Internships in Africa offer “priceless knowledge”

This summer, students from UW-Madison headed to all corners of the African continent to complete internships. The African Studies Program talked to two interns about their experiences in South Africa and Uganda, and why other undergraduates should consider applying for internships in Africa this spring.

Lana Scholtz

Hometown: Waunakee, WI
Major: Fine Arts and Psychology, certificate in African Studies
Internship: Special Events Planner at Play Africa

Play Africa is a non-profit organization building Africa’s first children’s museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. Interns from UW-Madison can work in educational outreach, communications, exhibit development, farm to market coordination, fundraising, and event planning. To apply, click here.

What made you decide to pursue an internship in South Africa?
I was born in South Africa and spent my childhood there. Since moving to the US I have visited extended family living there a couple of times, however I have never had a completely independent adventure there, much less one where I would be working as a part of the community. This internship presented the perfect opportunity for me to have an independent and intimate reunion with South Africa and my extended family. Bonus: the work being done at Play Africa is exactly the kind of community based work I want to pursue.

Tell us about a typical day working at Play Africa.
Each morning I arrive with my coworkers at the historical landmark of Constitution Hill, where PlayAfrica is given a children’s room of its own. Play Africa’s biggest asset is for sure its welcoming and dedicated team. After morning briefings and meetings with the intimate team, each member carries on with their own part of the larger projects happening at Play Africa; these tasks usually involve reaching out to other organizations in the community, getting in contact with schools, and planning programs. If it were a day filled with programs and events, the day is spent preparing our spaces with activities for children and hosting them to interact with our inclusive and creative exhibits.

Lana with her colleagues and young visitors at Play Africa. (Submitted photo)


What are some major takeaways from your summer internship?
Play Africa was located at the heart of Johannesburg, intersecting with all walks of life in the diverse and vibrant city. My biggest takeaway from Play Africa was that communication is invaluable and possible across all language barriers. Although I am originally from South Africa, there were still so many cultures and communities I had yet to interact with while I was living there as a child. This internship taught me the wonders of networking and navigating a sprawling city. I have a new respect for the creativity of children and the organizations and people that help foster this creativity.

How do you think your experiences interning in South Africa will serve you in the future?
Not only have I created a network with the very special humans working at Play Africa, but I have gained priceless knowledge on the dynamics of running an NGO specializing in community involvement. My experience with Play Africa in Johannesburg has given me great confidence in my ability to navigate a city filled with many cultures; not only am I confident I can get from point A to B, but with an open mind  I am able to communicate across languages.

What advice do you have for students interested in interning abroad?
Leave your expectations at home and fully embrace your new environments; a little bit of risk and bravery will not only make you feel more confident but can lead you to create authentic friendships and experiences. Taste everything!

Megan Skalitzky

Hometown: Pulaski, WI
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Internship: Media and Communications Intern at Health Access Connect

Health Access Connect links Ugandans living in remote areas with healthcare resources through community partnerships and innovative distribution techniques. Interns from UW-Madison will document the organization’s work and impact through social media, newsletters, and website content. To apply, click here.

Megan Skalitzky. (Submitted photo)

What made you decide to pursue an internship in Uganda?
I was interested in Uganda because I am a global health student. I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn more about health systems. I also wanted to go to a country with a strong cultural background. After researching Uganda, it seemed like a great place for me!

Tell us about a typical day working at Health Access Connect.
A typical day with Health Access Connect while in Kampala (the capital of Uganda) consisted of going to a coffee shop and doing some computer work. We would often take a break for lunch and go a local restaurant! When we were in the field, our days consisted of attending meetings. We would learn about the many aspects of the mobile health clinics in the rural villages.

 What are some major takeaways from your summer internship?
I learned a lot about the healthcare system in Uganda and some of the ways it needs improvement to reach more patients. I also got to meet some of the nicest people I have ever met! I think one of my biggest take away messages is to be open to anything and to explore outside your comfort zone. Going to Uganda was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best experiences in my life!

Megan and her colleagues at Health Access Connect. (Submitted photo)

How do you think your experiences interning in Uganda will serve you in the future?
I think my experience in Uganda will allow me to be more open-minded. As I am planning on working with science/medicine, I think this was a great experience for me to understand health in a different region of the world – it will keep me more global-minded.

 What advice do you have for students interested in interning abroad?
I would say to keep an open mind. I absolutely loved my experience in Uganda. I was able to meet great people and gain experiences that are not available in the United States. If anyone is interested in interning with Health Access Connect or going to Uganda, I would be happy to talk to you about it further!

The deadline to apply to spring 2018 internships in Africa is October 22. For more details, click here.