Leyla, pictured on the left, joined the VACorps program in 2021 and completed a business internship at an urban farming NGO as part of her GAP Year. She will begin her studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2021.
“I cannot emphasize enough how happy and grateful I am that I chose to come to Cape Town with VACorps as part of my gap year. For one, I met some really wonderful people that I know I will stay in touch with long after this trip. We were an incredibly friendly and energetic group that had so much motivation to see Cape Town inside and out. What bonds us all is our common love for adventure, nature, and trying new things, and I found this spirit really refreshing after spending 13 years in the same school. The VACorps staff were also so heartwarming, welcoming, and supportive in everything we needed. There were no bureaucratic hurdles or boundaries to what they could do to help us and always made themselves available to us.
I never expected that I would find myself overstaying my 90 allotted days in South Africa, but I did in fact leave the country, only to return and extend my visa. I really just love the independence I had here to live life as I would at home but with so many added benefits – i.e. hiking, beach, surfing, restaurants/bars, and so much more. Even when I stopped working my internship and was worried about not having enough to do, I knew that I would rather be here in Cape Town, have fun with friends, and explore a new culture rather than not working at home.
I’m so glad that I chose the internship site that I did because it was a truly South African experience – it was something I could not have done at home. The best part was that it was so unstructured and allowed me to use skills I already had to do something where I had no experience, but used my intuition to accomplish. My task was to create a brand new business/marketing/social media strategy for an urban farm and, although I had no experience doing something like that before, I really enjoyed learning as I went and working with Manelisi to set up something sustainable. I developed skills that I will definitely use going forward, and that I definitely would not have gained if I were at a larger company, for example, that had an existing business structure and that didn’t give me as much authority/flexibility in my work.
Overall, the last 3 months in Cape Town have defined my gap year experience. I feel so much more confident in my decision to take a gap year because of the way I have grown in the last three months. I would recommend this program to anyone, and I am most definitely going to return to Cape Town with friends and family in the future.”