In a search of the answer to this one question: how can I change lives a little bit?

They both harked from different sides of the globe. Meet Charlotte, experienced PR professional from the Netherlands, and Nolan, Business Administration student at NorthEastern University in the USA. They both sought out internships at Greenpop, to answer the question: “How can I change lives a little bit?” We from Roots Interns had a chat with them after their internships, and are excited to share the two unexpected benefits they experienced while doing their NGO internship in Cape Town.

1. It’s Not Your Average Office Job

Charlotte joined Greenpop as a PR Communications intern after working as the spokesperson for the Dutch Public Broadcasting Corporation. She wanted to use her skills “to do a little bit of good for others and make a difference in the world”. Nolan comes from a similarly corporate environment. He noted: “This time last year I was working as a Business Analyst in the Investment Division of one of the oldest financial institutions in Boston. I struggled to find inspiration at work and wanted to try something else. More importantly, I wanted an organization that could help with my professional and personal development. Greenpop also helped me align my work with one of my interests, the environment. Now I work at a company that plants trees, discourages footwear in the office, and hugs each other at noon. I think I found my “something different”. I never expected to be inspired by office culture, but I was every day.”

Of course, by interning at a tree-planting organization, one might expect to be environmentally conscious at the office. But Charlotte was surprised to find that the growing awareness of her footprint on the planet impacted her on a much more personal level. The biggest personal growth she felt was “not only being more conscious about living a green lifestyle but about the impact she was making in every sense”.

Being in Cape Town during its recent drought and fires allowed her to more critically consider her actions in relation to the environment and her fellow Capetonians. She stated simply: “The things that you do – and their related environmental impacts – really affect your daily experiences of life.” Through these experiences, environmentalism was no longer just an abstract concept. It became a daily and personal practice in which she became actively involved. This expanded how she approached her PR work. She found it “so enriching to be able to communicate on very pertinent and important current events in Cape Town and the wider South African context”.

Interested in an internship with Greenpop? Check out all internship opportunities with this energetic environmental non-profit!

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Nolan echoed Charlotte. He was not only challenged to apply and expend his professional skills in the office but also by the personal connection to the environment that Greenpop’s office culture fosters. Reflecting on his experience, he said: “I learned a lot about myself. Being in South Africa will do that to you. The major skills that I sought to develop when I came here were how to handle responsibility and interact with clients. I gained plenty of experience in both of these areas. But my highlight was being a part of the production team for the Platbos Reforestation Festival. I was there for three weeks eating vegetables, building kakhouses, digging holes, escaping mosquitoes and planting trees. It was great.”

An internship with Greenpop is about more than ditching your office cubicle to connect with nature… Charlotte and Nolan emphasized that the most unexpected takeaway from the internship was actually the interpersonal connection it inspired.

2. You Discover Capability in Connection

Nolan shared: “I doubt there are many places in the world with a better combination of city, mountain, and ocean. But as incredible as the city is, the most magnificent of all were the people I had the privilege of working with. It was the greatest collection of individuals that I have ever been a part of. They make Greenpop what it is.”

Charlotte similarly highlighted the connections she made as to the most defining aspect of her internship. While doing green ‘activations’ in and around Cape Town, she chatted to members of the public with diverse backgrounds. She was “surprised by how many people are interested in doing good”. It allowed her to feel that since many people already desire to do good. She was “a bit like the glue that could connect people with each other and with the environment.” As such, she saw her accomplishments, not as her own but as the result of a connected group of like-minded people.

What will you miss the most?

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When asked what they will miss the most about their time in Cape Town, the interns agreed: the people! Nolan urged those who consider doing an internship in Cape Town to “do it for the people. Embrace everyone you work with and learn from them what you can retain. And I only say ‘what you can retain’ – because there will be no shortage of lessons.”

Similarly, Charlotte noted that the connections made with others in South Africa have a way of “grounding you in yourself”. On her last day in Cape Town, she nostalgically listed the things she will miss the most. “The most amazing people, their positivity, their stories, and their willingness to do good together.” Beyond the people, “I will miss the expansiveness of Cape Town’s natural environment. Also, the ease with which you can go to the mountain, hikes, beach, sundowners, picnics and wine tasting… maybe I will miss the wine the most!”

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