Volunteer Review: Eline Schmitz – Music Production and Surfing in South Africa
My name is Eline and I was 17 when I travelled to Cape Town. It was the first time I had travelled that far on my own and I was quite nervous. Fortunately, everything went rather smoothly and there was a really nice Projects Abroad driver waiting for me at the airport. It was night-time as he drove me to my host family. I stayed with the Benjamin family, who kindly welcomed me into their home as soon as I arrived. At that moment I was staying with two other volunteers, who had kindly stayed up to meet and welcome me.
The next day, I was taken on my introduction with a staff member who works in the Projects Abroad South Africa office. He showed me the public transport, helped me withdraw money and got me a sim-card with credit.
My placements in South Africa
I did two projects for a couple of weeks. I started with a week at the Surfing Project as my initial project. The Teaching Project was still closed at this time. After a week on the Surfing Project, I took the chance to visit the Teaching Project to see what it would be like, before going back to surfing.
After about four weeks of the Surfing Project, I did the Music Production Project for two weeks. I had met another volunteer who did that project and he told me what they did. It sounded like so much fun and I really wanted to try it. After those two weeks, I went back to the Surfing Project for one week, only to return to the Music Project for the following three weeks.
In my last two weeks in Cape Town, I did one week of the Surfing Project and took my last week off to do a road trip with another girl I had met. In-between everything, I also visited to the Building Project for a day and the Care Project for two days. I did as much as I could since it gave me a really broad view of the city itself and all the different people living in it. Also, with every project you get to meet new people and talk to new people, which I considered very interesting whilst in such a diverse city.
My Surfing Project
The Surfing Project is a very broad but open project. You have a couple of hours where you either get a group of kids that you will surf with, or you’ll do therapy and a surfing session with people with disabilities. For example, we had Ashtan, who was born with cerebral palsy. We did two surfing sessions with him a week, which was such an amazing and special experience.
Your day is not tightly planned; you will have spare time to go surf with the other volunteers, get some lunch or just have a conversation with your supervisor or the other volunteers. It’s amazing, you don’t have to be able to surf to do this project; it’s very open and you’ll do so much more than just surf. You’ll get to experience so much and I would definitely recommend this project for someone who wants to do something a bit active and meet a lot of new people!
My Music Production Project
This project is more like an internship at a record label and music studio than a volunteering program. Nevertheless, it has been one of the greatest experiences I think I’ll ever have. I learned so much about both the music production aspect, as well as the management side of it.
The owner of the studio is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Together with the sound engineer, they will always support your ideas. If you want to do or try something, you can use the whole studio and everything it holds and they’ll do everything to help you. Everyone in the studio will go out of their way to make sure you will have the best experience possible.
Like the Surfing Project, this is a very open project. You’re in charge of your own experience. I would definitely recommend this project for someone that wants a true insight into the music business.
My host family
Apart from having amazing projects, outside of them I had the most amazing time! My host family was the nicest family I could have possibly asked for. My host mom was so nice and I’m going to miss her dearly. Her children were so cute and her husband was so caring and nice as well. All in all, I believe I had the nicest house with the most amazing family and housemates.
Since I was staying for three months, I saw a few people come and go in the house, but that’s actually such a nice thing. You get to meet so many people and introduce them to so many as well. You get pretty close to the other volunteers but especially the volunteers you live with. You live with them, do so much with them and go out with them a lot. They become your friends, even if they’re only staying for a week.
Travelling around South Africa
Every Wednesday night all the volunteers would go to a place called the Brass Bell. This is a karaoke bar very close to the surfing office. The great thing about the volunteers was that it was one big group. Everybody got along and nobody judged or disliked one another whatsoever. I think this is mainly what made my experience so unforgettable.
I went on the Garden Route during my second weekend with a group of 12 amazingly fun people. Two weeks after this, I went on a sand-boarding weekend with another 10 great people! If I could give future volunteers some advice, it would definitely be to make use of your weekends away. I also did skydiving. That is highly recommendable, but not the cheapest.
I think I did everything while I was in Cape Town and I think that’s the advice I want to give, and gave everyone when I went home. You need to do everything you possibly can. If someone asks you to join something, please say “yes” and just go! Even if it takes you way out of your comfort zone; please go out and experience everything. It might be scary, but I promise you, it’ll be so worth it!
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.