Project Description

Gain perspective on how South Africa is working toward solutions to local and global challenges within a social and environmental context.

South Africa provides a unique landscape for those interested in gaining experience in sustainable leadership & development.  Intern at one of a number of organizations, companies or government agencies in Cape Town that promote sustainable social, economic, cultural and environmental development.  Sustainable development internships can offer an interesting blend of involvement in grassroots projects, fieldwork projects and environmental, social and economic research projects. Whichever your focus, you will gain an understanding of the challenges and triumphs of sustainable efforts in South Africa.

This is a fixed date structured immersion internship with additional supervision and support. The objective is to provide you with a hands-on internship experience in Cape Town that caters to your skillset. Please see below for program dates. 

Program Overview

The VACorps Immersive Sustainability Internship program is a structured internship that is facilitated by our Sustainable Development Program Manager, Robyn Bowden, who holds a Master’s in Sustainable Development. Through a combination of active mentorship, discussion, reflection, and relevant hands-on practical experience, the program delivers an immersive sustainability development internship. South Africa is a dynamic setting in which to navigate complex challenges that arise in a country where social & environmental stewardship is crucial for sustainable development. You will develop practical skills while acquiring a deeper understanding of how sustainability studies intersect with politics, culture, economics, technology, and environmental conservation.

During the internship component of this program, you will be placed with local organizations that play an active role in sustainable development practices. You will be working directly with service providers and assist in an identified project that is specific to their sustainable development goals. You might be working closely with community-based organizations or placed within an NGO or consultancy that drives meaningful change toward positive sustainable development.

Our VACorps Sustainability Internship program manager will be in regular contact with you throughout your internship experience in order to help shape your internship project and guide you to take initiative.  This mentorship helps the internship experience become a mutually beneficial opportunity for you and the host organization.

Who should apply?

Applicants who have a strong commitment to sustainability efforts, research experience, or particular interests in sociology, ecology, agriculture, conservation, environmental & marine science, anthropology, political science, community & urban studies, green technology, economics, and engineering are encouraged to apply.

2019 Program Dates:

Complete a 4-6 week internship that starts on one of the following dates:

  • May 12th, 2019
  • June 2nd, 2019
  • June 30th, 2019
  • September 2nd, 2019
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Program Structure

The Internship Experience:

Sustainability internships are between 6 and 8 weeks in duration. Up to three interns will be assigned to a specific placement within the same organization.

Your application will be reviewed and you will be matched with one of our internship site partners according to your field of interest and skill set.

You will be hosted by companies and organizations that operate in the fields of environmental education programs, the green economy sector, conservation, climate change research centers, and organizations working with communities and food security. You will be assigned project/research-based work that will directly benefit your host organization/company.   These placements and projects will be dependant on the program manager’s review, your area of academic interest and the needs of the specific organization at the time of your arrival.

Internship Schedule and Time Commitment:

Internships work hours will be from Monday through Friday, from 09h00 – 17h00, or 08h00 – 16h00, with the exception of a half day on Fridays to allow interns to participate in VACorps Social Excursions. Placements rely heavily on the work of interns, so it will be important for you to commit to your internship as if it were a job.


In addition to the general orientation program provided by VACorps, participants of our Immersive Sustainability Internship program will receive a special 1-day orientation that is facilitated by the program manager. The content will cover topics specifically related to Sustainability topics in Cape Town, South Africa as well as guidance in how to get the most out of your internship.

During your internship, you will be directly supervised by your site supervisor, and are encouraged to take initiative to identify ways you can contribute, especially in the areas of interest to your site.

During the program, you will meet with other Immersive Sustainability participants one evening a week at the VACorps office for a 1-hour seminar or discussion. The aim of these meetings is to allow the program manager to connect with you in an advisory and mentorship capacity and allow you time for facilitated group reflection away from your respective internship sites to discuss project progress and other relevant issues.

Bi-Weekly Discussion and Reflection Themes:

  • A broad introduction to sustainability topics in South Africa
  • Unpacking the complexity of sustainability in South Africa and in a global context.
  • Current policies, challenges, and successes in sustainable development in Cape Town, South Africa
  • Review of internship site projects
  • Continued reflection and review on internship project progress

Optional extra session: Special advisory session for all students preparing graduate school applications or preparing to find jobs in the field of sustainable development.

The program manager:

Robyn is a sustainable development consultant born and bred in Cape Town. She has a master’s degree in Sustainable Development from the Sustainability Institute at the University of Stellenbosch. She has worked in environmental conservation, climate change, gender and education.  However, most of her work focuses on food security, rural development and the food system within South Africa. In her spare time, Robyn strives to bring awareness to South Africa’s big sustainability challenges through writing, and was chosen as a finalist for the Reuters Good Food Media Award in 2018.

Meet past participants:

Federico Ravazzolo, Italy (2022)

Federico (pictured on the right) is studying for his Master's in Physics for Energy and Sustainability at the University of Amsterdam. He joined to VACorps program in July 2022 and participated in a sustainable [...]

Riley Goldstone, New York, USA (2022)

Riley is studying for a BA in Global Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined to VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a sustainability internship at an [...]

Madison Brennan, Boston, USA (2022)

Madison joined the VACorps program on January 2022, and participated in a sustainability internship at an Urban Farm.  She is studying her masters of Liberal Arts in Industrial/Organization Psychology at Harvard University, School of [...]

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