Just four weeks ago I stepped off of a plane and onto the African continent for the first time in my life. As an American who grew up forty-five minutes from Boston, then also went to college in Boston, I’d decided it was time for me to get out and see the world a bit. It’s lucky that Northeastern University lets us get out of the country for six months and work if we feel like it, because I was getting so eager to travel I might have just taken off on my own. Now that I’m here and have seen the city a bit, I am so excited to spend six months not doing homework for my International Affairs major (with minors in East Asian Studies and Biology, because why not), and Cape Town has so far felt like paradise. I know it’s “winter” right now, but the winters I’m used to involve waist-high piles of snow filling every sidewalk, not palm trees and blue skies, so if the summer’s even nicer than this then I can’t wait!
I decided to come work at Scalabrini because I have been interested in refugee rights for a few years now. Back in high school, there was a year where my church sponsored a refugee family from Congo. The family consisted of a mother and her seven children, none of whom spoke a word of English or had a relationship with anyone in the States. Meeting with the family and being able to limitedly communicate with them with my high school-level French gave me a new perspective on what life was like for refugees like them, and I suddenly had a thousand questions: How were they going to learn English? How would they get jobs? What did they do if someone in the family got sick? And the list went on.
Working so far at Scalabrini as the English School Intern has shown me that this is an organization which tries to answer all of these questions, and strives to be a complete resource for people starting new lives in South Africa. I’ve really enjoyed working here so far, and I’m finding my position hectic but meaningful. I’ll be here for another five months, but I can’t believe that a month of my time has passed already! I’m excited to continue getting to know both the staff and the clients at Scalabrini, using my only-slightly-better-than-high-school level French to interact with my students in the English School, and doing it all in the beautiful city of Cape Town.