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Public Health and Pre-Medical Internships in Cape Town
VACorps participants VACorps participants

Public Health and Pre-Medical Internships in Cape Town

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Internship Placement

    10

Michelle's Cape Town reflection

I chose Cape Town in kind of a rush of drama as my previous plans for my public health practicum fell through and I desperately needed something else I could do. Through my roommate Alyssa I found VAC and was able to get placed with Health Systems Trust to satisfy that requirement. I have said all summer/winter that I hit the absolute jackpot with HST as an internship. They have been the most supportive people at the best possible site, and they go above and beyond to make sure I learn and have an educational experience. I've never worked somewhere with a better culture than HST.

They sent me to Eastern Cape for data collection for 4 days not because they really needed another person there, but because they knew it would be an educational experience for me and they wanted me to see more of South Africa than Cape Town. They have really given me a large amount of freedom of work, letting me choose projects I'm interested in and work on them - I got to do lots of cool work in data analysis and also in reproductive health. I'm going to be very sad to leave HST and all the amazing people I've worked with there.

I loved living in Obs and the amazing friends I made here - Having a community to go on adventures with makes everything so much better. I thought about not living in Obs and instead living closer to work, but I'm so glad I decided to stay in Obs. I like my current house at Freeland Lodge very much - I'm actually glad Rent-A-Room was full because Freeland Lodge was a MUCH better deal for me. It was almost half the price and included wifi and electricity, with the only catch being that I share a room, which I really didn't mind at all.

I plan to recommend this program to others for sure! Especially those I know are actually interested in learning about another culture. I stayed for 2 months which was about the perfect amount, I think, because on the one hand I'm starting to really miss home, but on the other hand I'm still going to be heartbroken to leave. South African culture is so rich and beautiful and it's going to be really hard to leave. I am considering UCT for my PhD work, now!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

See you just now Cape Town

The reason I chose Cape Town as a place for my internship was due in part to influence from Jan Brooks and because of the great program it offered me. On top of getting to finish my school year out in South Africa, I was able to do a medical internship with Dr. Jawaya Shea. I got to see the healthcare field from South Africa's perspective and work with amazing healthcare professionals and graduate students.

The thing I loved most about interning here was all the people I got to meet. I am so lucky that I was able to meet tremendous and high achieving individuals from around the world and call them my friends. Interning here has opened my eyes to so many more possibilities and let me see how big and small the world is all at the same time. It's big in the sense that there is still so much to learn and discover everyday, but small because people across the world aren't that much different from me. We all enjoy the same music, ridiculous jokes, and quirky sarcasm.

On top of all the amazing friends and people I got to meet, the sheer amount of beauty and activities here blew my mind. I loved being able to come back from work and go hiking or go to the beach or walk along the Waterfront. Personally, I believe that I've become a lot more open minded through my internship experience here. I have learned to appreciate and seek cultural differences when I meet someone. Talking and engaging with people different from me has helped me thrive and grow as a person.

Professionally, I have learned to better engage with my peers and superiors. Working in the hospital has solidified my passion and dream of being a healthcare professional. One specific highlight I remember from my site was when I soothed a baby that had been crying for hours in the ward. Her mother wasn't there and the nurses were busy and so this poor baby was neglected. All I had to do was pick her up and tell her she was loved and you could see the biggest smile spread across her face. I would recommend this program to others because it honestly is an amazing opportunity to discover yourself.

Being here, I have been pushed outside my comfort zone and thrown into a life of adventure and craziness. It has helped me learn so much about myself and given me a new sense of bravery and desire to push myself further and further.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Comprehensive and rewarding medical internship in South Africa

The VACorps program is really the main reason that I chose Cape Town. They allowed me to independently plan my own program without needing to go through my own university. South Africa was a place I had never visited before and the thought was exciting and way outside of my normal realm of travel. I had also heard so much about how beautiful Cape Town was and I wanted to see and experience that for myself!

