Gemma Hobson joined us as a Marketing and Social Media Intern in African Impact’s Head Office in Cape Town in 2015. Here she shares what her journey meant to her and how Cape Town impacted her life.”

I ran away so that I could find myself.

There’s quite the negative connotation that comes with the phrase “running away” – the Meriam Webster definition is literally, “to leave quickly in order to avoid or escape something”. For me, that “something” might have been a world with not enough challenges.

I ran to Cape Town, South Africa and an internship through African Impact.

African Impact is an amazing volunteer tourism organization that provided me with the opportunity to challenge myself, learn new skills, live as a local, and wander like a tourist all in one. I came to do a Marketing and Social Media Internship based at their main office in Cape Town and in so doing, I might have changed my life.

I wake up in the mornings here, and still after months, I am perplexed by the most beautiful city in this beautiful country. I find that beauty here comes in so many forms and, even in a structured office environment, no day is ever the same as the one before.

On weekdays I sit in the office, surrounded by a diverse group of people who work towards one goal. You know how diving into the deep end can be scary sometimes? You wrap your arms around yourself for protection and wait for a blow – my internship at AI made my jump feel and look like a sort of graceful swan dive – and I am by no means graceful. I suppose grace comes with the support of others because as I sit in the main office on weekdays from 8 till 4:30, I get support in ways you don’t expect from an ordinary internship – whether that being work experience from an amazing voluntourism organization or life advice from a whole new perspective.

Cape Town is a history book with stately buildings that each have their own story, and a collection of beautiful beaches where the white sand turns to light blue oceans to mountains that tower majestically in front of a deeper blue sky. It is a city where there are new things to try and do on every corner. A city where no one person looks or sounds the same but everyone belongs. I am not the least bit surprised that so many people choose to relocate here permanently once they’ve been here on holiday.

Being an intern, I have the best of both worlds. I am still afforded the chance to go out and see the bits that an average tourist doesn’t get to see. I have met the most beautiful and fascinating local children who have humbled me more than I could ever imagine. I have never seen so many smiles from easy things, such as music, or bubbles. Volunteers at African Impact get to see them every day and meet the tons of big personalities from such little people. They also get to be part of that village that is raising a child and see these children learn and grow. I have also learned a lot. Some may learn through reading, or watching, but here, I’ve learned through laughter and small adventures.

Weekends are another adventure. The city dances around you while Table Mountain, a spectacle in itself, sits looking down at it all. Weekends stretch themselves out here as there are so many things to do. Perhaps the beauty in your adventure will come from looking down on Cape Town from one of the city’s many mountains such as Lion’s Head or from an airplane as you skydive or para-glide through the sky; or maybe it will come from simply looking up and around at the city from your surfboard or boat in the ocean, or amidst a vineyard or Red Bus Tour. It’s beautiful nonetheless, no matter how many ways your squint at it.

Cape Town is family. When I say family, I don’t mean a weird uncle, or that aunt that always forces you to eat when you stop to visit her – I’m referring to the people I’ve met at African Impact and in my adventures out and about the city.

I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning, squish into a taxi with a group of people making the same commute as I, and listen as they laugh and talk over each other in three different languages, and love it. I’ll walk from that very taxi to the office with my fellow interns and smile as I feel the sun warm my face and the wind gently cool it down just as quickly. I’m going to make a cup of tea and watch the work space come to life as I prepare for another day with my new family.

The dictionary has got it all wrong. I ran to a place that is impossible to put into a nutshell. And in running, I found something wonderful and beautiful and rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything in the world.