My final week at JET Education Services (JET) was a sprint to the finish line. I began the week right where I started my internship, at the Johannesburg office. After eight weeks away in the Cape Town office it was nice to see Joburg based co-workers in person, but I didn’t have much time to catch up. Instead I was busy helping to put the final touches on the draft report for our evaluation of the Nal’ibali reading supplements. My boss was so pleased with the leadership role I took on the report that she rewarded me with the position of lead author on the report. Once I completed my work on the report on Monday, I then immediately began to work on evaluation instruments (interview and focus group guides) for a Whole School Development project. On Tuesday I learned that I would get a chance to go out and conduct two days of fieldwork for a tracer study of a youth employment programme, New Skills for Youth. I was happy to get out into the field, but I still had to ensure my work on the evaluation instruments for another project were completed. As one of my colleagues joked, “You thought your last week would be relaxing, but that is not JET’s style.” Indeed I did think my workload would wind down in my final week, however, I wasn’t too surprised that the week ended up being hectic. JET staff members are constantly busy, often working on five or more projects at a time. This has made my internship experience incredibly rewarding. I have learned a lot about monitoring and evaluation since my arrival. Since day one I have been treated like a colleague rather than an intern. However, it means that I am constantly busy too!
Getting out of the office to complete fieldwork was therefore a very nice break from the daily office routine. The long car rides to different sites was also a great chance to get to know colleagues and discuss things other than work. (Although work does come up a lot – JET staff are passionate education nerds, just like me!) During the fieldwork I was able to lead focus group discussions about the New Skills for Youth programme. Unfortunately, I can’t share with you what participants discussed. But it was really nice to learn important details about the programme from participants, which helped to explain some of the results from the quantitative data. I am a big supporter of using both qualitative and quantitative data. The two forms of data used together strengthen each other and help form a more complete picture of events.
Despite my busy schedule, my colleagues still managed to find the time to take me out to lunch and present me with a token of their appreciation of my work. There was a song and dance that went along with the presentation of the gift, but I have been sworn never to publicly show the video. All I will say is that my colleagues have wonderful singing voices and are quite entertaining. During my farewell lunch the C.E.O. of JET asked for my critical feedback about my experience as an intern. We then had a long conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. JET may have high expectations for its interns, but it also has high expectations for itself. Overall, I consider my internship at JET to be an incredibly valuable opportunity and I would like to thank everyone who made my internship possible.
I only wish I could have had the chance to see more of the country via fieldwork, but as any development worker knows scheduling fieldwork can be extremely challenging. Fortunately I had the chance to explore more of South Africa after my internship ended by going on a safari at Hluluwe Imfolozi Park! A perfect way to re-charge before heading back to UPenn for one last semester of classes.