Given the threat of COVID-19, all our interns in Cape Town had to travel back home in the past weeks. Luckily, everyone is able to continue their internship remotely. Saida Belaatel, our very own intern at Roots, is one of these people. She traveled back to Germany, where she is now continuing her communications internship. Here, she shares what the experience was like to learn about the situation, cut her time in South Africa short, and do her work from a lockdown situation in Germany.
Leaving Cape Town because of a worldwide pandemic
To me, it feels like a weird dream or a movie. I was more than happy in Cape Town. There is something very special about this place. To say the least, my life was so much fun. I wish I was able to hold on to it like a rope. I had spent three months in the Mother City and I had three more months to go. While I was having a blast, COVID-19 was spreading across the globe and reached South Africa eventually. On a Sunday night, March 18th, I heard the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa; “South Africa declares the National State of Disaster.”
My mood: Angry. Worried. Confused. A thousand thoughts and unanswered questions raced through my head. Why does this have to happen now? What about my internship? Will I have a study delay? Am I stuck? And the main concern: I don’t want to leave Cape Town! I really didn’t. Everything went too fast to process. From planning my Garden Route road trip with my roommate in the end of march to booking a flight home within one weekend. The next evening I had to book my flight home and leave only three days later; just in time. Just before the international Airport in Cape Town shut down. I left just in time before the president implemented one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide.
Historic, absurd and sad times; thoughts on being home
Back in Hamburg, Northern Germany. Home. I really don’t want to complain. I am one of the lucky ones: I have work to do, I have a roof over my head, I don’t have to starve and I live in a country with a functioning health system. Not to forget, I was so lucky to have the best time: Cape Town’s summer 2020 was amazing. I made the most of everyday and the Mother City will always have a special place in my heart. One is for sure: I’ll be back as soon as these borders open again, the curve is flattened and the world’s back to normal.
However, I made it home in the end, after forty-eight hectic hours and it feels kind of unreal to be back. Today is day eleven of my quarantine: I am sitting in my house which feels like a safe haven in these absurd times. My head’s in South Africa. I am thinking of people who live in townships, I am thinking of those who live with HIV, those who live with tuberculosis who already have a weak immune system, actually anyone who is vulnerable to the virus and all the other many people in the world who don’t have access to health care.
My home office
Even though I miss the fun times in the office, continuing my internship from home is an absolute blessing. I have a reason to get up in the morning and use my brain, be creative and focus. My internship was one of the best things that happened to me; I never felt so satisfied about the work I did, the purpose my internship had. I am so happy about the impact that I am making.
I am the communications intern at Roots. My tasks include copywriting for the blog, the website and social media. I run the Roots instagram and facebook account. I send out newsletters and I do interviews with our lovely partners to write about them. Every Monday morning, I have a chat with my supervisor. Throughout the week we are in constant contact through emails and calls. In fact, I can do almost all my regular tasks from home. Again, how lucky I am.
I am deeply grateful to be able to continue making my little impact from wherever in the world. On top of that, I am more productive than I thought I could ever be. Now I am sitting here in my room, seeing Hamburg’s grey streets from the window while still secretly wishing this was all a dream and I still had my beloved table mountain view. Nevertheless, it somehow feels like I never left: For my internship I am writing about the African continent, I am in constant contact with my supervisor, my fellow interns and roommates. Somehow, it kind of feels like I never really left.
Moreover, it feels like the world’s standing still anyway and it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re healthy and safe. Today I am writing this blog as part of my internship and I couldn’t be more nostalgic and grateful.
How I am making my virtual internship work
Of course, working from home comes with its challenges. I miss the office vibe. I miss the free coffee and the popcorn, I miss the chats at work and the lunch breaks. Now, I really understand the meaning of routine in the work-life. Routine makes work easier. I have to admit that I stayed in my pyjamas the first days of home office, working from the couch. That didn’t go that well. Soon, I decided to fight my inner lazybones and made a plan. I stick to my new home office routine and I got used to it:
- I wake up at 8, take a shower and have a coffee to start the day like on a normal work day
- I get dressed (almost like I’d leave the house but a little bit more comfortable)
- I check my emails, get in touch with my supervisors, and write my daily to-do-list
- I have breakfast and keep working until the afternoon
- I make sure to go for a little walk around noon to get some fresh air
It’s actually still fun. My internship is really going great.
New internship opportunities: virtual from home
Because of current travel restrictions, we have decided to launch a selection of remote internships. This will offer a great alternative to students who are needing to do their internship in the next few months, or anyone who would like to make their time at home as productive as possible.
I believe that virtual internships are something that is suitable any time; also without a global pandemic, physical distancing, travel bans and other restrictions. There are many different reasons why some people don’t want to or can’t travel; some simply can’t afford it, don’t consider travelling, or are just comfortable at home but want to gain valuable work experience in an international environment.