Part 2: A New Way of Life

Part 2: A New Way of Life

We follow Daniel’s intern journey at WeFi…

Daniel Garza (20) is the very first recipient of the Nicholas Feinstein Technology Internship Scholarship – awarded annually to one of the University of Northern Colorado’s top business and technology students. 

Daniel touched down in Cape Town at the beginning of June for two months, to work (and learn) alongside the team at our Stellenbosch-based WeFi Innovation Hub. 

In Part 1: From Intern to Innovator, he shared his first impressions of South Africa, what this internship means to him and what he’s hoping to gain from the experience. 

In this latest instalment, it sounds like he’s ‘assimilating’ just fine…

You’ve been in South Africa for a few weeks now. How has the transition been? Have you had a chance to experience any local dishes, customs, traditions?

The transition to temporarily living in South Africa has actually gone quite smoothly. I’ve settled into a routine quickly, and overall, everything has been going great. I’ve been making a conscious effort to explore and experience new things as much as possible. 

I’ve really enjoyed trying out different restaurants around Central Stellenbosch. I’ve had the chance to sample some local dishes, largely thanks to the WeFi team for introducing me to them. For example, I recently tried Milk Tart, which was a delightful dessert. I also experienced a braai – the South African version of a barbecue – this past weekend. I also had the opportunity to try braaibroodjies, which are toasted sandwiches filled with cheese and tomatoes – very tasty. 

How is being mentored by the WeFi Innovation team impacting your work? Can you tell us about a specific piece of guidance you’ve received?

Being mentored by the WeFi Innovation team has been a great help. A lot of what I have been doing has been research and experimenting, but having their input on gauging the feasibility of technologies has been very insightful and has provided me with a clearer direction. 

One specific piece of guidance that stands out was their assistance with the initial template for the project. Starting from scratch can be quite intimidating, but their help in setting up a foundational template made the process much more manageable.

Additionally, they have emphasised the importance of iterative development and continuous feedback. It has reminded me to break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable parts, and to seek feedback regularly.

The mentorship from the WeFi Innovation team has helped me to continue the development of my technical skills, but also my problem-solving and project management abilities. 

Everyone faces challenges when they’re away from home. What would you say has been the biggest hurdle you’ve encountered? On the flip side, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your time in Stellenbosch so far?

I would say that the biggest challenge I have encountered so far being away from home is staying in touch with my family and friends. The significant time difference makes it difficult to plan times to call and catch up, which can be a bit isolating at times. 

On the contrary, the most rewarding aspect of my time so far in Stellenbosch has definitely been the work and the opportunity to expand my experiences. The work with the WeFi Innovation team has been engaging and fulfilling. Beyond work, experiencing a new way of living in South Africa has been eye-opening. It has been fun to switch up my routine compared to living in Colorado and embrace the unique aspects of life here. 

This experience has broadened my perspective and provided me with personal and professional growth that I will carry with me moving forward.

As you approach one month into your internship, is there anything specific you’d like to highlight about your overall experience at the WeFi Innovation Hub? Perhaps a project milestone you’re proud of, or a new skill you’ve mastered?

A project milestone that I would like to highlight would be me and the team deciding on an initial technical implementation for the software application that we are developing. This milestone marks a shift from the research phase to the exciting start of actual development.

In terms of skills, I feel that I have gained some experience in the initial stages of project prototyping and learned a great deal about evaluating technical feasibility.

Where will we find you when you’re not at work? What are some of your outside interests and hobbies?

When I am not at work, you will most likely find me at the gym. I have had a strong passion for powerlifting and bodybuilding for the past seven years. Staying fit and pushing my limits in the gym is something I deeply enjoy.

Recently, I have become fascinated by mathematics, especially complex analysis and discrete math, ever since taking those classes in my previous school semester. Discrete math was one of the best math classes I have taken at UNC because the content was intriguing and the professor was awesome. Complex analysis captivated me because, on the surface, it seems very abstract, but as you delve deeper, you begin to see how it connects with other fields of math in fascinating ways.

Lately, I have also been delving into competitive programming problems on platforms like LeetCode and I have been finding them a lot of fun. They are a great way to make coding a habit and to review less common computer science topics.

I also have been slowly getting into the game of chess as well. It’s a great mental exercise and I enjoy the strategic thinking of the game. In my leisure time, I frequently read manga and watch anime. My favourite anime is One Piece and I have recently finished a manga called The Climber, which was very inspiring.

We’re excited to see what Daniel continues to learn and accomplish during his time at WeFi. Be sure to check back next week for another update.

Follow Daniel’s journey with us on LinkedIn:

Click here for more about the Nicholas Feinstein Technology Internship Scholarship, and read how one honouring one young man’s legacy has led to a life-changing opportunity for another.

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