Vincent Girard - General Journalism Projects in South Africa
My name is Vincent Girard, I'm French and I decided to go to South Africa with Projects Abroad for the Journalism project and to learn some English. In June 2009 I had just finished my journalism studies and needed a break, to go somewhere before finding a job in France.
I chose South Africa and Cape Town for my experience of Africa. I had already been to Germany in 2007 to volunteer as a French teacher in Hanover. It was a rewarding experience, but the similarity between Germany and France had left me some regrets. I wanted to discover another culture, another way of doing and thinking, but I realised that our two countries are substantially the same.
After three months in South Africa I can say that my expectations were definitely fulfilled. I met lots of other Projects Abroad volunteers from all over the world, so I talked with 27 volunteers from different countries; a great human experience! These were not just different personalities that I met; I could appreciate the different culture of each volunteer.
Leaning English was far from being the traditional language lessons that we have in Europe. Forget homework, grammar and irregular verbs to learn, here you talk with your neighbour every day and gradually improve your language skills. I was able to discover a little piece of South Korea by talking with Gisele from Seoul, I could better appreciate the principles of Islam with Mohammed from Saudi Arabia, I discovered a country which I knew nothing about when Said explain his country Eritrea to me.
It is thanks to the English classes that I met many people who became friends after a few weeks. So I'm leaving in a few days, but I already know I will have a hard time leaving other volunteers behind, as I could see from Cathy, my Austrian room mate, when she left.
During my stay in Cape Town I was also able to exercise my passion and what will hopefully soon be my job. I participated for two months in the Journalism project. Here, you have to take the initiative to propose story ideas and to think of unusual angles for your articles.
The staff will encourage you and guide you in your projects but still, you must make the first move. In short, it is a method that encourages individual initiative and this experience will certainly help my career.
In addition to these projects with Projects Abroad, I also discovered the fantastic country that is South Africa by participating in a bike tour of vineyards in the Frenshoek Valley, discovering the wild beauty of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and enjoying the beautiful views from the top of Table Mountain. I also discovered Namibia through a wonderful Safari for one week between Cape Town and Swakopmund. I could better appreciate the history of South Africa by going to Robben Island and the military museum of the Castle of Good Hope.
In my spare time I also volunteered at a crèche; I was touched by the kindness of the children. I also met some great Congolese friends who showed me another side of Africa. I know one day soon I will be visiting the Congo to see them all again.
I enjoyed everyday life in South Africa during my three month placement, with the other volunteers, with the Projects Abroad staff and with my host family. In short, I discovered with my own eyes this country and that is priceless. I think today, more than before, that the Belgian singer Jacques Brel was absolutely right when he said "You must go see".