VACorps

VACorps

About

The VACorps internship program creates tailored placements in Cape Town, South Africa. We consistently receive rave reviews from program participants, parents and university administrators alike because we devote all our energy to one purpose -- helping you have a personally and professionally rewarding internship experience in Cape Town.

As a participant of our program, you will join a community that feels like a family. When you arrive in South Africa, we make it incredibly easy for you to adjust to life in Cape Town and call this city your home. From your very first day in the country, we will guide you through a comprehensive orientation that ensures you will take full advantage of every moment in South Africa. You will immediately be networked with other participants so that you have a peer group to relate with as you quickly adapt to life in a new city you'll soon be calling home.

Website
www.vacorps.com
Founded
2006

Reviews

Default avatar
Teddy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This trip was the best time of my life. I have made so many memories and experienced so many things that will stay with me for the rest of my life, including skydiving, bungee jumping, Cederberg camping weekend, and my Kruger safari trip. I met incredible people along the way who have impacted my life and changed me far more than I ever thought possible. I have learned so many things and definitely look at life differently as a result of this experience. My internship was amazing and I know the skills and knowledge that I have gained from it will benefit a lot me later in life. Cape Town is an amazing place and I will definitely be coming back here in the future and would maybe like to live here one day. Thank you so, such a VACorps team -it wouldn't have been possible without you!!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Just be yourself and have fun. Don't work too hard because you don't need to.
Default avatar
Atabong
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Internship was perfect. I had the opportunity to work with one of the top legal minds in Cape Town and had an invaluable learning/ practical experience during my time here. It was a pleasure working with genuinely good people, and the support from the VACorps staff was exceptional. Also, the cultural activities we attended on Mondays were wonderful and very informative and Friday activities were the perfect way to start the weekend. I made so many new friends and the only regret I have was that I couldn't prolong my stay.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make the most of the time you have as it passes very quickly. Plan your weekend activities and optimize your time free time as there is so much to do. Make sure you attend the weekly VACorps activities as they are worthwhile and lots of fun and a great way to connect to other program participants. Put your trust in VACorps and its staff, as they genuinely care about your experience.
Default avatar
Gabrielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I chose Cape Town because it was one of the few cities that was open to American travelers at the time. I also have friends at home who were born in Cape Town and whose parents were raised there and they definitely encouraged me to go. I wanted to do an internship because I wanted to get a sense of the real world before studying it in earnest at University next year. It is hard to know what you really want to do career-wise without having any or much exposure to it. In other words, something may seem cool in theory but once you actually get there and start working in that field it may not be what you had imagined. VAC gave me the opportunity to explore my interests in hospitality before deciding that it is what I want to study in college and pursue long-term.

During my time in Cape Town, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. The idea of college terrified me because of all the independence and having to figure out how to balance schoolwork with a social life and making friends with living my life and partaking in all the crazy adventures this world has to offer. It all just felt like so much to take on, but VAC gave me the opportunity to figure it out in a low-stakes environment. Yes, I was working in a professional workplace and needed to complete what was expected of me, but the mistakes I made there are not going to follow me the same way they may in college.

What I loved most about living in Cape Town was definitely the accessibility to so much. You are living right between a city, ocean, and mountains. There is just so much that you can do in Cape Town. I also enjoyed living alone with other people my age and learning together how to do it all. I will miss the energy that the gap students brought to the group. Someone always wanted to do something, so I was never bored or out of ideas of things to do. I stayed for three months and that time flew by quicker than expected. The VAC staff are nothing but incredible. I am most grateful for how they treat their program participants. They truly look at us like adults and not kids so they give us a ton of freedom but are also always there for support when needed. As a gap student, I feel that it was really up to me how involved I wanted to be with the VAC staff which I appreciate a lot. There were never any mandatory checkups or anything like that which made the environment more welcoming to stop by and say hello.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I was in the first group of gap students to arrive so I did not miss out on anything in terms of the group dynamic which I think is huge and definitely something I would suggest to other people looking at the program –– choose the earlier start option.
Default avatar
Gabrielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I chose Cape Town because it was one of the few cities that was open to American travelers at the time. I also have friends at home who were born in Cape Town and whose parents were raised there and they definitely encouraged me to go. I wanted to do an internship because I wanted to get a sense of the real world before studying it in earnest at University next year. It is hard to know what you really want to do career-wise without having any or much exposure to it. In other words, something may seem cool in theory but once you actually get there and start working in that field it may not be what you had imagined. VAC gave me the opportunity to explore my interests in hospitality before deciding that it is what I want to study in college and pursue long-term.

During my time in Cape Town, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. The idea of college terrified me because of all the independence and having to figure out how to balance schoolwork with a social life and making friends with living my life and partaking in all the crazy adventures this world has to offer. It all just felt like so much to take on, but VAC gave me the opportunity to figure it out in a low-stakes environment. Yes, I was working in a professional workplace and needed to complete what was expected of me, but the mistakes I made there are not going to follow me the same way they may in college.

