For many years, if i could… has been bringing international students and graduates to intern in Cape Town and New Delhi. We love seeing our interns thrive at their host organisations, and we are proud of the difference they make in the development sector.
We caught up with one of our Cape Town interns, Kushal Singh who was really interested in doing HIV/AIDS work. Cape Town has the best programmes and because so often Cape Town is portrayed in the United States as a third world city, Kushal was pleasantly surprised. He mentioned that he loved the diversity within the city – each neighbourhood has so many different kinds of people. He loved the melting-pot of cultures and people.
Kushal had a great experience with the if i could… internship program from start to finish. Having not done a lot of international travel before he felt secure in the knowledge that the if i could… team would be there to assist him whenever needed, either in person, at the end of a phone, or Whatsapp conversation.
His daily activities while spending time with his nonprofit host included mostly data analysis for various research studies. He was asked to look at initial data from studies and then focus on the outcomes that they needed. He also helped in their data collection and surveys in the field and this involved data collection in local communities and townships.
Kushal mentioned that the biggest lesson he learnt was understanding the number of things that need to happen logistically for the nonprofits studies and programmes to work. This required tremendous flexibility from all involved. The room he worked in had 18 or 20 different people and they all did different things to make the programmes run smoothly. On the surface it looks like an easy thing but understanding all the aspects of carrying out the programme for a year and evaluating that, that was eye opening for him. He also mentioned that he had to learnt a new found patience as there so many little things he experienced in South Africa, which one takes for granted in the United States.
A highlight for Kushal was getting to know and mix in with everybody at work. The times spent together, even at lunch time talking about work, what everyone was doing, or planning to do things on the weekends was a great thing. He also enjoyed staying in the local lodging because international students and local students all do similar things. He had a lot of fun with the if i could… isiXhosa lessons and suggested that although the interns were all equally terrible, it was a great bonding experience.
Kushal offers the following advice for future interns:
“I feel like a wise man… I’d say… Keep an open mind to things. I know sometimes things feel weird culturally or things going wrong that you’re not used to in your own country, but keep an open mind and think of ways to solve the problem. I had good support from if i could… enjoy the moment!”
He reflected that he feels a little bit more open to listening to people’s views even though he may not necessarily understand them – this is from talking to people from all over the world. Previously if someone was talking, he would have subconsciously formed a judgement but now he is so much more open to listening and learning from them.
As much as Kushal gave, he received back in greater quantities. Thank you Kushal for all your efforts and contributions to strengthening public health in South Africa! You are going to be missed.
Kushal is now currently finishing his masters in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of public health. To find out how you can make a difference in the public health sector like Kushal, contact the if i could… team to arrange a Skype call, or apply online. Our applications are accepted year-round on a rolling basis.