SPECTACULAR: Cape Town at night viewed from Lion's Head. Picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - I’ve been to Cape Town twice, once as a tourist and once as an intern and the latter is without a doubt the more educational, fun and fulfilling trip.

The key difference is that my job requires me to travel around Cape Town in its entirety; from in town to Langebaan and various communities in between.

It’s what a foreigner should do any time they travel – branch away from tours, guides and just individually visit communities – and thankfully my internship at a newspaper has allowed me to do that.

I remember five years ago thinking that visiting Cape Town was the best experience of my life when I viewed the city from atop Table Mountain and took an eye-opening trip to Robben Island. But I found that these were the places most tourists visit.

Now that I’m covering stories as a newspaper intern, I’ve gone beyond the V&A Waterfront and Camps Bay and enjoyed the hospitality and authenticity of a bed and breakfast in Khayelitsha, and the excitement of students from Mitchells Plain going to the opening of the first youth café.

On this second trip, I have enjoyed the adrenalin of jumping out of a plane above Atlantis, climbing Lion’s Head by the light of a full moon and will soon have only a cage separating me from great white sharks.

But I’ve found that I relay to my family back home the stories of my visit to the farming hub in Philippi, a lagoon in Langebaan, or a Cape Philharmonic Orchestra outreach programme’s recital in Langa.

When you refrain from branching out of these tourist locations, you’re preventing yourself from interacting with as many Capetonians as you can.

On my first trip, I was mostly with my American family, except for a few lunches with my grandfather’s Capetonian friends.

As I prepared for my second trip, I couldn’t recall any Capetonians from my first trip.

But by working with people from here, I am learning more and finding I am more comfortable exploring the city’s surrounds. My social network in Cape Town is also growing by the day.

It is these local friends who have shown me how much fun a braai (not a BBQ) can be and the depth of the live music scene in the city – things I wouldn’t have experienced if I clung to my fellow American tourists.

Willingness to explore is essential in immersing oneself in a foreign place – and working here has made me do this.

You’re not allowed to rely on a tour guide, but forced to be part of the city. - Cape Times

l Kanno-Youngs is a three-month intern at the Cape Times from Boston’s Northeastern University.