I really loved the freedom I had at my internship site. As uncomfortable and daunting it was in the beginning, once I adjusted and gained confidence, I moved from one specialty to another and later was able to practice my skills. Getting to know and learn from all the doctors and nurses allowed me to gain confidence in my caretaking abilities as a future medical professional in the States.

This trip challenged me on personal and professional levels. Personally, I had situations where I had to reevaluate my attitude towards a situation and being an adult on my own in a foreign country for the first time. I thought I had grown as an adult in college (which I have) but this was a whole different experience. Professionally, it was very interesting to see the differences between the South African health care system with the urgency and organization as compared to the United States. The Doctor’s bedside manner was also very different because of the locals general lack of knowledge and health literacy. I became very observant to patient’s reactions and physical cues in regards to pain, which was quite helpful with the language barrier (most patients speke Xhosa).

I really saw it all during my time at the clinic. I witnessed victims of community assaults (probably shocked me the most), to casting children’s broken bones, stab wounds, chest tubes, births, and more. I loved how much I was able to see and learn in such a short amount of time and reflecting on it all I think of so many faces and stories.

I was happy I stayed in the program for 6-weeks. I was able to get adjusted and learn a lot and by the time I was getting home sick and realizing all my responsibilities I had back home in the States, it was time to go. I did like being able to meet so many people from across the world in Rent-a-Room houses while here.

I would recommend this program to someone else just for the growth. I grew as an adult and as a professional in the field I’m interested in. I fell even more in love with another country/culture and with the health care field. What I’ve learned about myself and medicine has been priceless. My cousin just so happens to be following in my footsteps nest summer and I would recommend that YOU consider doing so too! You won't regret it!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Work Environment

    8

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Nursing internship in Cape Town

When I was researching different countries to go to, I was really drawn to the review left by a former VACorps intern who had done a nursing internship in Cape Town. At the time, I was really confused as to what my next career choice was going to be so reading about the former intern's experience made me realize I'd appreciate this experience as a way to help me find my own path! Also, Cape Town seemed so far from home and I thought this would be an incredible adventure so I decided on Cape Town to intern abroad.

My favorite days were days at the clinic. I absolutely loved going to work because I would always learn so much about what I love so much. Also, Cape Town is a beautiful city so I had a blast exploring every single place I could search up. On my first day at my internship site, I knew right away that I would not be able to learn at all if I were to remain shy and wait for instructions. I made a big effort to get to know all my staff and to utilize all the nursing education I have collected to help the staff as much as possible. By reaching out to the staff first, I was able to gain so much more than just knowledge. I also was able to get out of my comfort zone and really go after what I wanted, which was to learn as much as I can.

I loved meeting new people and exploring the beautiful city while doing what I love to do at my internship during the 2 months I was here. I also really loved the food here in Cape Town!!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Great internship with a great program in South Africa!

I chose Cape Town as the place to intern abroad because I felt as if it could give me a new perspective on healthcare and allow me to do extended hands on work compared to back home in the states where my scope of practice as a nursing assistant is very limited. Cape Town has also been a city I have always wanted to visit and learn about the culture so when the opportunity proposed itself to combine two things I'm passionate about, healthcare and travel, I decided to take a leap of faith and fly across the world by myself.

What I loved most about interning here were the people I met along the way and having the chance to be exposed to so many characteristics of South Africa that not many people get the chance to be exposed to by just seeing the tourist spots. I was able to build relationships with many of the nurses and doctors in the clinics to enhance my time at my internship placement and have built so many everlasting relationships with other interns from various areas around the world.

