The Streetlight Schools that I was working at during my last week in Johannesburg felt worlds different than the Streetlight Schools that I began working at back in May. The organization didn’t fundamentally change, but my role certainly developed. The internship helped me to develop new skills as well as to realize my future professional goals and aspirations. When I arrived in South Africa in May, I knew that equitable education was important to me, but now I know that my professional future will involve increasing opportunities for education in the United States or abroad.
This internship not only made me more sure of my goals, but it also improved my skills in the office, which was exactly what I was looking for. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to gain quite a bit of hands-on experience with students in classrooms, but I’ve had little exposure to independent work in an office setting in the non-profit organization. I now realize that if I was employed in a position which was entirely office-based, I would be unhappy in the long run. It is for this reason that the Streetlight internship was the perfect balance for me: I spent mornings doing research in the office and afternoons tutoring in the Learning Centre.
As far as changes at the organization, I was incredibly luck to be able to witness the organization progress throughout the course of my internship. When I first arrived, I was looking for a team environment, however most of my work was independent. It was quiet in the office, and while there was a lot to do, it seemed to be going slowly. But as time went on, it seemed like good things were happening left and right. During my time there, we created a Facebook page, a blog about innovation in education, and we also further developed the website. The organization also welcomed two new interns during my last month, both of whom I learned quite a bit from. It was also nice because they moved into my apartment with me, which was in the building that I was working (owned by Bjala Properties, the affordable housing project that partners with Streetlight Schools).
As a matter of fact, I think that that was one of my favorite things about the internship (which ended up making it more like a residency). I lived in the building that I worked. Normally, I think a situation like this might be a little bit too much, especially when putting a large time commitment to a job. I was initially slightly afraid that I would never be able to get the feeling of going home after a long day at work. It was, in fact, an incredible opportunity because it allowed me to learn more about the families that the Learning Centre was serving than would’ve been possible if I had been living elsewhere.
All in all, I learned a great deal during my internship at Streetlight Schools. I clarified about my future career. It also provided me with the opportunity to get to know very knowledgeable people in my field, while working alongside them and observing their inspiring passion for improvement in and through education.