I can’t believe I’m almost four weeks in and have only written one blog post. Disappointing, really. Hopefully in the second month, I will get it together.
This post isn’t as exciting as the last one. It’s basically just me explaining what happened with my internship (now that I’ve gotten the courage to publish this on the web).
So you’re probably thinking, why didn’t Mara mention her internship in her first post? I mean, the reason I came to Cape Town was to intern at a South African magazine. Well here it goes: I started my internship two days after my arrival. What the [company’s name that I won’t write on here] does is hard to explain because they don’t really know what they do either. It’s part online magazine for women (which is what I was supposed to be working on), part non-profit organization for kids, and part business and marketing consulting service. It wasn’t really what I was expecting in regards to the magazine side of the business. There wasn’t really an editorial staff–it was just me and then the 5 people who worked there would sometimes help out. There was no organization or clear idea on what they wanted from me. On top of that, the company was very focused on promoting products, businesses and just marketing in general (which is not my thing at all). But my biggest problem was that they treated my accomplishments as a fault and not as a useful tool for their company.
The internship didn’t work out because it was not meant for a 23-year-old graduate: it was meant for someone who had never worked in a company before and seriously needed experience. I could honestly go on for hours on just how dreadful this internship was but it’s unnecessary at this point. It’s over. The point is that I came to another country to learn, but to also utilize my skills from previous work experiences.
In their heads, I had no previous work experience. I was not an individual, I was part of the “internship program” and whatever the group does, you do. I was told I had to relearn things I already knew, and whenever I reminded them that I had a degree, I was shut down and labeled as a “know-it-all”. Or insinuated that I thought I was better than the other interns because I was from America and had the opportunities.. so obnoxious. I’ve never been in a situation where having a college degree was seen as snobbish. The whole thing was just ridiculous: it was obvious they hadn’t read my resume because they were surprised when I knew how to use basic things like WordPress (……) or that I had my own website and had work published. I was looked down on for my accomplishments or knowing basic programs. Now I know I’ve really entered third world.
It was also difficult not being trusted to do the job I was hired to do. My boss didn’t trust me to find my own stories, do my own interviews or be able to write my own questions. When did it become a thing that bosses hold their employees’ hands for everything they do? I realized a week in that I wouldn’t be getting anything out of this experience. So I talked with my program coordinator, and we decided that I should switch.
It’s unfortunate when anybody has to leave because it’s not a right fit. No one wants to travel to a new country with the intention of working and then leaving a week later. It questions your ability to adapt to new work environments, it questions your maturity and professionalism and I really struggled with whether or not I was making the right decision. I was told to wait and let it get better, to suck it up and appreciate the opportunity. And I just couldn’t. I’m not at that point where any experience is acceptable. My time and work is now valuable to me. And if it’s a waste of time (and I’m not getting paid), the sad truth is it’s not worth it. After a couple of days, I received a call from my program coordinator that after receiving my resume and bylines, I had been accepted to be an intern at Rolling Stone Magazine South Africa! Now, I don’t regret my decision at all.
Rolling Stone SA has been incredible so far. It’s associated with the regular Rolling Stone mag–we use the same layouts and we’re open to use each other’s content–but Rolling Stone SA is independently run to focus on local South African musicians. The overall message is to promote musicians and art as a whole because the music industry just isn’t as advanced here as it is in the states. 3IPublishing started publishing Rolling Stone SA two years ago, so they are still relatively new but very organized and professional. I’m so proud to be part of this company. They’re very appreciative of what I have to offer and have given me a lot of responsibility. And we listen to music all day long, so that’s pretty awesome too.
What have I learned? This isn’t so much about working in South Africa vs. working in America as it is working for different companies. Obviously being American gave me somewhat of a disadvantage, where it was encouraged to know nothing and to gain whatever knowledge had to offer. At Rolling Stone, it’s a very chill environment, where my speedy and “first world” skills, as they call it, are more accepted. So obviously it depends on the company. I think in the end, you have to learn that there will always people you can’t work with, or a job that you don’t like, but it’s how you handle it that makes you grow. I wish I had handled it my leave more professionally. I know in the future, I won’t be able to switch internships or jobs so easily. That eventually when I get a real job, I’m gonna have to suck it up and work with what I have. But that time isn’t now. I had the choice to change if it wasn’t a good fit, and it wasn’t. And I encourage anyone in my program to stand up for themselves, for their time and for their value because they should appreciate what we do for them. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I will never be ashamed of my accomplishments.
I also want to add that even though it ended, I loved the girls I met and spent every waking moment with during my internship. These five girls were so generous and sweet even though we had only known each other for just a couple of days. I appreciate their support for my decision to leave and I’m so glad we still get together for drinks and dinner.
What to expect in my upcoming blog posts: Some of the places I’ve been around Cape Town such as the Company Gardens, Hope Street Market and Langa. Hopefully after I can get into my trip on the Garden Route! And then a blog post on the differences between “real” Africa and “touristy” Africa. And pictures of me bungee jumping!
What I want to accomplish by the next post: Upload all of my pictures and get them online. Book more trips outside the city. Keep up with blogging. Walk slower and really see everything, but work faster. Oh and write less in my blogs and emails. People have lives.
Till next time,