What inspired me to go abroad was the need for new experiences and to challenge myself a bit. I have wanted to travel abroad for some time and chose to go to my number one choice for several years now. Going abroad meant new challenges, new people, and a new place to learn from. Making the choice to travel abroad by myself was an easy decision and definitely one that I will never forget.
Why did you choose VACorps?
I actually found out about them by searching on Google. I chose them because of all that they offer an intern while traveling abroad. They have weekly VACtivities to explore, do new activities, and mingle with new people. Their program offered me exactly what I was looking for as far as my place to stay, internship site, and duties for my internship. The staff was extremely helpful and gracious at every step during my journey.
What was your favorite part about Cape Town?
It is difficult to pick my favorite part about it, because the Mother City has so much to offer. The hiking is out of this world, on mountains like Devil's Peak, Lion's Head, and Table Mountain. The trip up and down is like no other and the views from the top definitely make it all worthwhile. My shark cage diving experience was a dream come true, since I have wanted to swim with them since I was a little girl. The food and wine selection anywhere you go is abundant and rich. The people you meet there are from all over the world, and the Capetonians themselves are so full of life and you can really learn a lot from them. The animals you see there include all of the Big 5 and so many more, and you get up close opportunities that one can only dream of.
What made your experience abroad unique?
I believe what made my experience unique is that I knew that at that point in time I would never be the same when I returned home. I knew that the person I was upon arrival would evolve over my time here.
The opportunities with the people, places, and experiences was extraordinary and amazing.
My internship taught me so much in such a small amount of time and I knew that I could not get that kind of experience anywhere else. The people I met there were very hospitable and open to me from the beginning to the end; they helped shape my experiences and added life to my journey.
How did the local VACorps staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff greatly helped me throughout the program from the very beginning. Even when I was just a perspective traveler they were supportive, and the same goes for now that I am back in the States. If I ever had any questions or concerns they were just a phone call, text, or walk away from me. They were knowledgeable about the area and had recommendations and advice when it was needed. I feel grateful that they were so kind and welcoming to me throughout the entire program.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I would not have wanted to do anything differently while I was out there. All the experiences that I encountered helped shape my journey and the things that I felt. I am so glad that I kept an open mind through it all and when an opportunity came up for anything I jumped at the chance.
I do, however, wish that I had stayed longer. The city and the people are to die for and I would have absolutely loved to be a part of it all for much longer. It is no wonder why some people do not ever leave after coming to South Africa!
Describe a typical day in the life of your internship.
My typical week day would be getting up and getting ready and taking an eight minute walk to my shuttle to work. The shuttle was usually 30 minutes to one hour as we dropped off several others along the way.
At my internship I would work side by side with my mentor in occupational therapy. We would aid others in their needs, whatever they may be. I also got to work in the emergency room, trauma unit, vaccinations clinic, and maternity ward. I always left feeling happy and accomplished at how my day had gone.
Back at home I would eat lunch and rejoin with my fellow housemates or friends once they got off of work. We would do a different activity each day and relish in the environment. We would dine out for dinner most of the time and enjoy each others company and the awesome food.
On a typical weekend day it was really time to explore the land, the people, and all that there was to offer. We did countless activities, such as hiking, going to the beach, going on a safari, taking in the history of the town, and much more.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I would try to do as much as I possibly could. The city offers so much and I just wanted to dabble in all of it. I loved spending time with the animals of the land, hiking the serene mountains, and going on adventures. I greatly enjoyed going outside my comfort zone and testing my limits; this would include things like shark cage diving, bungee jumping from the world's tallest bridge, and getting to personally know the elephants, cheetahs, penguins, rhinos, zebras, and many, many more.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
My accommodation was different from what I am used to and I loved that. I wanted a whole new experience and to live like someone who is from there. Living a simpler life was a nice change from the norm. I lived in a loft that I shared with six other people that became my closest friends and those I shared my journey with. I am glad that the majority of my housemates with me had been there for months before me so they could help guide me, and they were super supportive.
The loft itself had a room for each person and two bathrooms to be used by everyone. There was a kitchen and dining area that fit us all, as well as a loft area that was used as a sitting room so we could all talk about our days, experiences, and lives. The loft had a gate around it which did make me feel safe, especially at night.
What is one thing every participant should know before interning in South Africa?
Before starting the program, one should know that they are about to embark on the best time of their lives. I cannot say just how amazing my experience was and could not have ever dreamed that I would get that lucky. Just know that you need to be open about experiences, people, and what the town has to offer.
Try anything and everything that you can because it all builds up to your own unique experience.
I would research the area beforehand, as well as the customs, currency exchange rates, local places of interest, weather, and what to pack for that time of the year.
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
Now that I am home, I deeply miss my other home in Cape Town. My definition of a home is not just a place anymore, but a feeling. The life that I lived there was full of excitement, happiness, and once in a lifetime adventures. The people that I knew there felt like family, and I will never forget a single second of it.
My time abroad has impacted my life greatly and I am a changed person because of it. It gave me new perspectives on life, made me think outside of the norm, and see just how much I love my life. I woke up every single day in Africa happily, and I realized that I want the same thing every single day back at home. Every single person deserves a life to which they love and can spread joy and help others.
As of right now, I am in a new position for my career that gets me closer to my field of interest and I believe that my time there has helped me out incredibly. My time abroad has really humbled me in many ways, and the love and joy that I witnessed and experienced is now back home within me still.
Would you recommend VACorps to others? Why?
I would highly recommend VACorps to anyone who wants to have a life changing experience. The staff went above and beyond my expectations and helped me at every stage. The land is something that cannot be expressed by words, but only actually experiencing it yourself. The people there live more simply, some by choice and some by circumstance, but all are just as equally happy with what they have.
The opportunities are really endless and are fulfilling to your eyes, heart, and mind. My wildest dreams came true and I could not be more content with my whole experience. Wanderlust has consumed me and I have been bitten by the travel bug!
Andrea is a 24 year old from Crown Point, Indiana. She graduated from Purdue University Calumet with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but she is currently applying to graduate school to study occupational therapy. Andrea previously worked at Subway for more than seven years, though she now works as a medical assistant for a pain management clinic. Her travels have brought her to many states in the United States, Mexico, and most recently, South Africa.