Why did you choose this program?
I fell in love with South Africa on my 9th grade spring break trip to Johannesburg with my high school. After that experience, I knew I always wanted to come back. So when I took a gap year, I knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to travel to Cape Town. After doing some research online and speaking to past VaCorps alumni, it seemed like the perfect fit for me: an informative and immersive internship experience supplemented with the freedom to explore Cape Town's beauty and endless adventure.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
VaCorps was proactive in matching me with an internship placement. I filled out an in depth questionnaire about my interests and the placement advisors then provided potential matches and organized interviews to find the best fit. I eventually decided to intern at Bush Radio and loved every minute of it.
When I first arrived in Cape Town, VaCorps organized a 2 week orientation which included a weekend trip on the Garden Route, an in depth safety presentation, and various activities to better understand South African culture and bond with other gappers before starting our internships.
VaCorps also provided weekly Friday activities which were a great way to not only relax after a long week and prepare for the weekend but also explore more of Cape Town with friends. My favorite activities were sailing in the V&A waterfront, seeing penguins in Simonstown, and hiking the Boomslang caves.
Outside of work hours and the Friday VAC activities, it was up to us to decide how we wanted to spend our free time. From beach days, to hiking Table Mountain, or day trips to the Stellenbosch wine estates, there really is no shortage of adventure.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Be open to new opportunities!
During my gap year, I prioritized doing things outside of my comfort zone. You really never know where it may lead you: a new friendship, a new hobby, or a lifelong memory. Cape Town is full of surprises and things to do so just go out and explore and I promise you won't ever want to leave!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Morning: Working at internship site
Afternoon/Evenings: Go to the gym, going out to dinner, checking out different neighborhoods in Cape Town, beach for sunset
Friday and Weekends:
Friday afternoon VAC activities, going out with friends, beach days, surfing, hikes, food markets, weekend day trips outside of the city, special events (festivals, food halls, etc...)
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I had traveled quite a bit growing up but nothing compared to my experience in Cape Town. This was the first time living alone over 7000 miles from home and with a 7 hour time difference. The fear of uncertainty terrified me. I didn't know what to expect at all and came knowing no one. Once I got to Cape Town, however, I immediately found that sense of community amongst my friends and with my co-workers at Bush Radio. My best advice is to find those people that bring out the best in you and those you can express your authentic self around. Explore new places that excite you and incorporate daily habits from home in your daily routine when abroad. Within a couple weeks, Cape Town truly started to feel like my home away from home and I cried when I left. Once I stopped letting my fear of uncertainty consume me, I was excited when new experiences and opportunities were presented and could live freely in the present moment.
Share your favorite story from this program.
One weekend, my friends and I decided to tackle Table Mountain, one of the seven wonders of the natural world and the most challenging hike we'd done so far. Less than 1 hour into our 6 hour hike, I felt my body giving up on me. I kept telling myself that it was too challenging and that I was never going to make it. I was so tempted to just head back and grab some lunch by the beach. But I had to finish what I had started and snap out of this mindset, considering I still had 5 hours left. It was in this moment, sitting on top of a rock overlooking the nature below, when I reminded myself of the promise I made to myself: that I'd do things outside of my comfort zone that scare me and make me doubt myself. I learned that my mind often gives up before my body does and the moment I felt like giving up was the moment I had to revisit why I was here and keep pushing. After this change in mindset, I embraced the present moment and cheered myself on even when I wanted to give up. I was doing this for me and no one else. The sense of accomplishment I felt when I reached the peak, overlooking panoramic views of the city below, was indescribable.