I took an internship at ACDI as I wanted to get work experience in a professional environment field, while also gaining experience in the climate change and development field and learning more about the African context. I wanted to improve my climate change research skills, improve my chances in job applications, and get exposure to working at academic institutions such as UCT. I was also looking for a great opportunity to network and interact with professionals in order to gain new connections and learn how to communicate in a professional environment.
My interest in climate and development work
From a young age, during my primary school years, I became interested in social sciences, particularly geography. I was fascinated with working with maps and learning about interactions between people and the environment. School trips to the aquarium, museums, caves, as well as protected areas boosted by interest even more.
Climate and development work is particularly interesting for me now as it deals with environmental changes that have an impact on livelihoods. Climate researchers are keen to co-create development pathways that are sustainable and can mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Growing up in the mountainous Transkei I developed a love of nature, and observed environmental changes in my village. These made me to choose to study environmental studies, and I try to give back to my village by sharing the knowledge that I have gained during my studies and work.
My previous work
Before this internship I worked in the Expanded Public Work Programme under Working For Water (High Altitude Team) based at Table Mountain. This programme deals with clearing of alien plants in Table Mountain and maintenance of ecological infrastructure at the mountain. I worked as a rope access technician (which included using ropes to access alien plant species in mountainous areas) across the Cape Peninsula mountains, including Chapmans Peak, Tokai, Silvermine, Constantia and Devil’s Peak. I enjoyed working in nature and found working at such heights to be a fascinating adventure.
On weekends I work as a volunteer a field ranger for SANParks in the Table Mountain National Park. Through this I have been engaged in foot, vehicle and sea patrols with joint organisations such as DAFF, SAPS and other volunteer organisations. What I really enjoy is assisting with rescues, helping injured and lost hikers and ensuring safety for all local and international visitors to the park. This work has made me a better person.
The work I did at the ACDI
During my internship at the ACDI I worked on a project called Climate-Resilient African Landscapes, developing a literature summary of the landscape approach. I looked at a case study that shows how indigenous knowledge has been incorporated in managing landscapes in Africa. I also worked on reports, and a presentation on the WUN climate-resilient landscape workshop that was held in May 2019 with different stakeholders such as living landscape and representatives from University of Ghana and Nairobi.
I also attended seminars both within and outside UCT that focused on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches and research tool kits (e.g., d-school UCT, NNi). I did online MOOCs such as Climate mitigation, Climate Mitigation in Developing Countries, Climate Change Adaptation in Africa, and Research for Impact. I attended some lectures in the ACDI master’s course such as research ethics and research tools in order to develop my research skills.
What I found most valuable
My internship introduced me to a lot of useful resources, and gave me the opportunity to meet a variety of professionals in my field. The networking has helped me acquire references and find new job opportunities. I’ve learned the value of time management and realise it’s vital in every circumstance – whether I am attending meetings, working to deadlines, or making phone calls.
This internship has helped me to develop a confidence in my writing and reading skills. This has really helped me to go outside my comfort zone when it comes to doing interdisciplinary research in fields such as climate finance, climate change and the landscape approach. I have learned that work can be adventure and I have not been afraid to explore other disciplines and opportunities, or to interact with high-ranked scientists.
Attending different workshops, where we shared experiences and knowledge, provided a great platform to learn and better understand the opportunities and challenges that exist in the climate and development fields.
The people of ACDI have been very welcoming and supportive and our weekly coffee hour gave me a great way to get to know everyone.
What I plan to do next
I am planning do a Masters in Climate Change and Development, or a PGCE. I also want to make more time for my community garden which is my passion and which I use to make a positive contribution to my community.
Advice for people wanting to pursue internships
It is not easy to find internships because there are many local and international graduates competing for the same positions. However, internships are important for graduates who are seeking work experience as they can help make connections between your studies and the real wold of work. You also make connections and networks with more experienced professionals which can expand your thinking, and lead to more employment opportunities. Internships allow you to develop skills, learn content, while also teaching you about work processes. You can build your confidence and develop your abilities in public speaking, presentations, and working solo, and working as part of a team.
ACDI is a great place to do your internship at because it is diverse and has good people that you can work with, who help you to build a successful career in the climate and development fields.