In what ways has South Africa Challenge changed your outlook on life or world view?
SAC taught me a lot about life, about myself and others. I found out many things about myself, that I have never even thought about before. Even though I have been working hard, I found out about all the gaps and things that I still need to work on. But I also found out that if I keep working, I can achieve my goals. Because of SAC I could see a totally different part of the world that I have never seen before. I have heard about it and have seen it in the pictures, but it was totally different to see it through my own eyes. I learned a lot about other cultures, for example when we were working on the project and I saw the contrast between the laid-back South African culture and more strict and organized European culture. I learned that communication is even more important than I thought. I also learned many life lessons such as I realized that sometimes our problems, that we make such a big deal out of, are actually really not that big and other people have problems as well, often even a lot bigger. We take so many things for granted and people always want more, but then you see people that don't have electricity and sometimes don't even have access to clean water and you realize how lucky you are to live where you live. I learned that if you take every problem as a challenge and don't let it stop you, you can gain a lot from it and grow. SAC gave me a lot and it changed me in a way.
On reflection, what did you learn about yourself, others, or South Africa?
I have already mentioned some parts in the question above, but what I mostly learned about myself was that I identified my strengths and weaknesses more and found out that by practice and just pushing myself to do it even if it's outside of my comfort zone really helps. I gained more confidence and improved my presentation and communication skills. I used to be not very opened and it was never easy for me to share my feelings and thoughts, however I learned that it is a lot easier and helps if I share them. I also took more initiative, for example I was trying to go first when we were sharing something. I also learned a lot about goal setting, leadership and also project planning.
Working in an international team with people from 3 different countries was an amazing learning experience and I learned a lot about other people and different cultures. I also learned that sometimes how people act in certain situations might be because of something that influenced them before and you shouldn't judge it until you find out why it is like that and get to know them better. Because everyone has their past and their secrets. I learned that with good communication you can achieve a lot.
Before the trip I had a totally different image of South Africa from what I actually saw once we got there. To be honest, I mostly thought that South Africa is from a big part Safari with some houses, small towns and zebras and lions walking around. I also thought that it is always really warm there. But this exactly are only stereotypes. I learned a lot about the mindset of the people, traditions (wedding, dancing, music, food etc.), education, access to water and living conditions in general. What surprised me probably the most though was the contrast between the rich and poor considering that the distance between these areas is so small.
Which parts of the South Africa Challenge did you enjoy the most?
All of them. I loved that it was not just like a holiday, but it was a combination of personal development, getting to know the culture and places, meeting new people, networking and all of that while working on a project that has a social impact. I enjoyed every single day from the morning till night. We had a very interesting and busy schedule. I enjoyed the running in the morning, coaching sessions, meeting the partners and the local people, meeting new people from all around the world, working on the project, visiting safari, beach and museum, cooking together, dancing session, driving in the van, personal development sessions, literally everything we did. But if I had to say something that was very special was the whole atmosphere of the programme. You meet amazing people, who all are very proactive, motivated and want to improve themselves. People that support you with your goals, people that work with you towards the same aim and people that you can share almost all your thoughts with, knowing that they won't judge you, but on the other side they will try to help you. They will help you to grow and learn.
How do you think South Africa Challenge will influence what you do in your future? Or how has it already influenced you since returning?
I think that South Africa Challenge helped me to grow and become more confident. I am trying to be more opened, more positive and not be stressed before things that are new, so when stepping out of my comfort zone, I am trying to take it as a challenge and be excited about things that I used to be stressed about. I also used to always overthink everything, so I have been trying to change that. I will keep working on my goals and keep developing myself.
What would you say to future participants?
I would say be open-minded and always try to do your best. Remember that SAC is a safe environment, where you can fail, reflect and learn from it. What I could have done differently, is really put myself out there even more (even though I was trying but I could have done it even more) regarding my goal. I was lacking confidence and was scared that I will say or ask something that is not correct. But that's what you can really do during the SAC. Fall, stand up, learn from it and try it again, but now better. So take as much as possible from it. And also do some research before the trip and be ready to change your project once you get there, however make sure that you have enough ideas before, even if they are not that specific yet.
If you had to summarise the South Africa Challenge experience in one paragraph, what would you say?
Participating in South Africa Challenge was one of the best decisions I have made in my life because it was an amazing and exciting experience, where I learned a lot, grew, got to know a different part of the world and the culture, met great people and created unforgettable memories.