VACorps Participant Reviews
Comprehensive and rewarding medical internship in South Africa
Submitted by Hannah Sandwith - Virginia Tech | July 14, 2017
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!
My wonderful experience as a Dutch student in the VACorps program
Submitted by Amy Roedolph - Rotterdam Business School | July 11, 2017
I'll never forget the moment when I told my mother I intended to go to Cape Town to participate in an internship. She was terrified something might happen - and scared because she always worries about me! I'd never traveled alone and hadn't been away from The Netherlands for more than three weeks, so this might help you to better understand the worries of my mother.
Luckily, there was VACorps waiting for me in South Africa! I received little support from my home university in The Netherlands so I had to organise everything myself. Well, that's what I thought I would have to do. I don't know how I would have ever made it in Cape Town without the support of VACorps!
I arrived on a Wednesday but only started my internship the following Monday. The VACorps staff immediately invited me to join their Friday hike and it was a nice opportunity to get to meet new people! And that is exactly what happened— I met many, many beautiful and kind people through VACorps who became more like a big family to me (including the VACorps team).
The VACorps program is located in Observatory, a trendy and young area in Cape Town where there are a nice variety of bars and restaurants. Most of the students I befriended through VACorps were living in this neighborhood as well and after a few weeks we scheduled weekly dinners together and spent a tremendous amount of time exploring the city in our free time.
Next to meeting all these nice people, VACorps was a huge support when it came to my marketing internship. It didn't matter what was on my mind or where I needed help, they were always there for me and help me! I'm Dutch and by the time I finished my internship, I was so much more of a confident English speaker and now feel like I'm fluent in the language!
I was also very, very happy VACorps introduced me to Cape Town by giving orientations. These are very informative sessions where they tell you all the in's and out's, the do's and don'ts, cultural differences
Because of VACorps I experienced so many different sides of Cape Town. Their weekly program activities are not mandatory but I bet you will participate in every single one of them just because it is so much fun! The best weekly activity was on my birthday when we went sailing in Table Bay Harbour and enjoyued a beautiful sunset together on the water! Another highlight was our trip to Cape Point, something you wouldn't easily do yourself if you don't have a car. Besides these weekly activities, VACorps also organizes special trips! I was lucky enough to join the Cederbergs trip, which was three days of goofing around, having braais, going on hikes, swimming and jumping off of cliffs and camping under the brightest stars I've ever seen. This was definitely my best weekend in South Africa!
If you're reading this review because you are thinking about going to Cape Town, just know that I am extremely jealous of you. Don't hesitate any longer and sign up! People told me it's hard to say goodbye when you have to leave. I thought it would be okay when I left but I have never been more wrong. Cape Town will steal your heart. Be careful and enjoy every - single - minute!!
Program: Marketeing internships in Cape Town
Lifelong friendships in an amazing city that became my home!
Submitted by Paige Daniels - Messiah College | July 11, 2017
Cape Town seemed to have a little bit of everything. It had the impoverished areas I was seeking to work in and it had the exposure to thriving city life. I loved the people and nature the best. The people I met here will be lifelong friends, and if we don't talk often, they will nevertheless leave a huge mark on my heart. The views here are probably the most beautiful in the world. I can't believe I had the privilege of waking up and seeing Table Mountain every morning. Then, being able to hike up Chapman's Peak to see the gorgeous ocean views below. This place is beautiful.
My internship experience helped me grow personally by giving me some more patience. Also, I grew personally by recognizing when to take initiative and step up. There were many times where I had to speak up to express my opinions or ask questions. I believe this experience has made me more confident in a foreign place. Professionally, I learned how to interact with doctors and I learned a good deal about the medical field in developing countries. I will never forget my sweet friends Sithole, Tameeka, and Sadeekah. They helped guide me and love me like I was one of them. I loved how there were new things to do at every moment. It is impossible to be bored here. I have stayed 6 weeks.
As I write this, it doesn't actually feel like I am leaving. This place is home, I have a routine here and a favorite place to eat. Most importantly, I have made friends who will make me laugh and feel loved. I would recommend the program because It is a great way to get you out of your comfort zone and into the career world. This program is what you make of it.
Nursing internship in Cape Town
Submitted by Erika Park - Northeastern University | July 10, 2017
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!!!
Great internship with a great program in South Africa!
Submitted by Sarah Hans - James Madison University | July 07, 2017
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.
PT internship in Cape Town with VAC
Submitted by Cat S - - | June 26, 2017
I initially chose Cape Town because of the rave reviews I had heard from my friends who had studied here. I knew I wanted to do my 6-month internship abroad, but I still wanted to practice Physical Therapy in a place that was English-speaking and challenging so I could really practice what I had been learning in school.
As for what I loved most about interning here, there is truly too much to say. I loved immersing myself in the PT department of a local school and working alongside professionals from South Africa, because I feel like I got an accurate portrayal of what it is like to work abroad. I loved the kids I got to work with at the site, and while I didn't learn quite as much as I'd hoped to from a PT standpoint, I certainly enjoyed my days working with the kids and I gained interpersonal skills and tactics for working with children that I will carry with me professionally. I created really strong relationships with my coworkers, and will never forget spending the mornings with them chatting and drinking coffee. I have the best memories working one-on-one with one patient with CP, whom I developed a positive relationship with. I truly believed the time we spent together benefitted her both physically and mentally, and that is a very rewarding realization for me to return home with.
