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Projects Abroad Internships in South Africa
Mariska Neefjes, 20 years old, is from the Netherlands and currently a student in International Laws at Maastricht University. She has been working for Projects Abroad from July to September 2011 as an intern for her studies. She has always loved traveling and learning about new cultures.
GO: What originally inspired you to intern in South Africa with Projects Abroad?
Mariska: Already during my high school education I got really interested in South African history especially with regards to the Apartheid policy and Nelson Mandela's role during the Apartheid. When I decided to start studying law in 2009, I already soon developed a special interest in human rights. Projects Abroad offers human rights internships in South Africa and therefore, this seemed the perfect opportunity to combine two of my interests. Also the legal fields that are covered by the Human Rights Office of Projects Abroad really appealed to me, these are relating to for example immigration and domestic abuse. What is also really nice is that the Human Rights Office of Projects Abroad is working together with the South African Human Rights Commission. Therefore, I decided to commence with an internship with Projects Abroad in the light of my university degree.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as an intern in South Africa.
Mariska: During the week I was working 3 full days and 2 half days at the Human Rights Office to work on cases that were filed. This work included first of all consulting with clients to get a good view on their complaint and to do research to write a legal opinion on the issue. All of this happens of course under the supervision of an employee.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I worked in a social project, which was a so called Mock Trial with a group of around 7 children, between the age of 12 and 14. This Mock Trial started off with a discussion project and learning the techniques to participate in a debate and after this we had the mock trial sessions in which we prepared the children to act like lawyers in a small case, which they had to do in the end in a real court in front of a real judge.
GO: How has this experience impacted your future?
Mariska: The Human Rights Project in South Africa made me realize that pursuing a career in human rights is really what I want to do with my life and therefore, after obtaining my bachelor in European Law, I decided to take a master in International Human Rights and Criminal law. Also I think the project also is a great contribution to my experience in the human rights field when I will start looking for a job a year from now. If you are interested in human rights doing such a project is definitely worth it.
About Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is a global organization formed around the need for gap year programs abroad designed for students taking a break from studying. Since its inception, Projects Abroad has expanded to offer high school volunteer programs, and a vast variety of programs geared towards those taking a gap year or a career break. Visit the Projects Abroad website for more details on volunteer, teach, study and internship programs abroad.