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
Headquarters

5 Howe Street
Loft G7
Observatory
Cape Town
7925
South Africa

Reviews

Kayla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was interested in this program because of the reviews I read. Several people commented that it was a chance to work and travel at the same time in a beautiful environment. My experience met and exceeded my expectations. From the application process, the communication was clear, simple, and helpful. It was clear that the VACorps team was interested in helping me get placed in the best internship for me. When I got to the country, the in-country support was crucial in terms of helping me get settled. Throughout my internship, I loved getting to know my fellow interns and the staff during weekly meet-ups. VACorps gave me the tools to experience Cape Town and helped me do it well.

Mara
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I decided to take a gap year, I was initially wonderfully overwhelmed with the amount of options that the world presented me. With each google search I discovered a new country, new possibility, and new adventure. I battled the decision between a structured program, traveling all around, or living more long term in a foreign place. When I found VAC I was immediately interested. Cape Town has been on my list of top cities to visit for quite a while. Growing up in Manhattan, I’m a city girl through and through and definitely consider that important in places I want to stay, but I love the outdoors and active adventures. All my life I had pretty much accepted the two lifestyles were mutually exclusive, except coming to Cape Town I realized I had found the exception. It provides a bustling city with numerous options, combined with dramatic and beautiful mountains, all bordering the sea. It still blows my mind that such a combination exists. The city has so much depth and culture and is home to a huge variety of people. With VAC’s help, the city is easy to navigate and easy to integrate within. There are activities every week to expose you to different facets of Cape Town living and they are encouraging of branching out and exploring all different neighborhoods and interacting with all different people. I found the transition seamless upon arrival and in no time at all I felt like I had been here forever. My internship provided me a daily routine and a place to stretch myself in a professional environment in a way I have not yet had the opportunity to do. VAC orients you thoroughly to South African culture and provides plenty of prep and knowledge on how to assimilate to whatever job you are doing. There is so much opportunity to meet amazing people and in my three months in Cape Town I have made friends I have no doubt I will keep in touch with long after my departure. The interns that come here through VAC come from all different backgrounds, but share the commonality of all loving Cape Town and seeking new friends. We are all joined easily by VAC activities and our proximity through housing in Observatory. Throughout the duration of my stay here, I struggled to find a single day when there wasn’t something I wanted to do, wether that was a braai at a neighbors house, an outdoor movie, a sunrise hike, a surf day, concerts, road trips, excursions, or just good food and good fun with amazing company. I lost appreciated the accessibility of VAC, whose office is just a short walk away at all times. Quick to respond and ready to help, I found that they put all worries about living in a totally different country at ease and provided all the support one could want. wether it is your first time traveling or you are a veteran, VAC gives you all the tools and options you need and leaves it to you to take what you chose and participate to your desired level, making it an ideal program for any aspiring intern.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Definitely reach out and be friendly because this is one of the warmest and most welcoming work environments I’ve experienced. Despite standing out a lot as a young American girl, everyone I met was so interested in getting to know me and in turn sharing their lifestyle. Also try and experience as many of the different departments as possible because one of my favorite things about the company is how interlocked and collaborative each department is and how they contribute to the mission as a whole.
Matthew
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Along with my journey around the world, I knew I wanted to see more diverse cultures. Coming from New York and traveling to Australia and New Zealand this past year you really get to learn a lot about the different cultures. Cape Town has its up and downs but there's always new places to see and new things to do. My internship was probably my favorite throughout my journey. From working hands-on with editing films or doing graphic design, I can truly secure what I want to do in the future. Moonsport Tv treated me like family and I thank them for that. My internship being so close, there was always time for new activities. Through Vac with the culture series and Friday excursions, you always are treated like family. Not to mention making new life long friends along the way, No matter how long or short your stay is in Cape Town you will always have a different experience. From going on the garden route trip, which I highly recommend, you truly get to experience a new side of the world. From the people here and my roommates, I've learned so much about the different cultures around the world. Everyone has a different story and it makes you want to help those who need it. In the end, this is Definity an opportunity you should take in life.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future interns is, always be ready to work. Be open to new ideas and techniques. Every day is a new day. Moonsport staff is very open and treats you like family not to mention you get lunch every day. That's unbeatable including the location. Hence all this be prepared and on time every day and show maximum effort.
Alice
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent five weeks in Cape Town but I would recommend six weeks to take into account the first-week being orientation week. I would have enjoyed one more week at my internship site.

I found the staff to be very supportive and friendly and quick to respond to any question or worries.

I enjoyed living in Obz, as its only small I got familiar with it quickly and there was plenty of choice of breakfast places and cafes for coffee and a variety of places to eat in the evening.
I loved that I was able to meet people who wanted to explore and try different activities whether that be hiking or going to a yoga class and even the bungee jump.

In my five weeks, I did see a lot and I did cram quite a few activities in that time, so my tip would be budget wisely and take more than you think you will need even if it is for a shorter time than you go.

I loved how many different markets there were and people making and selling some really delicious food that catered for vegetarians and vegans so much good choice.

My internship was eye-opening listening to the stories of the girls I worked with, they showed so much strength and resilience to some of the challenges they face and I wish them well. I could see the benefit and necessity of the work my internship site was doing

Siena
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have loved my time in Cape Town! I chose Cape Town as a place to intern abroad so I can learn more about policy and social issues in South Africa. I have loved working at PMG and learning about how government works in South Africa. I loved my internship placement, working with other interns, and my co-workers. I learned that I am much more capable and independent than I thought. This internship and work experience is one that I am very proud of, and I look forward to applying these skills to my work and school at home.

I am going to miss the people most! I have enjoyed time with my roommates, other VAC program interns, my co-workers, and the VAC staff! I will miss the wonderful people I have met in Cape Town the most. I spent 10 weeks at my internship, and I recommend a 10-week stay. That is enough time to get acclimated to Cape Town and your internship site. I am most grateful fort he weekly activities and support from the VAC staff.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be open-minded and approachable! This internship is much more fun when you ask questions and have conversations with your co-workers. It can be very intimidating writing reports and going to Parliament, but you get the hang of it quickly. Everyone in the office and in Parliament is very friendly. Ask questions often, and always look to learn something new. You are greatly supported in the PMG office, and people care about your experience in the internship site and in Cape Town.

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Alumni Interviews

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

Lachlan O'Neill

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?

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!

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.