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Young Professionals Overseas in Cape Town | 22 augustus 2018

Floor Severens is a fourth year student at Hotel Management School Maastricht. Last year she chose for her second minor to go abroad with Young Professionals Overseas (YPO) to Cape Town, South Africa to work in a children’s hospital in one of the townships. 

Read about her wonderful experience in the blog.

Young Professionals Overseas

For my second minor during my third year, I chose to go abroad with YPO. When the opportunity of doing YPO arose I didn’t hesitate for a second, since I love travelling, learning about different cultures and working with children. I stayed in Cape Town for 3 months, from May until July 2018.

Having been back on European grounds for just over a week now, I can genuinely say I miss South-Africa a lot. My housemates that started to feel like a family over the months, the warm, welcoming and joyous locals and above all the sweet little kids in the hospital where I worked have made Cape Town feel like a second home to me.

Without a doubt, this experience has been one of the best of my life, and I have seen and experienced things that have left marks on my heart forever. During the past few months I have experienced some of the greatest beauty life has to offer, but also seen the cruel and unfair things in life that have genuinely broken my heart. The fact that those two are total opposites makes it difficult to describe my overall experience within just a few lines.

South Africa is beautiful!

Worth mentioning is that South-Africa is definitely an extremely beautiful country with a lot of things to offer. I absolutely loved the nature; there are many different landscapes to experience. On the one hand, there is the deep blue and crystal clear ocean, and an abundance of golden beaches that offer the perfect opportunity for aquatic sports. On the other hand, the country offers a wide range of national parks with the most beautiful variety of flora and fauna. One of my favourite places were the mountains. I’ve hiked a lot during the past three months, and every time I was amazed by the beautiful views overlooking the city of Cape Town. My favourite time to hike was during sunrise. The red and orange warmth of the sun coming up from behind the mountains was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. So simple, yet so beautiful.

Attending a Catholic mass

Not only the nature, but also the people of South-Africa have inspired me a lot. One of the things that will always strike me most is that really the people who have the least, want to share the most. As from the moment of the first encounter, people treat you like friends and want to include you in their communities. My attendance of a Catholic mass has made this most clear. As my friends and I were the only white people attending the service, we felt a bit worried to invade their rituals. However, from the moment we walked in it felt like we had been taken under their wings of openness, warmth, joy, togetherness and emotion. Religion plays a big part in most of the South-Africans’ lives, and it was so special to be allowed to be a part of something so important to them.

Sweet children

However, despite the beauty of the country and its people, there is still a lot of cruelty and ugliness that we cannot close our eyes for. During my stay in Cape Town I have been working in a children’s hospital in one of the townships. The children that I have become so attached to, are children that come from the poorest and most socially unstable backgrounds and therefore are usually better off staying at the hospital than going back to their own environments. Most of them were treated for diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malnutrition, but despite their harsh conditions, they were often the liveliest and happiest kids I’ve ever seen. As cheesy as it may sound, these beautiful children gave me new energy every day and made me realise that the beauty of life can be found in the simplest of things. Leaving them behind, not knowing what their future holds, was – and still is – the most difficult thing for me.

Best experience of my life

As I mentioned before, it is extremely difficult to describe my past three months in just a few lines, because I’ve seen and experienced happiness, pain, hope, fear, tears, joy and love. The only thing I can say for sure is that this whole experience has made me a richer person in many ways, and has left marks on my heart, memory and consciousness that will never fade.

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