Continuing on in South Africa (from the United States)

In the several weeks that I have spent meeting with my supervisor and other interns, conducting research, and creating content for the CSVR, I constantly found myself wishing that I could experience all of it from South Africa. I would hear about my co-workers exciting trips to Table Mountain or “Joburg” and want to experience them for myself. Before beginning my internship, I carefully considered the idea of traveling to South Africa, but the consensus seemed to be that I might not have been vaccinated by the time I had to leave and there were no guarantees that COVID-19 would not impact those travel plans. Unfortunately, in the last couple of weeks, my South African counterparts at the CSVR have had to go back into lockdown for at least a few weeks. Thankfully, the vaccine distribution, though slow at first, has begun to pick up speed and more groups of people are becoming eligible. So, while I do wish that I had the opportunity to be in South Africa, I am grateful that the team that I am working with is willing to meet virtually.

In my last post, I discussed my first assignment of creating a country report on Burkina Faso. Country reports are featured on the up-and-coming knowledge hub that the CSVR is creating to facilitate education and research of African countries. Though the Centre focuses on transitional justice, it was important to also find information about colonialism and events that lead to the present-day Burkina Faso. While the report is essentially finished, I would still like to find an actual digital copy of the truth commission mandate that some sources have reported. The report was an exciting first assignment because I was able to find sources that I can use as I move forward conducting research for future assignments. In our weekly meetings, the interns and full-time employees have the opportunity to share what assignments they have been working on throughout the week. It has been exciting to share information, hardships, and successes with others and to hear about others’ as well.   

The next assignment that I will be working on will be a composition of the Rwandan country study. Because of the recent, complex changes in the country, there are several drafts of the country study that were authored by different people. My supervisor asked that I condense them all into one study that can be featured on the website. I appreciate these assignments because I have the opportunity to conduct thorough research of a country and learn the vital background information. Throughout this assignment, I have learned that Rwanda is a country that I have heard about from news stories or on social media because of large-scale events that do very little to provide necessary context. When compared to Burkina Faso, there is more information available on the internet about Rwanda, particularly in the last several years. However, information about Rwanda is often debated more heavily than information about Burkina Faso. Scholars, media sources, and even the UN will insist on certain terminology or telling of events. This makes it difficult to condense into one informative, relatively neutral country study.

In all, I enjoy the work that I have been doing for the CSVR and am excited to continue it in the next several weeks. One fear that I had of working remotely is that I would feel extremely disconnected from the work that I was doing and the people that I worked with. However, this has not been my experience thus far. The first part of our weekly meetings usually consists of sharing interesting parts of our week or discussing what is happening in our lives. It is a fun experience and has created a friendly atmosphere where everyone seems to feel comfortable sharing their work and receiving feedback.