Welcome Parents!

Overview

We have created this page to answer any questions and concerns that you may have regarding your child’s upcoming adventure with VACorps. Participating in an internship in Cape Town, South Africa represents a major step forward in your child’s personal and professional development. We will serve as your child’s dedicated in-country support network from the moment they land in South Africa. VACorps has been hosting young adults in South Africa for more than a decade and we provide a platform for your child to have a life-changing experience while exploring the beautiful landscape and dynamic culture of Cape Town.

 

 

“We researched many gap year programs for our son and were incredibly pleased with the VAC experience. The internship placement was thoughtful and the internship itself was a substantive and enriching experience. The organized activities were great. As parents, we felt that there was just the right amount of assistance and support provided to our son. As Americans living in South Africa, we are often asked about volunteer programs for a gap year and college students and we are always pleased to recommend VAC!”
Liz and Don Gips, parents of 2012 Gap Year Internship participant

Program Benefits

The Power of Experiential Learning

Whether your child is taking some time off from their formal education in order to explore the world and gain new experiences or is completing a structured internship as part of their University Credit requirement, the benefits of experiential learning are invaluable and far-reaching. Your child will gain real-world experience and develop hard skills related to their career/study area of interest.  Equally, if not more important, an internship allows your child the opportunity to develop soft skills, which are often difficult to learn in a classroom, such as interpersonal, leadership, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. As your child explores a world beyond their school and home environments they will be exposed to cultures, people, and experiences that are vastly different from what the currently know. They will be gently pushed outside of their comfort zones, learning independence and resilience as they embark on a journey of self-discovery that has the potential to change their lives forever.

 

“Kiley spent a lot of time researching various internship opportunities before applying to VACorp. She informed us of her decision nearly a year and a half ago, so I had plenty of time to do my own research. Overall, I have been very pleased with the VACorps Program structure as well as the communication tools used to keep me up-to-date. The pictures and videos she has sent along her journey have been absolutely amazing! I am so pleased Kiley wanted to take on this adventure – – Thank You and the VACorps Staff for your support!”
Jennifer Kowal, mother of 2018 Law Internship Participant

Career Benefits

Today’s job market is more competitive than ever, and an internship is an essential way for students to differentiate themselves from their peers.  It provides a powerful talking point in job interviews and demonstrates genuine interest and commitment to a chosen career path.  An internship abroad/away from home will demonstrate to potential employer’s your child’s adaptability, maturity and a commitment to growth and self-development.

Friends from all over the World

Our program participants (and staff) come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, and countries. Together, we make up a beautifully diverse and interesting group of people.  Time and time again, VACorps program participants refer to the quantity and depth of friendships they have made while participating in our program as an absolute highlight.  During his/her stay, your child will make connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Our Track Record and Partners

We are Cape Town Internship Specialists

By limiting our focus to one city, we provide the highest levels of support and service because we know one city and we know it incredibly well.  We have built up a large network of organizations with whom we have successful relationships and whose needs we deeply understand.  We take great care and have vast experience placing interns at these organizations. We gently guide and mentor students, helping them to make the decisions that they feel will be best for their personal and professional development.

We are Industry Leaders

As a pioneer in the field Experiential Education on the African continent, VACorps has been hosting interns in Cape Town since 2007.  We have helped thousands of young adults undergo a transformative experience whilst having the time of their lives in the world’s most beautiful city.

VACorps is the proud partner of the following institutions:

NEU logoUMSI - VACorps partnership VACorps and USC Annenberg Partnership VACorps and UofI school of social work          CIS Australia LogoCIS logo

Health and Safety

Arrival

A VACorps staff member will welcome your child upon arrival at the Cape Town International Airport, following which they will be transferred to their place of accommodation and settled in.

Orientation

All participants participate in a comprehensive orientation within 2 days of arrival. This is a very thorough process designed to help our participants adjust to their new home in Cape Town as quickly as possible, as well as relay some important health and safety information. Our orientation typically runs over three days, and includes the following:

  • A walking tour of Observatory, the neighborhood in which almost all participants live
  • An (optional) historical walking tour of the city
  • A general orientation presentation at the VACorps offices, which cover topics such as: Health and safety information; how to explore the city during free time; networking with other VACorps participants; a review of the VACorps Program & the VACorps Online Guide; tips on having a successful internship; tutorials on how to upload cell phone data & electricity; a general Q & A session; and an introduction to the VACorps staff.
  • Public Transportation Orientation
  • A City sightseeing tour

We stagger our program participant arrival dates so that students get the opportunity to go through the orientation process with other new arrivals. This allows them to establish friendships shortly after arrival, and meet other like-minded adventurers with whom to explore the city and engage with socially.

