extended trip to the Emerald Isle and some of the differences between South Africa and Ireland, Carla Steenkamp answered our questions about life in Cape Town and Dublin!

You started at Connect-123 earlier this year. What do you love most about your job?
Although most applicants do an internship primarily to gain more experience in their field, I love seeing them discover more about themselves as they experience a new country and culture! My favorite part is hearing their stories on their journey of discovery.

As a lifelong Capetonian, what do you enjoy most about Cape Town?
They say Cape Town is known for being the most relaxed city in the world – but I do think that people work as hard as they play. The city has so much to offer that one can’t help but try to get the most out of it on a daily basis. From breathtaking natural landscapes, ranging from rugged mountaintops to verdant wine valleys, to an explosion of world-class art, food and culture, Cape Town has the diversity and forward-thinking attitude required to compete on the global stage. Most of the top tourist attractions are all within close proximity of each other – so it always fun to go hiking or have a picnic on the beach after a hard day’s work.

Carla and Cape Town interns at the Langa Township

You recently spent over a month in Dublin, Ireland. What were you doing there?
I had the privilege to go to Dublin to help the Connect-123 team there to organize socials and events for participants during their summer internships. While there, I also had the opportunity to spend some time with the international team from Barcelona and Dublin.

We also embraced the opportunity to interview interns and volunteers on their experiences and take some epic footage of the other destinations to show to those who are thinking of doing an internship abroad. Our new destination videos are up now here and here.

And what were some of your favorite parts about Dublin?
Definitely the people and all the lively pubs and their cheerful Irish folklore tunes. For years classic rockers have sung about everything from the land’s natural beauty and wonderful cities to Irish folk heroes and the struggles for a united Ireland – I have always been a huge fan of bands like U2 and Thin Lizzy and their songs came to life to me when I had the opportunity to walk the streets of Dublin, make small talk with some Irish locals and explore the beautiful coastal towns.

Were there any similarities between South Africa and Ireland?  What do they have in common? (Other than both being fabulous Connect-123 destination cities!)
Beautiful beaches, nature reserves, having fun and enjoying good food and their rugby, are just a few things South Africans and the Irish have in common. The Irish were really welcoming and friendly as are South Africans who like to show off their beautiful country to foreign visitors. Needless to say I didn’t get homesick for South Africa too soon!

Misty, misty Cliffs of Moher

Any differences that jumped out at you?  Any moments of culture shock?
Dublin is relatively homogeneous and doesn’t have as many cultures and diversity in as Cape Town – but overall I definitely think both nations know how to have fun and are very friendly. One of the biggest shocks for many international students is getting used to Irish people’s flexible timekeeping for social engagements – but it is something that I am very use to since Cape Town has the same approach. Another thing I noticed was that Dubliners having the tendency to use slang terms, especially for Dublin realted places and things. Everything cool in Dublin is like they put it, “grand”. But in a matter of weeks I was able to pick up their special phrases relatively easily. If you hear unusual phrases or sayings, ask a friendly Irish person to explain it to you and they will be more than happy to do so and this will help you bridge the culture gap.

Since you are part of a team that links interns up with professional work experiences, what can you say about the work culture in both cities? 
I would say they are relatively the same. Both countries definitely have seen their fair share of economical lows and highs and have been through a lot in a political sense. It showed me that no matter what adversity you are faced with, a plan can be made to get the job done.

Native English speakers don’t always realize how very different South African English or Irish English can be from what they speak in their home country. What was your experience as a South African making yourself understood in Ireland?
Yes, it is quite different but I love the Irish accent! There were a few times where I had to ask someone to repeat a question during my trip, and a few times when they had to ask me to repeat myself. But overall, most of the Irish said it was pretty easy to understand me with my Afrikaans accent. South Africans speak English, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always understand us. In South Africa “robots” are nothing like a futuristic machine, “just now” doesn’t mean immediately, and “boot” is not a shoe. South African English has a flavor all its own, borrowing freely from Afrikaans, which is similar to Dutch and Flemish, as well as from the country’s 11 African languages. The most valuable lesson I learned and it is one that I think any international student can take to heart is that it’s definitely helpful to know how you can be become more aware and understanding of other cultures.

 

Got any additional questions for Carla about Dublin, Cape Town, or anywhere else? Leave them in the comments section below!

Katie, a US native, had traveled to Buenos Aires on several extended trips before the city’s lure became too strong and she decided to call it home. Long fascinated by the global scene, Katie earned a degree in International Studies from Miami University and spent time studying and living in Madrid, Spain. She then worked in marketing for an international board game company followed by a brief foray as an online community editor for several websites before joining the Connect-123 team. Still a tourist at heart herself, Katie loves watching newcomers discover the charm of Buenos Aires and takes great pleasure in helping them make the most out of their work and volunteer opportunities while experiencing everything this dynamic city has to offer.

Katie Arango

Program Director, Argentina:Katie, a US native, had traveled to Buenos Aires on several extended trips before the city’s lure became too strong and she decided to call it home. Long fascinated by the global scene, Katie earned a degree in International Studies from Miami University and spent time studying and living in Madrid, Spain. She then worked in marketing for an international board game company followed by a brief foray as an online community editor for several websites before joining the Connect-123 team. Still a tourist at heart herself, Katie loves watching newcomers discover the charm of Buenos Aires and takes great pleasure in helping them make the most out of their work and volunteer opportunities while experiencing everything this dynamic city has to offer.


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