In regards to being exposed to the different aspects of South Africa, working in a clinic I was exposed to the harsh lifestyle of townships that many live in, as well as being exposed to the beautiful sites and history South Africa has to offer. During my time here I have grown both personally and professionally. Personally, I have found that I am a very independent and courageous person that can tackle any fear from getting on a plane to travel by myself across the world to jumping off one of the world's tallest bungee jumps. Professionally, my internship site has only solidified my career choice of becoming a physician assistant and brought to light goals, such as ensuring patients understand their medications, to fulfill as a provider back in the states. I will never forget one of the doctors who took her time with each patient making sure they understood the medications they were prescribed, even taking the time to demonstrate how to use an inhaler for asthmatic patients regardless of how long it took for them to grasp it. This doctor had a huge impact on my goals as a future healthcare provider.

After six weeks of living in Cape Town, what I came to love most was immersing myself in the culture through the people I worked with in the clinic and the dishes I tried from various regions of South Africa. I also fell in love with my surroundings because everywhere you look the backdrop is incredible and it became a place I was lucky enough to call home for a short few weeks. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone else because you get the best of both worlds. At your internship site you recognize whether the career you chose to pursue is the right fit or not for you and you are exposed to certain areas of your field you may not get exposure to otherwise. While you gain knowledge into your future career, the program also does a great job of balancing the work-travel lifestyle allowing interns to see as much of Cape Town and the surrounding areas as possible.

With so much support from the VAC staff and having the chance to explore such an amazing and growing city I would recommend this program to anyone unsure of their career choice or just wanting to get more exposure in their field.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A crazy internship in all the best ways!

My experience at a medical clinic in the townships in Cape Town was crazy in all the best ways. During my time I rotated through trauma, maternity and the HIV and TB clinic. At each department, I gained an extreme amount of practical experience!!! In many ways, my time at the clinic pushed me outside of my comfort zone and that was why it was so memorable.

Other than my time spent working, every chance I got, I was exploring Cape Town. I learned to surf, climbed every mountain I could and I experienced festivals, wine crawls, outdoors cinemas and everything in between. For many reasons, I will never forget Cape Town and I will certainly be back

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Work Environment

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Internship Placement

    10

A great time and new perspective!

I had a great time in South Africa! I had many amazing and memorable experiences from snorkelling with seals, going on safari, hugging elephants and ostriches, surfing in Muizenberg, hiking gorgeous mountain trails, (almost!) getting mugged by a baboon at Cape of Good Hope, to paragliding off of signal hill! Cape Town is an amazing city with amazing people and a vibrant energy! Working in Khayelitsya Site B Community Clinic also gave me a new perspective on health care. South African healthcare is very amazing and is centred on the concept that health is a basic human right and that everyone should have safe and equitable access to medications and health services. Both Canadian and South African health care are faced with their own challenges and it was an amazing opportunity to be able to compare and contrast the two systems and to develop a new perspective on health care provision.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My time in Cape Town

I loved VAC & their assistance in helping me come to South Africa. they made it such an easy process and helped me feel comfortable through everything. They placed me at a health clinic where I got an experience like no other. I would highly recommend this experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    4

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

A month in Cape Town

The clinic where I was placed offers an experience that allows you to experiment with all different types of medical fields. your role is not strict, so once you find your niche you are able to have fun and learn a lot! My experience at the clinic will definitely help me pick a career path in the future.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Work Environment

    5

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

My month in Cape Town

I really enjoyed working at the clinic where I was placed because it gave me great nursing experience while exposing me to a new culture. I was exposed to many different aspects of healthcare and my nursing skills improved greatly as a result thereof.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    5

  • Social Life

    10

Medical internship

VAC placed me at a clinic full of doctors and nurses eager to teach while seeing the large amount of patients each day. My time at my internship site taught me medical skills, information and experience that cannot be learned from a book. Definitely the chance of a lifetime.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Heideveld Clinic

Through Volunteer Adventure Corps, I was able to intern at a clinic in the Heideveld township clinic. I learned so much during my time there and met many amazing people. Overall a really great experience and I hope to come to Cape Town experience even more!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Internship Placement

    10

Thriving in ZA

I was placed at a public health internship in the township. During my time there I was able to start my own policy campaign on stronger pre-natal care in townships, do patient education, write reports and more. It was a very valuable experience!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Work Environment

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

Really great!

