Lawrence Barchok

Economic Policy Intern
Harvard University
7 December 2010

I think trying to summarize my time in Cape Town in a few paragraphs, would only do some injustice to the incredible, rewarding and memorable experience that I had. But I don’t have any other option. It all started out in January this year when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do over the summer. A career officer at my school led me to Connect 123 website. I was impressed from the start by Connect’s array of internship opportunities, and also the idea of having all-intern activities for the interns to get to know Cape Town. Through Connect, I was able to secure an internship at an NGO that focused on research on socio-economic policies. This was a perfect opportunity for me, considering that I am an economics major, with a strong interest in international development. Coming to South Africa in early June, Connect helped me settle quickly, and in a few days I had started on my internship.

My internship entailed collection and analysis of information on social protection policies in African, Latin America, Asia and East European countries. I was also involved in liaising with research groups and collecting and interpreting data for a model used to estimate the costs of implementing social protection policies in developing nations around the world. In addition to gaining a better understanding on poverty, and how to tackle it, I also did learn some statistical analysis methods and econometrics. I was also privileged to be part of a group that visited the South Africa Parliament (based in Cape Town). I remember having insightful and quite memorable conversations with some MP’s on challenges facing South Africa, including poverty and inequality, and also on what World Cup meant to them as a country.

Connect complemented the internship with frequent outings around Western Cape. From a wine-tasting weekend at Robertson Winery to a day trip to Cape Point, Connect ensured that we had the time of our lives, as well as get to know as much as possible about Cape Town and its environs. Through Connect, I was also able to meet and make friends with wonderful people from different parts of the world.
With my roommates, we got to hike up Table Mt. (over 1000m), visit couple of museums including Robben island, bungee jump, go to a world cup game among other activities. Cape Town is a beautiful cosmopolitan city. One gets to be exposed to a multitude of cultures. With the World Cup going on at that time, the atmosphere was even more exciting.

The experience in Cape Town has had a profound effect on my personal, academic and professional goals. I have now a better understanding of what I want to do in the future. The experience served to consolidate my interest in policymaking, in tackling socio-economic problems like poverty, unemployment etc.

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