Alumni Spotlight: Jackie Berger


Jackie is a student at the University of Michigan studying Political Science and History. She spent 12 weeks in Cape Town with an internship in Journalism at Cape Town TV.

Why did you choose this program?

I knew that I wanted to spend the summer abroad and that I also needed to gain some internship experience for my resumé. I started by looking up various programs that pair students with internships abroad. While I was trying to decide where in the world I wanted to spend my summer, I came across VACorps.

What first intrigued me about this program was the wide variety of internships they provide to students. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a Journalism or a Law internship, but I saw that this program offered both types of internships, and I decided I should apply and then later figure out specifically what I would like.

I also fell in love with the idea of spending my summer in Cape Town. It seemed like such a gorgeous place that can truly provide something for everyone between its relaxing beaches, daring mountains, and breathtaking wildlife. After researching about Cape Town and looking more in depth at all that is offered through the VACorps Program, I knew that this was the perfect program for me.

The VACorps staff was extremely helpful in my preparation pre-departure. Any questions I had were always answered quickly. The excellent communication that was established before I left America reinforced my decision on spending my summer with an internship through VAC.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The staff at VAC was constantly helping me and my friends throughout our entire time in Cape Town. They helped me with organizing the internship and escorted me to my first meeting with my boss in order to go over the expectations of the internship and ensure that I had everything I would need.

Outside of work, the staff was extremely helpful in giving advice on places and tourist attractions to visit after work and on weekends. They also offered many special deals on certain activities such as scuba diving and shark cage diving, and they helped make arrangements for those activities. Had it not been for the support of the VAC staff, I doubt if my experience in Cape Town would have been as enjoyable as it was.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

To anyone looking at this program, my advice would be to keep an open mind about everything. Say yes to every opportunity (within reason of course) that comes your way.

At times you may feel pushed out of your comfort zone, but those are the moments that you will remember most. It's often the spontaneous, impromptu decisions (like a last-minute decision to go sky diving) that truly adds to the story.

Also take advantage of all that VAC has to offer. The weekly excursions helped me create some of the best memories and allowed me to meet and socialize with the other interns on the program. It truly helped me with creating friendships that will last past my time in South Africa.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

My program was extremely unique as my Journalism internship provided me with an opportunity to go all over Cape Town to cover stories. No day was exactly the same.

Typically, I would arrive at work at about 9, sometimes earlier if there was an early morning shoot scheduled. For the first hour or two hours, my coworkers and I would look up news stories and events happening around Cape Town. Then we would drive out by mid-morning to cover the events and news stories.

The afternoons were usually more relaxed with just uploading the footage in the office and editing the clips into 3-minute news packages to broadcast later in the evening. I would be done any time between 3 to 5 depending on the nature of the shoot and how long the editing process took.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Being on my own in a foreign country extremely far away from any relatives seemed very scary at first. The VAC orientation the first week of my arrival, however, was really helpful in making me feel cared for and supported. It also helped me make friends with the other new interns in my orientation group who were in the same boat. I never felt completely on my own in Cape Town between the supportive staff and the amazing friends I made through this program.

What was the most memorable experience of your program?

Roughly four times a year, VAC offers an optional trip to Mozambique and Kruger National Park for an additional cost. I was able to attend this trip six weeks into my time in Cape Town, and it was hands down the best experience of my life!

My highlight had to be going scuba diving in the Indian Ocean while we were in Mozambique. There was one point on the dive where this giant sea turtle, that was literally the size of myself, swam right past me. It was absolutely incredible! I highly suggest that anyone doing VAC looks into the scuba course offered through the program and goes on the Mozambique-Kruger trip. It was the greatest two weeks of my life!