Rachel Vernon
Rachel Vernon
South Africa, 2022
Hi, my name is Rachel, I will be going to Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months to work with Volunteer Solutions. I plan to work in elementary schools with sports development and work in a local clinic. Read More About Rachel →

100% Chance of Precipitation

It is officially time for the adventure to begin! Although the forecast did not include rain, my face was constantly wet from tears flowing. It was hard to say goodbye. As some may know my family is moving to Dayton, Ohio in two weeks. Not only did I say goodbye to my family and boyfriend, but I also said goodbye to the house I have lived in for the last four years. When I got to the airport, my flight had been delayed two hours. Fortunately, Hudson, my boyfriend, was also flying out of Atlanta that day. But his flight was delayed as well, so we sat in the lobby of the international terminal and played gin rummy. We played 13 games, I lost 7-6. The goodbyes at the airport were the hardest, it was really setting in. An abundance of thoughts went through my head, “why am I doing this?, what was I thinking, I can’t do this! I should just go back now.” But I couldn’t turn down the biggest adventure and amazing opportunity for growth, so I put my head down, thinking no one could see the tears falling from my face, and began through security. 

Since my first flight was delayed by two hours, it meant I had 35 minutes in Amsterdam to get to my connecting flight, and I indeed made it! On the plane, I met a German girl who was going back to Cape Town to study physiology. She gave me some tips and tricks about renting cars, data plans, and the weather; she even told me a little about Germany. We compared cultures, and I learned a lot. We even played Yahtzee against each other, I won! When I landed at 11:30 pm South African Standard time, my luggage was stuck in Amsterdam. So, fortunately, I packed a change of clothes and my bathroom bag so that I could live without the checked bag for a few days. My first flight was 8:35 hours, and my second was 10:15 hours, I was ready to get on land! 

I was picked up by a friendly man from Volunteer solutions, he told me a little about the government. Such as, the laws are not enforced well here, for example, marijuana is illegal here, but everyone still uses it, the power goes out for a few hours a day to conserve energy and money, and the working class are a part of a union, which is a major problem. More specifically, if the government wants to tighten laws, they will need to regain power; since the country is unionized, the workers break out into major strikes when the government tries to get involved. The current unemployment rate is 34.5%, compared to 3.6% unemployment in the US.

When I arrived at the hostel, where I will be staying for two nights, there was a group of kids waiting to meet me before going out on the town. They were all so nice, but it was overwhelming. I was shown around the hostel, which is made of two houses that are combined in the back. The entire hostel/volunteer house can host 64 people! When I tried to lay down for bed, the emotions came flooding. Lying in bed, I started to cry because I was overwhelmed and scared, and VERY uncomfortable (both physically and emotionally). I was afraid of what was to come. Eventually, I fell asleep listening to music at 2:30 am with my face mask and two blankets. 

This morning I woke up at 12:30 pm and was immediately introduced to everyone in the house. They all asked me to join their plans, paintball, food, zip-lining, or go to the zoo to see the monkeys. I chose to go get food because I hadn’t eaten for over 12 hours. A group of volunteers went to The Old Biscuit Mill, full of shops, food, and dancing. Here they use Uber to get around, which costs around 75 rand-135 rand (~$7-$10), which is the currency here. ($1= 12Rand (R)). When I got home, we went to a local intramural soccer game. I love watching soccer live! In my head I was thinking, “oh step up” or “just play it long.” You can take a girl out of soccer, but you can’t take the soccer out of a girl. Then off to the local market, aka spar. I grabbed food for the next two days until I go to my host family. And just like that, my first day is almost over! 175 days to go! 

Most of the volunteers are staying 2 weeks-7 weeks, so when I told them that I will be staying for 24 weeks, they were all very jealous because no one wants to leave, which is a heartwarming feeling. 

Advice: 

  • Keep your belongings close because people will try to steal your things.
  • Pack clothes, bathroom bags, and adaptor in your carry-on because you never know if they will get left behind. I also put an AirTag in my luggage to check the location of my luggage; currently, it’s still in Amsterdam. 
  • The water is safe to drink in Cape Town, but introduce it slowly as it could upset your stomach (advice given from an American) 
  • Bring ear plugs and a mask to sleep in a hostel because it can be loud, I slept through the night with no interruptions! 

The WHY behind this trip?

The WHY behind the trip!

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel, and I will be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa. I will be a part of a sports development program and a medical program through Volunteer Solutions. More specifically, I will be coaching soccer, and other sports, at a local school with 7-13-year-olds. Since their school calendar is reverse to ours, they will have summer break during December and January. During this time, I will be working in local clinics as a Registered Nurse and getting exposure to their medical care. 

Now for the WHY of my trip. Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to travel to somewhere in Africa for an extended period of time. I just wasn’t sure how to get there. My freshman year I heard about the Lumos scholarship, when Heather Ferarri, a teammate on the Belmont Women’s soccer team had presented on her recent trip. She went to Nepal for four months. I thought this was a unique opportunity and had my name written all over it. During her trip, she experienced the conditions of the medical facilities in Nepal. Over the course of the next four years, the Lumos project was pushed to the back of my mind. During my senior year, I had a decision to make, what to do after graduation? Everyone is faced with this question, yet I felt like I didn’t have a clear picture of the future. 

In January of 2022, I thought I wanted to travel and play semi-professional soccer. That would scratch two itches in one adventure. But as I did some more soul searching, I realized I wanted to experience more of the culture of the country I was living in. So I ruled out playing soccer, but still had NO plan! Which is very unlike me, who always has to have a plan! March 1st came around, and the Lumos project came up. The application was due on March 28th… not much time at all. I threw myself into this project, from losing sleep to staying in on the weekends. I made a bet with myself, if I can pull this off in 28 days then I will go on this trip whether it was on my own or with Lumos. But if I didn’t get to plan the entire trip by March 28th, then I would figure out a new plan. 

Well, here we are! 2 weeks away from the trip, I can not believe this is happening! This trip is a trip of a lifetime. I get to combine my two loves, soccer and nursing, in a country that I have always dreamed of going to! How perfect! But, the planning did not end there. It was just the beginning.

Things I have done to prepare to include:

  • Vaccination- Typhoid and malaria (typhoid was the most painful shot I have ever gotten, but it was so worth it, and malaria, I will be taking while I am overseas)
  • Booking flights- the flights there and back will be a 24-27 hour travel days! Going to be long days
  • Getting clothes- I needed new soccer cleats to be able to play soccer with the kids I will be working with (I also hope to join an adult team while I am over there), scrubs (to wear during the clinic part of the trip), and rain gear because I will be ariving the last month of rainy season 
  • Passing the NCLEX (National National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses)- which I passed! 

It is just the beginning of the adventure! I cannot wait to get my feet on the ground and get to know the culture of South Africa!