VAC was great from the start to finish. My internship at Site B hospital in Khayelitsha township was everything I could have asked for. I got experience in the medical field and a new perspective on how others live. VAC was always there to help and were very supportive.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Work Environment

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

VAC Review

South Africa has reminded me of the limited time each of us have. That rather than obsessing over plans and what could go wrong, its important to be present. Why not pursue the thing in the back of your mind that you’ll “get to” when you retire or have more money/time. South Africa also forced me to forget about my comfort zone altogether and that doing so usually results in amazing experiences. Cape Town introduced me to people, experiences, and challenges that opened my eyes not only to the world around me, but to the passion and potential within myself.

My time in Cape Town was better than I could’ve planned. Thanks to the dedicated staff at VAC, I managed to feel right at home halfway across the world. From shark cage diving to wine tasting and everything in between, not only did VAC help facilitate a great internship but they made sure I was able to check every item off of my Cape Town bucket list. I am thankful to VAC for helping make my trip an unforgettable and life changing experience.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Work Environment

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Site B Clinic

For my internship, I shadowed doctors at Site B Clinic in Khayelitsha, mostly in the trauma department. I learned more about the daily life of being a doctor, especially in a disadvantaged area. I learned how to apply a plaster cast and do sutures. I learned how to talk to patients and to take their histories. It was an excellent experience to learn more about the medical field, especially the importance of taking into consideration a patient's life history, not just his or her symptoms. The doctors and patients were very friendly and welcoming!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Work Environment

    7

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Internship Placement

    10

AIDS Legal Network

Short version: I highly recommend VAC. The skills you gain will become a staple on your resume and interview spiel. The trips and services can they offer are sometimes , but their facilitation, support, and knowledge was worth it in my eyes.

Long Version:
When I applied, my application fell under the "human rights" umbrella, but much of the work I did was geared towards public health. I was placed with the AIDS Legal Network, a South African organization focused on people living with HIV/AIDS, the socio-economic factors that contribute to its spread, and how to prevent future cases of HIV.

Before starting my internship, VAC had placed me three different times. I was extremely picky, so this is not necessarily a stab at VAC. In fact, every placement I declined was met by VAC's suggestion of another, and another, and another. In the end, VAC suggested the AIDS Legal Network, and it was the perfect balance of grassroot, quasi-political organization I was looking for. I was able to conduct field research, work alongside partner organizations, participate in a multinational conference, and publish articles. Today, I'm working as a grant writer for an organization called The HIV Alliance, and the only reason I have that job is because of the ALN experience I was able to reference during my interview.

Apart from providing a professional springboard, there is something to be said about the ideology embodied by the VAC administration and family. The group is full of excitement and eagerness. I will admit, sometimes you find yourself surrounded by young people from every country except South Africa. The make-up of your social group is ultimately in your hands - it's easy to surround yourself by VAC participants, but by no stretch of the imagination does VAC restrict you from forming friendships with South Africans. VAC also organizes many trips around South Africa and beyond. I was able to travel Kruger National Park and Mozambique for a week through a trip organized by VAC.

These trips with VAC are not always the cheapest you will find. Sometimes they get group discounts, other times you pay the same price plus some in exchange for VAC's transportation, facilitation, and the staff's time. I went on trips that were great deals and others that were a bit more expensive, but all turned out great. VAC prides itself on bringing a South African experience to you, and every trip is packed with local food, sites, people, and events.

Overall Rating

6/ 10

  • Internship Placement

    6

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Work Environment

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Township hospital intern

Working at the township clinic was a summer I will forget, from working with patients from the community to learning to suture in the ER with a surgeon, this internship gave me new tools and confidence that I will use as I pursue my medical career.