First Meeting

A VACorps staff member will accompany your child to their internship site on their first day. They will be shown the best way to get to their place of work and will be introduced to their supervisors.

For our daughter, Sima Anekonda, living outside the United States on her own and especially in Cape Town has been her lifetime dream. Our initial worries disappeared within a week or so of her stay in Cape Town mainly because of numerous group activities arranged by VACorps that helped her make a lot of new friends from across the world and made her feel like a big family. Indeed Sima is enjoying her stay so much and asked us to extend her stay one more week. Thank you so much for helping our daughter and making her stay incredibly comfortable and finding the workplace of her passion to gain an amazing experience.”
Thimmappa Anekonda, father of 2018 VACorps Human Rights Internship participant

We take your child’s safety and wellbeing very seriously

We have an extensive list of safety advice and procedures and are vigilant in ensuring that your child understands them and takes them to heart. We have a 24/7 private VACorps emergency hotline manned by South African Police Reservist and have clearly established emergency, safety, and security procedures. We will be checking in with your child on a regular basis and will see them at the very least, once or twice a week at VACorps culture series and weekly activities.

Our Door is Always Open

We have a team on the ground whose job it is to support your child while he/she is participating in our program. The VACorps support team is highly competent, experienced, approachable and extremely kind and caring. Most VACorps Program housing is within short walking distance of the VACorps Offices, and a good portion of our staff live less than a ten-minute drive from Observatory, where your child will be living. Should your child ever experience challenges, need some one-on-one time with a staff member or simply want to ask lifestyle-related questions we are in close proximity.

We do from time to time make use of professional counseling services. If your child has challenges we feel we are not equipped to deal with or requests professional counseling services, we will ensure they get the help they need.

A general note on crime in South Africa

Although South Africa has a reputation for being unsafe it is important to contextualize this perception. South Africa is a poor country, with high levels of unemployment and inequality, and as a result, the crime statistics paint a somewhat bleak picture. That said, it is important to realize that there are many areas of the country and cities that are safe for locals and visitors alike. Cape Town has consistently been rated as one of the top travel destinations in the world for the past decade and receives millions of foreign visitors per year. All those people can’t be wrong! Staying safe is a matter of your child using his/her common sense, being vigilant and responsible.

Contacting your child

We will provide a local South African SIM card for your child, and hand it to them upon arrival.  This way they will easily be able to stay in contact with us, their fellow interns, and their friends and family abroad. Cell phone network and internet/WIFI coverage in the Cape Town is on par with what you would expect in most first world cities. If you ever have trouble contacting your child,  please phone our offices and speak to one of our staff members so that we can touch base with your child on the ground.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fees, Payments and Financing

Visit our Program Tuition Page for our standard program prices.  For information on our local and international GAP Program pricing please send an email to admissions@vacorps.com.
If your child is accepted into the program, we require a refundable $350 program acceptance deposit.  This secures their place in the program and allows us to begin the placement process.

Once we have secured an internship placement for your child we require a non-refundable $650 placement acceptance fee, which is due 14 days from the date that your child accepts the placement.

The final program balance is due 14 days prior to your child’s arrival date in Cape Town.  Program fees must be paid before your child travels to Cape Town, South Africa. Participants who fail to meet this requirement will receive none of the benefits of the Program. This includes, without limitation; placement in a confirmed internship site, airport transfers, accommodation, and program support.

  • An internship placement that aligns with your child’s interests and requirements
  • A network of like-minded, adventurous and driven students and young adults from across the globe
  • On the ground support from the highly experienced and competent VACorps Staff
  • Guaranteed accommodation in Observatory through a local student-housing provider
  • A 24/7 emergency hotline
  • A Comprehensive 3-day orientation
  • Internship-related support & mentorship throughout the program
  • Personalized introduction to internship site transport – your child will be accompanied by a VACorps staff member for on their first day at work
  • Personalized airport pickups/drop-offs by a member of the VACorps team
  • Participation in our weekly Culture Series on Monday evenings to experience local Xhosa-culture, language lessons, ‘Kaap slang’, and South African cuisine.
  • Weekly Social Gatherings (wine tasting, yoga, sailing, surfing lessons, cheetah conservation outreach, brewery tours, beach days, hiking, community outreach, local braais, and many more!)
  • Lots of fun extras like exclusive camping weekends away and longer trips to neighboring countries such as Mozambique. Note: these are optional, and the cost of these trips is not included in the program tuition fee.
  • Access to discounted tours & travels rates exclusive to VACorps interns.
  • Support and trip-planning for parents who wish to visit!
  • Airfare
  • The cost of housing (unless your child is participating in the VACorps Gap Program, which includes accommodation)
  • Traveler’s insurance
  • Personal expenses (food, drink, transport )
The initial deposit is refundable if  VACorps is unable to find a placement that satisfies your child’s professional requirements as indicated on the “VACorps Internship Questionnaire”, and if VACorps has exhausted all suitable options.

