I knew I wanted to travel and take a break after University, but I needed something that I could still put down on my CV. After looking at a couple of different options, I discovered VA Corps, which offered the perfect fit to my situation. Their programs were individually tailored to meet everyone's individual expectations for their experience in Cape Town. This was a major factor in my decision to undertake this program. The other factor of course being Cape Town's natural beauty and the opportunity to experience a new and different cultural outlook on life.
Lachlan is a graduate from Griffith University in Australia. After spending five years at university and graduating with two degrees, he undertook a three month internship with VA Corps in Cape Town, South Africa.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I will admit that initially the thought of traveling solo so far away to a completely new country for me was a bit intimidating. This feeling soon vanished as VA Corps was able to provide all the information I was looking for. Their online guide has a wealth of knowledge to answer all your questions, from information about immigration and flights to helpful hints about overcoming any initial culture shock you may experience. Their help in organizing not only housing but also finding your individual internship site means there is little for you to organize on your own.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
You need to enter this program with an open mind, willing to try new things, foods and experiences. I'm aware that this can be intimidating for some people, but VA Corps provide 24 hour support during your time in the program so there is little for you to worry about. So put yourself in new situations, eat new food and meet lots of new people. You are only in Cape Town for a short period of time; you need to make the most of it. If you don't, not only am I sure you'll regret it, but you'll probably also feel that you didn't get much out of the program. Don't be that person: be open to new experiences, put yourself out there and enjoy yourself.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Everyone's individual day is completely different; you might get up at 6 in the morning and spend the whole day learning at a clinic. On the other hand, you could get up at 9 and walk down to a coffee shop. Open your laptop and work on a case file till after lunch, then go for a hike. Everyone's day is different but everyone gets out what they put in.
Two of the large benefits of VA Corps program is that on every Monday evening you have the opportunity to attend a session where you learn about different aspects of South African culture. This could be a tradition food tasting, guest speaker on some of the struggle experienced in South Africa, a session about the different languages spoken or many other differing things.
The other major benefit of the program is that every Friday you have the opportunity to experience different activity with the group. Activities like wine tastings, trips to the Cape of Good Hope or seeing Penguins and Cheetahs. All of this means that week will be busy and enjoyable.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
One of the big fears before the experience is the worry that you're not going to fit in, that you're going to feel out of place and uncomfortable. I can tell you from my personal experience that this won't happen. You're going to be surrounded by lots of different people, from different countries all doing the same as you. You will fit in and you will become very good friends with many of these people. Cape Town itself can seem like an intimidating place but I can tell you that, after a week or two, it really isn't. If you use for common sense, you will feel comfortable very easily. It's a lovely place filled with many lovely people and you will get to see that.
What was your favorite experience during your time abroad?
I honestly have too many to choose from and they are all amazing in their own way. Experiences like getting to walk around Robben island and getting to see Nelson Mandela's cell were incredibly special. At the same time, even small things like talking with people who grew up under Apartheid is something that is going to stay with me for ever. On top of this, walking with Elephants and bungee jumping off a 216 meter tall bridge are things that I never thought I would do, as well as the 6 or 7 times I hiked Table Mountain.
Simply put, there are too many things to chose from. The main thing, though, is that I loved my time in Cape Town and would do it again in a heart beat.