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The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow, Kathryn Chao. 

It’s October 19th. I’m working remotely today, sitting on my bed next to the window that looks directly up at Table Mountain. The last month has been full of exploring, meeting great people, learning to be alone, and missing loved ones.

My placement has been an amazing way to start the gap year. I work at a sustainable fashion NGO and research think tank. My days in the office are filled with developing sustainability metrics, researching circular economy applications for the textile industry, conducting interviews, and writing articles for our news outlet. I love wearing lots of hats, and learning multiple new skills at once. I also have the opportunity to spearhead an LCA research project with a Masters student at UC Berkeley I befriended that I’m very excited about.

When I’m not in the office during work hours, I’m working fashion events, and doing community engagement. Streetscapes has become a second office, and one of my favorite places in the city. It’s a community center + garden in the Sixth District (which has a history of racial displacement during Apartheid). I work with local homeless and recovering addicts, teaching life skills like sewing and also working on group projects with them. Currently, we’re making quilts to sell at their local markets for income so they can purchase groceries at the center. A large part of the rehab program I work with is reintegrating people back into society by ensuring they can contribute to the economy. 

Outside work, I’ve enjoyed hiking, surfing, exploring the beaches and nightlife of Cape Town, eating tons of great food, and getting acquainted with the local vintage fashion scene. It’s a great place to be as a young adult, and living with other international interns has made the experience even better. I’m keen to explore more of the history of South Africa after reading more about it. I have yet to go to Robben Island and the Sixth District Museum among other sites, and am going to try to go on a walking tour as well.

So far, besides getting sick for the first couple weeks, it’s been a blast, and I’m so grateful to have a job I enjoy in such a gorgeous city. More updates to come!

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