The full list of VACorps terms and conditions can be found here.

This can vary greatly from person to person.  Your child will have to budget for:

  • Accommodation costs (unless your child is participating in the VACorps GAP Program which includes accommodation).  These are fairly fixed and work out to about $140 (R2000) per week
  • Food: Can vary greatly depending on how much your child likes to cook/eat out.  Budget between $60 and $120 per week ( R800 – R1600 per week)
  • Nightlife, entertainment, weekend activities: Again, this will vary greatly from person to person, and is the easiest way to save/blow a budget! We recommend budgeting between $40 – $100 (R700 – R1400) per week.
  • Transport Costs: Depends largely on whether your child makes use of public transport or uses uber, and how far their site is from where they live.  Once he/she is placed at an internship site you will have a better idea of what to budget for transport, and it can cost anything between $20 – $140 (R300 – R1900) per week.

Putting all of this together, over and above the program, flight and visa costs, we would recommend budgeting between $320 – $450 (R4000 – R5800) per week for accommodation, transport, and living costs.

Application and placement process

We will guide your child through each step when it becomes due, and are always available to answer any questions they may have throughout this process.

  1. Your child will fill in the Application form on this website
  2. Once we have received the completed form, we will contact him/her via email with a few easy to answer questions and a link to the placement questionnaire which they will be required to fill out.
  3. Once they have filled out this form, we will then set up a time to skype/phone them. This is a very informal conversation, during which we will ask them a few questions, which will allow us to get a better idea as to whether they are a good candidate for the Program, and to learn a little more about them. This is also a great opportunity for your child to ask us any questions they may have.
  4. Following our telephone conversation, we will send them an invitation to join the VACorps Program. At this point payment of the refundable deposit becomes due. This secures your child’s place in the program.
  1. Following their program acceptance, your child will be introduced to their Program Advisor, who will send them a Supplemental Placement Questionnaire. Your child’s Program Advisor is responsible for finding them an internship placement, as well as guiding, mentoring and advising them throughout this process.
  2. Once their program advisor feels that a good match has been found, they will be presented with their internship placement options. The placement process can take anywhere between 2 weeks and a couple of months.
  3. If your child is happy with his/her placement, they will be required to sign a Placement Acceptance Contract, and pay a non-refundable placement fee, which secures their internship placement.
  4. Four Weeks before their program start date they will be invoiced the final program fee balance, and be required to sign a VACorps Participant Contract.
Although we highly encourage our program participants to arrive on specific dates in order to get the most out of their experience, there are no hard application deadlines, and we do cater to participants arriving throughout the year (except during the month of December).  That said, it can often take some time in order to confirm an internship placement for your child, especially if their requirements are highly specific.  In addition to this, our program has limited capacity and fills up well in advance during our busy months (the Jan/Feb and May/June/July periods). We, therefore, encourage applications as early as possible and recommend applying at least two months in advance when arriving outside of the busy season, and three months in advance if arriving during the busy season, or if your child has highly specialized internship placement needs.

Travel

We recommend booking flights once your child’s placement is confirmed.  Depending on when they applied to the program, this will typically be around 4-8 weeks prior to their arrival date.
Your child will need international travel and medical insurance for the duration of their stay in South Africa.
Yes, please do, we love it when parents coming to visit!  We would advise that you give your child at least a month to find their feet and learn their way around the city so that they can play tour guide, and show you all the wonderful sites and experiences Cape Town has to offer.  South Africa is a spectacular travel destination and there is so much to see and do outside of Cape Town.  Parents will often come and spend up to a week in the city towards the end of their child’s internship, and then go on to do some traveling around the country with their child.   Please speak to us if you would like some help planning your trip!