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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
Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Public Health Internship in South Africa

I recently graduated college with my Bachelor's in Public Health and wanted to get some experience in global health before pursuing my master's degree. I chose Cape Town because, unfortunately, they have. a high prevalence of HIV and I wanted to look at infection control. I was placed with Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and got to learn about the clinical trials the site is doing to combat HIV and provide vaccination. Overall, I learned a lot from my internship site, the country, and the people who I met. My internship showed me that I want to pursue my master's degree in infection control and prevention. It was an amazing experience for me and I am grateful I came out here.

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

My Biotech Internship in Cape Town

I chose Cape Town because my brother Quentin had already gone through VACorps and loved it and had the time of his life. I really enjoyed my internship at the University. I learned numerous valuable lab skills and practices and would recommend interning there to anyone with a STEM major. I was able to grow my scientific background and knowledge, learned numerous lab skills, and how to operate new lab equipment I've never used before. I also learned a lot about the process of research in an open information research group and what needs to be done to follow protocol to ultimately get reliable data to publish.

I loved how much there is to do in Cape Town, from the beaches to the mountains to the city. I learned to be more confident in myself and lean into who I am. I will miss all the people I met down here the most. I stayed for two months, and I would recommend that people stay as long as possible.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come when there's a big group of people because it drastically improves the experience.
Default avatar
Eden
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful Adventure

I chose to do a film and media internship in Cape Town as I was curious to explore Africa and thought it would be a good place to start. I’m interested when it comes to South African media content, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know a different side of the city - the one that foreigners seldom get to see, especially when we filmed outside in locations like Khayelitsha. I’ve learned I can work in a different environment and adapt pretty quickly. Friday’s activities were always different and enjoyable. I’ve stayed for 3 months exactly and I would advise people to stay a minimum of 2 months so they can explore the city and its surrounding areas.

VAC staff were very present and involved in the weekly activities (Mondays and Fridays), and I’ve enjoyed my time with them. I’m definitely grateful for the number of people, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with while I was in the Vacorps program.

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

I will be forever grateful for this program and my time in South Africa

Coming to Cape Town, South Africa has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It is the most diverse and beautiful city with endless things to do and explore. The VACorps program allowed me to establish the most wonderful friendships with like-minded people, that I know will last a lifetime. I will be forever grateful for this program and my time in South Africa, and I am very sad to say goodbye to the VACorps staff and all the other wonderful people I have met during my time here.

What would you improve about this program?
For those doing a medical internship, be aware that the medical system in South Africa is completely different from that in the U.S. You will also not have much guidance on what to do so be outgoing and approach people to ask for things to do.
Default avatar
Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hands on-service learning in the worlds most beautiful city

My major requires me to participate in a minimum of 8 weeks of "international experience". Most students choose to study abroad, but I prefer hands-on and service learning. I chose Cape Town as I wanted to teach and South Africa was one of the only international internships that offered to teach in English. Cape Town had so much to offer- even with COVID restrictions and a lockdown. Everyone was super welcoming and friendly. Although we primarily stuck to "touristy" things, I jumped at every opportunity to learn about the history and the townships, going to visit Kholi and the children at Bathande when I could. Additionally, I was able to learn about the immigrants from Zimbabwe from my internship which added another layer of perspective to the history and hardships within the borders of South Africa. The activities were so fun and the support from VACorps was amazing.

Originally, I was supposed to stay for the full 90 days but had to cut my trip a week short due to university needs and am very sad to leave.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My recommendations to newcomers would be to always take up any offer to explore in Cape Town. Most importantly, learn how to balance your fun with your internship: TIME MANAGEMENT is key- you can still have lots of fun in Cape Town and with everyone else even if you work all day.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 13

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.