Thinking about doing an internship in South Africa? Great idea! South Africa is a beautiful country with lots of different aspects. Every area has its own culture. Looking for a western modern place? Cape Town is the perfect choice! Looking for a more rural, African experience? Then Durban is the place to be! Other places such as Pretoria and Porth Elizabeth are also very popular. A huge advantage of South Africa is that almost everyone speaks English. When you have time to travel before or after your internship, try cage diving (diving with sharks), bungee jumping, safaris, hiking; everything is possible in Africa!
The three most popular industries in South Africa to do an internship in are charities, tourism and hotel management, and marketing.
- Charities: South Africa is still a developing country. The unemployment rate is still high (26%) and the economic problems (caused during the apartheid), poverty and the lack of economic power of less privileged communities are not solved yet. Crime, corruption and aids are major problems that the country is dealing with. It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read (500,000 raped women annually). South Africa has the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world. There are lots of orphanages and shelters for rape and abuse victims. They are always looking for volunteers and interns in this field (psychology, nursing school, medicine students). There are also options to work in the management of an NGO.
- Marketing: For marketing interns there are lots of options since almost every company has a need for marketing. NGO’s are also willing to hire a marketing interns. A big advantage of marketing is the upcoming social media. Knowledge and social media skills are basically always required when applying for a marketing internship.
- Tourism and Hotel management: South Africa becomes more and more popular for travelers. Cape Town attracts most tourists, but since South Africa is providing easy and safe ways to travel around, tourism and hotel management internships are almost everywhere, for example: Krugerpark, Coffee bay, Port Elizabeth and Port St. Jones. You can think of internships such as hotel receptionist, tour guide, diving instructor, but there is also a demand for vet students in lots of game reserves.
When and Where to Look for an Internship
Finding a suitable internship in a foreign country definitely takes some time. The best time to go to South Africa is between November and April. It is recommended to start searching for an internship four to six months before, so you have time to find a suitable place and to make all the arrangements such as accommodation, visa, vaccinations, etc.
There are organizations that can help you find an internship and sometimes support you with finding accommodation. These agencies often charge quite a lot of money, but their services can be very useful. You can find these in every country on the internet or ask for information at your university or travel agency. The internet is always a good source for internships (even social media such as LinkedIn).
Cost of Living in South Africa:
The prices for accommodation vary a lot. When you work for a charity, they often provide accommodation, sometimes for free. Working for a marketing company will obviously be in the city center where you will pay around $300 monthly rent for a room.
Transportation is also an aspect that depends on the job and the environment. In city centers you can use the local taxis which are around $0.50, but this can be unsafe in some areas. In some cities the bus can be an option, same goes for trains. Make sure you are aware of the situation when preparing your internship.
Work Culture in South Africa:
Generally, South Africa is a relaxed culture. It will be very useful when going to South Africa to read something about the South African culture. It is very different from Europe or the United States, and preparing yourself will definitely help you with these cultural differences. South Africans are proud of their country and are warm and hospitable people. It is polite to welcome your colleagues in the morning, and they will always ask you how you are doing that day. A simple ‘good morning’ will brighten up your day. The hierarchy really depends on the company you work for, but mostly they really appreciate the effort and work you’ll put in the company.
The main language is English, so a good understanding of English is required. South Africa has 11 languages, but every school teaches English. There will definitely be a language barrier in the rural areas, but when you are interning there that should not be a problem.
Unfortunately, racism is still present in South Africa. Lots of people who visit the country have experienced this and found it useful to talk about this. This is not really something that you can prepare, but it might help to talk to someone who have already been to South Africa or read blogs about their experiences.
Work and Labor Laws in South Africa
Because of the high number of unemployment, South Africa is very strict on volunteering projects. They want to make sure that no volunteer gets paid, so no jobs will be given to foreigners. If you apply for a visa or an extension, you should have proof that you don’t get paid.