USW student undertakes South African work placement

Zoey Morgan

Zoey Morgan a final year USW student studying BSc (Hons) Criminology with Psychology has recently returned from a three month work placement in South Africa through Restless Development, the youth-led development agency.

Her role which was undertaken as part of the government funded International Citizen Services (ICS) programme was to promote health and wellbeing in South Africa. 

Zoey landed the placement following an extensive selection process that took place in London. On arrival in South Africa Zoey completed 10 days training on how to respond to various scenarios before commencing her work.

Speaking about her time on placement Zoey said: “My experience in South Africa was life changing. My placement involved dealing with issues such as abuse, women’s rights, gender-based violence and sexually transmitted diseases. The role was quite challenging but people are depending on you so just have to be strong and deal with any issues as best you can, putting to best use the training you receive.

Nothing could prepare me for the experiences I had, but by studying the BSc (Hons) Criminology with Psychology course I had the knowledge and skills required to be given responsibility of educating the people of South Africa on societal issues. If it wasn’t for my undergraduate course I would have been more likely to have undertaken a more supporting role.

Whilst on placement I got to live with a South African family who I really miss since returning to the UK. I stayed in a rural area and community with them called Mbokotwana and got to experience my host mama’s job which is a traditional healer, living with two sisters who were training and her two grandchildren Mbali and Oko. I lived in their home but had my own roundaville with a bedroom and kitchen which I shared with another South African lady Luntu who was working with me. We built a very strong relationship and it was fascinating to see how differently we live. I immersed myself into their culture and spent time learning about their traditions, which were fascinating.

I would highly recommend ICS to any student who is looking to add something unique to their CV. The whole experience defiantly boosted my employability skills, which will give me a competitive edge over graduates who are studying a similar course to me. During my time in South Africa I undertook a series of assessments relating to the employability skills sought by employers. This covered everything from team working, planning events to dealing with difficult situations. Not only did I develop these skills but I also gained a certificate which I can now hand over to employers.

My cycle in South Africa was difficult and hard work and I often wondered if my help was enough to make a difference, but a very intelligent lady I met on my travels told me “If anything you do only feels like a drop in the ocean. What is an ocean other than a load of drops” and I followed that quote like a holy bible to make me stronger in my journey.

Going into my final year of study, I have decided to base my dissertation on my experiences in South Africa by looking at criminal psychological differences between the UK and South Africa.

I now have so much more ambition than before my travels. I have set myself goals and am hoping to undertake a Masters course and to also become a team leader (hopefully in India) for Restless Development for a longer placement following completion of my degree.

Looking back, the biggest highlight of my placement was helping five South Africans to get jobs. I did this through teaching them how to use a computer and how to create their very own CV. It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had made such a difference to their lives. Their appreciation made my work feel so worthwhile.

It is difficult for me to put into words how amazing my experience was and how grateful I am to having being part of the programme. It really has opened my eyes to the world around me and how lucky and fortunate I am to have the life I do but more importantly, to have been given the privilege of spending 12 weeks of my life with such amazing and kind people who have almost nothing and are still the happiest people that have walked in my path of life. We are all the same no matter who we are or where we come from. I appreciate everything so much more now and can feel good about myself and the contribution I made however small.”