How Heartbreak Turned into Opportunity: My Virtual Internship in South Africa

By Stacy Brehman

It was the start of the new 2020 year, and my biggest problem was deciding whether to go to Ireland or South Africa during my search for a human rights internship through Connect-123. Of course, the Connect-123 coordinators guided me through my choices and helped me realize my values and career goals, so I was all set to go to South Africa for the summer. A gender-based violence NGO in Cape Town offered me a position, which was exactly the type of organization that I wanted to be paired with.

Come March and the world was falling apart. My in-person university classes got canceled, and I went home for the rest of the semester just like many college students across the world. My new favorite hobby was emailing Connect-123 with the same unanswerable question on the status of my in-person internship in Cape Town. After a few weeks of uncertainty, I decided to do the internship virtually.

While I had an amazing experience working remotely, the time difference was probably the biggest hurdle, especially because I think as an American, we expect responses pretty quickly. However, I just reminded myself that I am working with an organization half a world away, and the shock of that reminder put me back into my place.

Throughout the summer, I was working on researching content and creating manuals for educational workshops that could be used as part of the psycho-social services that my organization provided. I developed an online counseling program to reach more clients during the pandemic and after. I also worked on updating, monitoring, and evaluation documents that are integral for any non-profit services that are provided.

All in all, I built a really great relationship with the staff, I learned how to work remotely with an organization that shares my mission, and I contributed to the efficiency and functionality of an NGO right from my bedroom. I recommend virtual international internships to any person throughout the course of their careers because it provides a different set of hard and soft skills that can’t be obtained in the office. I know this internship is going to help set me on the right path for my career!

Stacy Brehman


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