Meet Laura Fagerlund. Laura is a Vice President of IFLRY and a Council member of the Swedish Youth of Finland. She is currently living in South Africa, where she is doing an internship with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. In her blog, Laura gives you a first-person account of what it’s like for her to live and work halfway around the world in a country that couldn’t be more different from her native Finland.
You can find her other blog posts here.
I came to South Africa on July 13th and was picked up at the airport by another intern and her friend. They were extremely welcoming and helped me to get to my house and get a SIM card for my phone. They also showed me where I could buy necessities such as bed linen and towels, and took me for a nice lunch by the sea. I was lucky to arrive on a warm and sunny day considering it is winter here! I am very thankful for all the help, because I felt very lost when I got here. I knew there would be cultural differences, but there are also practical things that differ a lot from Finland, which I did not know about — such as buying electricity from the store. I have a lot to learn! My house is located in Vredehoek, a suburb in the City Bowl next to the Table Mountain. It is a two bedroom townhouse —- at the moment a friend is staying in the house and at the end of August another intern from Sweden will move in with me. The house is cozy and it feels safe —- it has two gates, locks and a security system, and is located on a quiet street.
I’ve been here for a week now. My first impressions are that 1) Cape Town is a beautiful city and the mountains are majestic; 2) the people are very friendly and warm; 3) the working environment is relaxed compared to Finland. So far, the most challenging experience for me has been that I don’t feel safe. In Finland, it is safe to walk by yourself — even at night — but in Cape Town I practically have to take an Uber everywhere and always have my belongings close to me. In some parts of the town, I have been advised not to even have my phone in my hand at all, not even during the day, as someone might steal it. This is very different from what I am used to in Finland and it will take some time for me to adapt. I am sure I will get used to this soon, though. Another experience that surprised me, was how cold it is here. Compared to Finland it is obviously not very cold, but since the houses don’t have central heating it is very cold inside. I even had to buy warmer clothes and an electric blanket!
At work, I have been busy with reading about South African politics and the way it is communicated. I have also spent a considerable amount of time learning the systems I will be working with, – such as payment and travel systems. As the International Office cooperates with the Development, Learning and Training Department, I have also assisted with preparations for a training session for Members of Provincial Legislature. Most importantly though, I have spent my time getting to know my colleagues, and they are amazing! We are a team of five people at the moment, but we’ll be six in August when a colleague gets back from maternity leave and seven when the Swedish intern arrives. We are a small group of people, but we get along really well.
I look forward to getting to know the city and everything it has to offer. Nature is beautiful here, the people are welcoming and thanks to the cultural diversity there is a lot of delicious food (which isn’t too expensive either, at least compared to Finland). I truly believe I will have an amazing time here, but it will definitely take some time before I am used to the everyday life here. Let me know if there is a specific topic you would like me to write about!
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Laura Fagerlund is a Vice President of IFLRY and a Council member of the Swedish Youth of Finland. She just finished a degree in Political Science at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. You can contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @laurafagerlund