What I loved most about living in Cape Town was definitely the accessibility to so much. You are living right between a city, ocean, and mountains. There is just so much that you can do in Cape Town. I also enjoyed living alone with other people my age and learning together how to do it all. I will miss the energy that the gap students brought to the group. Someone always wanted to do something, so I was never bored or out of ideas of things to do. I stayed for three months and that time flew by quicker than expected. The VAC staff are nothing but incredible. I am most grateful for how they treat their program participants. They truly look at us like adults and not kids so they give us a ton of freedom but are also always there for support when needed. As a gap student, I feel that it was really up to me how involved I wanted to be with the VAC staff which I appreciate a lot. There were never any mandatory checkups or anything like that which made the environment more welcoming to stop by and say hello.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I was in the first group of gap students to arrive so I did not miss out on anything in terms of the group dynamic which I think is huge and definitely something I would suggest to other people looking at the program to choose the earlier start option. The only bummer about the trip is seeing your friends leave and then having an empty void where they used to be. Because we all come and go at different times, this was challenging. It is also hard to be at home and seeing all the fun things everyone is still doing there. I think 2.5-3 months is the most ideal amount of time because I feel like I did everything without becoming bored and ready to move on.
Default avatar
Katherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I chose this internship because I was excited at the prospect of engaging with a human rights program in South Africa. I wanted to learn more about South African culture, as well as develop the skills necessary to succeed working with an organization in another country. From this experience, I learned a lot not only from my check-ins with my internship supervisor but also from my country hosts. Their flexibility and understanding helped me to still learn and engage with the culture, even though my work schedule interfered with the biweekly cultural series meetings. I am very thankful for all of those who provided me with support through this program so I could gain the most from this opportunity.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Set aside a certain amount of time each day that you focus on just the work for this internship. It can be difficult to maintain a balance while going to school and doing this work, but it's worth it if you steadily progress.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 18

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Lachlan O'Neill

Lachlan O'Neill

Why did you choose this program?

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.

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.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Athena Lamberis

Athena has lived, worked and studied in over twelve countries around the world before graduating from Michigan State University in 2005. She loves diving into cross-cultural experiences, language learning and documenting beauty and creativity around every corner. Cape Town has been home since 2008, where her love for experiential education, natural spaces and the search for the next tasty meal collide.

Having been a semester abroad student in South Africa herself, she adds her own personal knowledge and enthusiasm for those ready to embark on their own learning adventure abroad!
Athena Lamberis - Education International

What is your favorite travel memory?

One of my favorite travel memories was being in Athens during the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The city was pumping with so much energy from around the world. A casual stroll down the road felt like a global carnival. I passed by a corner where there was a scene of Brazilians were playing capoeira, while a band of Ugandan drummers danced past the group of Japanese fans cheering about a victory, all on my way to watch the sunset behind the Parthenon with friends from Mexico, Turkey, and Australia.

It was one of the most joyful cross-cultural experiences I have experienced in addition to celebrating solidarity and amazing human endeavors!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Although I had lived in South Africa for 6 years prior to working with VACorps, the work and relationships I have been able to form these past 4 years have granted me a more in-depth exposure to different South African realities.

I have grown in compassion, become a better listener, and am more engaged in learning more about current issues that motivate leaders to make innovative business or organizational choices and create positive social change.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I often receive the 'wish I was still there' emails and enjoy viewing the video collages students tend to make and share across their social media channels. The best stories for me, though, are the students that integrate their experience abroad directly into their lives. This has ranged from a legal intern student going onto working in the UN, a communications student producing their own local show, and a social work graduate who went on to initiate their own community project.

No matter what field of study the students are engaged with: it's always amazing to hear about how everyone's perspective abroad directly impacts the choices they make.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

This changes from week to week. Why? Because I am someone who is typically extremely inspired by passionate people and so many organizations and businesses in Cape Town have dynamic teams that motivate people to get involved!

The changing socio-political landscape of Cape Town makes diving into social justice advocacy programs important, but joining a start-up business incubator is also exhilarating. There are times I am inspired to assist in social work or counseling programs or even help produce digital media for youth development or sustainable community food gardens. I am always intrigued by environmental education and conservation programs because being surrounded by Cape Town's amazing biodiversity is like nowhere else in the world. Because I love learning more about languages and cultures, there is always something to contribute to that supports refugee and asylum-seeking communities and overall social cohesion in Cape Town.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Everyone involved with VACorps has a genuine interest in education and connecting students to exciting and engaging learning experiences. I have had the privilege to meet and get to know local leaders in a variety of fields who lead and manage operations that aim for positive social impact and innovations. I am proud that we support their initiatives, attend their events and think of creative ways for students to assist in achieving their vision for the greater good.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The work we do is purposeful, and this drives the company to make positive decisions, additions, and adaptations to our program offerings. I believe this ability to reflect, improve and evolve as a team creates success and enhances the entrepreneurial spirit of a company. We depend on each other to bring positive and meaningful passion into our work and this, in return, is appreciated by each student that joins the program.