Aside from my time specifically working at the school, I had the most amazing personal experience. I am leaving here with the absolute fondest memories, the most wonderful collection of new friends, and a rekindled love of travel. 6 months was the perfect amount of time to explore Cape Town in a leisurely manner while allowing me to bond with my roommates and create some very strong friendships
Student teaching in South Africa -- the fulfillment of a bucket list goal!
Submitted by Kristin Cole - Millersville University | June 09, 2017
Yesterday one of the new interns asked me what my favorite thing has been in Cape Town, and honestly, I could not answer. Everything has been my favorite thing, from my visits to Kruger National Park and the Garden Route, to climbing Table Mountain, to singing the national anthem (in all four languages!) with one of my senior girls at my last assembly at Cape Town High School--and the alto part, no less. I enjoyed the train--as slow, smelly, and crowded as it is, I had so many chance conversations with locals and visitors that I otherwise would have missed, and I loved walking up the hill to my high school into what felt like the mountain's embrace. Personally and professionally, this has been an extremely engaging and fulfilling three months.
I can safely say that my students and I developed a quick bond from the first day that I met them. The school system here emphasizes a fierce discipline, much more like an urban school in the United States than the suburban high school where I completed the first part of my student teaching. Some of them saw me as the easy teacher in comparison with my mentor teacher, and all of them were initially confused by the activities I designed for them that veered from a lecture format. One of my greatest moments was when I gave the seniors a carousel activity, and my mentor teacher turned to me and said, "Look at them! Each one of them is engaged in the work." I actually found it easy to engage all of my students, that they were eager for discussion and clarity. I even named them, because I name everything I love: my grade 9s were my Big Cats, and I was Chief Cat Herder; my grade 10s were my Babies, because they were always so easy to teach and so eager to learn; my grade 11s were my Underdogs, because they received more criticism than they deserved; and my grade 12s were my Gold Stars, because they so easily slipped into intellectual, thoughtful discussion when given the opportunity.
I have been fascinated with South Africa and Cape Town for over 20 years, and Nelson Mandela is in my estimation one of the greatest men who has ever lived. Thus, coming here was the fulfillment of a bucket list goal that I've had since Apartheid ended. The wonderful surprise of my internship and my visit here is that everything exceeded all of my expectations. I find myself feeling at once fulfilled and also eager to return one day to the Mother City's embrace. She has held me very close and dear.
Tips for future interns at the school: You must put yourself forward and ask for things to do. You must make an effort to talk to your colleagues.
VAC will help you make Cape Town feel like home!
Submitted by Ellie Reeves - - | May 31, 2017
My experience in Cape Town would not have been the same without VAC and I am so appreciative I had help and guidance every step of the way. What VAC does for its interns is truly special. As interns, we land in this foreign city not knowing what to expect and we're nervous. Some interns have never had an ocean between them and their family which can be a frightening realization. It is the VAC team that takes this nervousness and changes it to excitement. VAC makes this foreign city truly feel like home, a place where you can conquer your goals and accomplish your dreams. For that, I can not thank you all enough. My experiences with VAC are ones I know I'll cherish always.
I loved almost everything about my internship. Each day was an opportunity to see and learn something new. I very much enjoyed when the OT and I would leave Site B and go to other clinics or do home visits. I also really appreciated the diversity amongst patients and it was refreshing to me to work with so many age groups. It was all around an eye opening experience and I wouldn't trade a second of it.
Tips for future interns at a township OT site:
Be openminded as working in a township clinic is nothing like you will have ever experienced. Take a journal to write notes in and also keep a journal at home, you will want to record these memories and what you have learned. Not necessary but beneficial, learn some basic introductory and medical terms in Xhosa. Patients are typically uncomfortable and being able to say "Hello, how are you?" in their own language can help ease that. It would be helpful to know medical terms for little things like body parts or descriptive words such as pain or swelling. Being able to speak to and understand your patients in their language eliminates some confusion and creates an instant level of respect that you are at least trying.
A crazy internship in all the best ways!
Submitted by Jason E. - - | May 26, 2017
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
4 months in Cape Town that I will hold in my heart forever!!!
Submitted by Julia Leikin - University of Maryland | May 23, 2017
My four months in Cape Town has been the most incredible part of my life to date. In this short time, I have been immersed in a new culture, explored the most breathtaking nature, met beautiful people from all over the world, and truly grew immensely as a person. I am incredibly thankful for VAC for so much of my experience here--from providing short but impactful glimpses into South African culture to creating an extensive international community for interns to call home in their time here.
Making the decision to take a semester off of University to travel alone to South Africa was intimidating. It is hard to get an idea of what to expect before leaving, especially as a young person with little solo travel experience. The VAC team was incredibly helpful and supportive in the months leading up to my departure; I only realized once I arrived how much weight they took off of my shoulders. After I was all settled and oriented, it was always nice to have the VAC team (who quickly became friends) to provide support where needed and plan fun weekly activities that got the whole community out together.
I am so sad that my time in Cape Town has come to an end, but also so thankful for the experience. After all of the research I did in preparation, I am so glad that I found and chose to be a part of the VAC program. They provided the perfect balance of support/structure and freedom and ensures a safe a positive intern experience. This experience is one I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life, and I already cannot wait to come back to Cape Town as soon as I can!
Program: Marketeing internships in Cape Town