So you’re looking for some quality, real world experience? An internship is definitely a great place to start if you’re a current student or a recent grad. But an internship abroad? In South Africa?
Um, yes! Johannesburg is the one of the largest cities in sub-Saharan Africa and offers an immense experience filled with culture, history, and modernity in a way that you wouldn’t ever be able to find in a US or European city.
South Africa is a country with a rich history and many internships revolve around this. Internships in human rights and community development are always popular and usually focus on the aftermath of the apartheid and structural poverty.
If that doesn’t peak your interest, there’s always wildlife conservatism or eco-tourism. South Africa is home to lots of different wildlife and they are a huge part of the South African tourism industry. If lions and giraffes are more your thing, you’ll have some luck there.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Look
Internships are typically open year round, but you’ll most likely have the best luck with finding internships that begin around the same time as the semester. In any case, you want to be sure to leave yourself enough time to apply for a passport (if you haven’t already done this) and apply for your visa. A passport application can take up to two to six weeks and visas can take anywhere from one to three months.
There’s many ways to go about finding internships in South Africa. If you know specifically what you want to do, your best bet is to find like-minded organizations and contact them directly. Ask them if they have any internships available and be ready to send your resume or C.V. You should also expect to contact at least a dozen or so organizations. The study abroad office at your university will most likely have some resources for you, too!
Projects Abroad gives a good overview of what is available in South Africa and can give you lots of ideas to start thinking about. World Internships gives you the awesome option of building your own internship, which is definitely worth checking out! You can also check out websites like Puff and Pass Internships and Career Jet.
Cost of Living
Most internships are unpaid, so you’ll want to be sure you have enough money saved up to support you throughout your internship. Be sure to factor in rent and utilities (which can range anywhere from $500 to $1,500 a month), food, and leisurely activities. Remember, there’s always free things to do if you know where to look!
Depending on the type of internship that you’re looking at, there will be different standards of etiquette to follow. But as a standard: if you’re invited to a home meeting, be sure to bring a small gift, be trustworthy as this is crucial for making relationships, and be respectful to all elders! You can check out more on USA Today's travel tips and Just Landed. If you’re interested in more specific etiquette relating to your job, ask you supervisors in your first meeting (preferably not over e-mail or mail).
This one is interesting. Did you know that South Africa has eleven official languages? Afrikaans is one of the most widely spoken (and closely resembles Dutch!) but there’s also Sotho (Northern and Southern), Ndebele, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.
No need to worry though, English is one of them! English is the language of administration and most people speak it. (Keep in mind, though, that it will probably be slightly different from American English. South Africa was a British colony, so get ready to see some alternate spellings of favor and color.) It would also be a good idea to start familiarizing yourself with the idea that you will be hearing other languages quite frequently as well.
Of course, networking is crucial if you want your internship to be meaningful and long-lasting. Be respectful to your coworkers and supervisors and do your best to form foundational, trustworthy relationships with them. You may want to consider asking for a letter of recommendation before leaving as well!
Work and Labor Laws
As an intern, you (hopefully) won’t ever need to look into labor laws, but if you’re concerned about the environment or type of laws that are there to protect you, you can read up about South Africa’s labor laws.