Reasons to Do Internships in Cape Town

Oliver Hagan from VACorps explains why the Mother City is the best international internship destination on the planet

Last Update 29 March 2017

So, you’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone by getting those college credits or that much needed internship experience while also curing a bit of the old wanderlust. The big question is, where are you going to go?

Now, to us the decision is pretty obvious (we are CapeTownMagazine after all), and it’s also apparent that the rest of the world is finally catching on to the fact that the Mother City is a damn fine place to be.  

But, in order to give you the kind of information you really need, we decided to get perspective from someone with a little less bias and a whole lot more insight into what truly makes Cape Town the right place for both a visit and an introduction to the working world. Cue Oliver Hagan, the co-owner of VACorps, a leading local company that helps young people from the rest of the world fulfil their fantasies of living abroad by setting them up with the perfect internship and by connecting them with an entire community of fellow travellers.

With almost a decade worth of match-making under its belt, VACorps is one of the only services of its kind in the Mother City, and if anyone should know about the ins and outs of interning here, it’s the organisation’s trusty founder. So without futher ado, Oliver, who’s a former exchange student himself (from America), gives us some pretty darn good reasons to start packing your bags and planning for the ultimate journey.


Cape Town is a relatively cheap city to live in 
If you’re coming from outside of Africa, chances are high that the exchange rate will work in your favour, and you’ll find that the cost of living in Cape Town is much cheaper than most cities in the US, Europe and Australia. The largest expense you’ll have to fork out for is flights, but otherwise, you’ll be able to eat out, party, explore and travel relatively inexpensively, which means that you can squeeze in a lot more because you don’t have to worry about money. 

Cape Town is super cosmopolitan, so a visit here is like visiting multiple cities in one 
As Oliver points out, just walking down Cape Town’s main party lane, the aptly titled Long Street, can expose you to six or seven different languages, and all the people who visit (and those who end up staying) leave a stamp on the city, making it a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. You’re definitely bound to make friends with someone from somewhere else, and whether you’re craving authentic dim sum, real Mexican tacos, genuine Dutch bitterballen or true Portuguese-style seafood, you’re certain to find it in the Mother City.

There’s a fusion of nature and culture 
One of the best things about Cape Town is that it really has a little bit of something for everyone because it is a unique biodiversity hotspot and also an internationally recognised cultural centre. Here you’ll find seas perfect for surfing in, mountains to climb that showcase the most magnificent views and enough arts and culture to justify a newly acquired taste for fedora-wearing. In one day, you could scale the top of Table Mountain, check out impressive fauna and flora at Cape Point (the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans’ surly currents meet) and then sway to some sexy jazz played by a local musician or catch a world-class stage production at one of Cape Town’s theatres. Not to mention, the city boasts amazing outdoor festivals, foodie events and, of course, several impressive wine routes that are but a hop, skip and sip from the centre of town.

You don’t have to worry about a language barrier 
South Africa may have 11 official languages, but English is the lingua franca and is spoken widely in Cape Town. That means that if you’re here to for an internship you don’t have to negotiate tricky communication barriers, and, as a plus, if you’re from a non-English speaking country, you’ll get to learn how to use the language in everyday conversation. PS. if while you’re here you do want to add another lingo to your repertoire, VACorps offers isiXhosa lessons at its informal headquarters, the Foreign Exchange bar in Observatory.

It’s an intelligent way to travel 
One problem that many visitors to Cape Town face is that they simply do not have enough time to fit the many tourist-y attractions and experiences that the city has to offer into a single trip. If you choose to take up an internship here, you’ll get to explore one of the most bucket list-worthy places in the world without worrying about FOMO and the near impossible feat of trying to squeeze all the sightseeing, road-tripping, partying, wining and dining into one go. Instead, you’re likely to make some friends along the way who will become your sidekicks as you tick off all the must-dos at a less frantic pace.

Cape Town is an easily commutable city 
The city itself is not very big, and after a week or two, you’ll be able to navigate your way from Adderley Street to Albert Road without having to awkwardly trouble someone for directions (although, we’re sure they’ll gladly oblige). Cape Town now also has the very handy and efficient MyCiTi buses, which have made travelling to the airport, outer suburbs and points within the CBD (downtown area) a whole lot easier than before. Though, while you’re in South Africa, a quintessential experience is a ride in the minibus taxis, and though this might seem daunting at first, after a while you’ll be negotiating them like an old pro, especially because they are a little cheaper too.  

You’ll get to live like a local in one of Cape Town’s cool neighbourhoods 
Like any major city in the world, Cape Town is divided into neighbourhoods, and each one adds its own distinctive flavour to to the melting pot. There’s the oh-so-trendy (read hipster) Woodstock, the Bo-Kaap area with its cobbled streets and colourful houses and the bohemian hub of Observatory (where VACorps has set up camp). Obs, as it’s called by locals, is home to many students, friendly hippie-types and young families who come together to create a strong sense of community, making it the perfect place for a newbie in town to settle. Plus there are a myriad of cool bars, funky eateries, bookshops and record stores within a small radius, so you won’t ever be hard-pressed to find something to do on those idle Tuesdays. 

You can get involved with a wide range of organisations 
No matter what your chosen future profession is, or even if you’re not quite decided yet, it won’t be too difficult to find an organisation in Cape Town that can provide you with the type of hands-on training and mentorship that will put you in good stead with future employers.  The range of disciplines that you’ll find in the Mother City includes everything from conservation, healthcare and human rights to journalism, graphic design and film, and with so many industry opportunities on the go, you’re certain to have infinitely enriching experiences and to work with people that will leave a truly positive lasting impression on you.

You’ll forge a strong connection with one of the coolest places on the planet 
“We have to drag people kicking and screaming to the airport,” says Oliver of the inevitable heartbreak that happens at the end of each internship. By living like a local for a few months and going beyond the carefully curated pages of the latest Lonely Planet, those who come here for a short stay end up with a lifetime love for this little piece of South Africa and a connection that’s so strong it often ends up pulling them back (that’s kind of how Vermont-born Oliver ended up here). Be prepared to fall in love like a teenager with a crush – it’s going to be awesome, and it’s going to feel like the end of the world when it’s over.

Seriously, it’s the greatest city in the world!
Ok, this is all us, but we aren’t the only ones who think that everyone who can SHOULD come and spend time in the Mother City. The Telegraph, The Guardian and The New York Times all put Cape Town at the top of their must-visit cities lists for 2014, and right now, pretty much every travel-related overview on the internet has our little city included. And, as mentioned, much of the metropolis’s melting pot of people is made up of those who were just here on holiday or doing an internship and couldn’t find inner peace until they officially made Cape Town their home. So many people can’t be wrong, right?


We’ve obviously got you convinced by now, and you’re wondering how you can start your epic adventure in Cape Town. Lucky for you, it’s as easy as going to, picking an internship category that tickles your fancy and contacting the crew to get the process started. This short video explains how it’s all done.

Good luck and see you soon!


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