What It’s Like Interning In South Africa

While interning in South Africa, Sophia Metzger took to a safari. Courtesy photo

Yet another challenge Metzger encountered was not having all the answers, something that was seemingly expected simply because she was an American.

“It’s interesting that in South Africa they have this perception that Westerners have all the answers,” she says. “Sometimes I would have this feeling that you’re expected to just come in and solve all the problems because you have a Western education that’s perceived as better. But then, in the background, knowing I’m just a university student and I was new to the digital innovation and entrepreneurial space. I think there was a bit of this weird dichotomy between those two and I sometimes asked myself, ‘Am I providing as much value as they think I am?’”

EMZINGO U AND THE KELLEY INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL IMPACT

The opportunity and Metzger’s trek to South Africa was made possible through Emzingo U, a recently launched program that partners with universities to send students to Peru, Brazil, and South Africa to work on social impact projects. She’d learned about it through another Kelley student and signed up.

“I applied January of 2018 and interviewed in late January or early February with two women in Kelley’s Institute for Social Impact office,” she says.

Metzger was required to write and submit an essay that described herself, her goals for the internship, and how she would overcome challenges. She was also asked to write about a leader she admires as well as share which of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals she finds most appealing and why.

PUTTING CLASSROOM LESSONS TO USE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Reflecting on the past two months, Metzger says she’s pleased with the preparation she received in the classroom. “Kelley prepared me extremely well,” she says. “Specifically, for me, I think some of the business presentations classes taught me how to speak professionally to upper management. During my internship, I sat with the CEO multiple times.

“In addition, just knowing how to craft a presentation and develop research reports to hand in as deliverables. My projects here were very much research focused and providing a synthesis of that research. We did that sophomore year. Had I not had that experience, this summer would’ve been a lot more difficult.”

On the other hand, what she feels could have better prepared her is something she’s unsure can actually be taught. “The first few weeks were difficult because we had a huge shift in focus and had to manage the expectations of our client. I could’ve been more prepared with a little more adaptability.”

RETURNING TO CAMPUS AND OTHER FUTURE PLANS

Admittedly, Metzger’s resolve to pursue this internship experience was met with concern from friends and family who were fearful for her safety in South Africa.

“I think that across America, especially, the South African story is very simplified in our eyes because no one can really understand apartheid and the large inequality this country is faced with,” Metsger says. “I think it gets placed in a framework of crime in Americans’ eyes so a lot of people were concerned. I would say you have to be careful, obviously, but there’s such a large piece of the story that’s missing. To be in South Africa, is an important piece of this internship experience.”

Nevertheless, Metzger says she’s looking forward to returning to the states and entering her junior year at Kelley.  

“I think what’s next for me is, ideally, I’d like to be at a consulting firm in Chicago next summer and be able to experience that side of consulting,” she says. “Long-term, I think I could see myself doing nonprofit consulting work, but I want more experience in a bigger firm before I do something like that.”

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