Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did XChange South Africa begin?
XChange South Africa is an international placement agency for student internships, voluntary work and school programs. We are one of the oldest internship companies in the country and operate in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, on the Garden Route, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. We are arranging internships and volunteer programs for more than 20 years already.
The advantage of our team is that we consist of mature and experienced local people with each more than 28 years exposure in working for local companies. We further have a team of young people who also stay amongst the students to assist where needed. We have made it our mission to make it as easy as possible for you to come to the country, work here and have a good time whilst here. We have a large database of companies on record that we have been working with for a long time and many years experience in working locally. Furthermore you have a direct contact person, should you have any problems.
2. What must you look for in selecting an internship placement company?
- Select people / a company who are as much local as possible. They know local conditions far better.
- Select a company with a history. Look at how many years they exist. There are too many people who try to arrange internship placements in SA without having experience in the business.
- The company must be a registered company and not merely a group of interns trying to make some money on the side.
- The company must have an infra-structure locally to support you. (good accommodation at an affordable price, transport, social activities etc.) Enquire about that.
- Be careful of companies charging very high prices. They cannot do more than what companies like XChange offers you already.
- You must feel comfortable with the person you have to communicate with and be able to trust their support and advice. They should be able to offer you sound advice, respond quickly to your mails and communicate regularly.
- Do you have open-channel (direct) communication with the people making your arrangements for you? Insist on that.
- Careful for too many promises upfront.
3. Why come to South Africa?
South Africa is the perfect destination for a young person, offering a vibrant mix of culture, warm and hospitable people, lots of sunshine, long summers, spectacular scenery, wildlife, beaches and an endless variety of unique outdoor experiences and adventures to suite every interest and pocket. The country also offers excellent value for money still and a selection of food, activities and adventure second to none. Our beaches are free and beautiful, most activities in nature are cheap or reasonable and the variety – endless. Mountain hikes offer endless opportunities. Restaurants and clubs – too many to choose from, offer every type of cuisine under the son. For those who prefer cultural activities – the country has plenty museums, art galleries, some of the largest shopping centers in the Southern hemisphere and cheap clothing outlets for long days of leisurely shopping with new friends. The country creates memories and experiences you can take home with you after your visit, and together with endless photographs of the social life, scenery and activities, you will have plenty to share with families and friends back home.
4. Do you offer internships in cities other than Cape Town?
Yes, if asked for options, we would assist you where we can. We are passionate about Cape Town and have rightfully earned our reputation as experts in what we do in Cape Town. This enables us to give our participants the highest levels of support and service because we know our city well having worked and lived here for more than 50 years each as a management team. (combined over 100 years)
5. What advice can you / we give parents whose child wishes to do an internship abroad?
Sending a child abroad for the first time can be a worrying experience for any parent. It is a new country & people, many new experiences for them to discover and all this without daily physical contact and support from you? We are parents too, so we also understand that you as a lecturer, teacher or parent have concerns for their safety, but we have more than 20 years’ experience dealing with young people (and some not so young…) from all over the world and have had exposure to all the problems, challenges and joys of working with them. We have never had serious problems in all these years though and believe we have a success story to be proud of.
A new arrival in SA can look forward to meeting at least 10 and more new people in his or her first two days in the new city. Our aim is to integrate our young people with others sharing common interests. We place them in houses where they would feel comfortable, safe and happy – surrounded by others. None of our students and volunteers ever need to be alone and will have XChange staff staying amongst them to ensure that.
6. What can we tell you about us and our staff in South Africa?
We have invested in putting a large team of people together to work with our students and volunteers. We have a fairly large support team in SA consisting of between 4 people in the office, a cleaning & maintenance team of about 6 plus and people who assist us with our projects and tours. We offer new arrivals an orientation; help them sort out their money, cell phones, food for the new house etc. Each new person receives all our contact telephone numbers of all our staff. Should they require medical assistance at any time, one of our staff will help to take them to a doctor or hospital if needed.
We also maintain our own accommodation and have standards that far exceed that of regular student houses or backpackers. Our houses are in some of the best parts of Cape Town and most students can walk to their offices or places of work. We have weekly cleaning services in our houses and maintenance people to ensure the standards are maintained. We assist with any travel arrangements, overland trips, day-trips, organize supervised hikes in the mountains etc. We also assist parents who come to visit with accommodation recommendations and bookings, cheaper car rentals, trip information etc. It is a free service and we enjoy meeting families as well.
No matter what time your son or daughter's flight arrives in South Africa, we will have a responsible person there to meet them at the airport. And before they arrive in SA, we will provide the intern with simple guidelines and useful information to help them prepare for their trip to South Africa. If they have any questions or need advice on anything before they travel, you, the parent or the university will be more than welcome to contact us at any time by phone, email, or online chat via Skype.
7. How much does it cost when you arrange an internship for me?
Our service is of the most reasonable fees in South Africa and is either negotiated with you, your agency or university. We have a history of offering good internships and good social conditions spanning over more than 20 years already. You can budget around €450 or $480 maximum.
8. What service can I expect for my money?
We do not only find a suitable internship, we also find you accommodation in one of our student houses or apartments; assist you with your visa application; pick you up from the airport on the day of arrival and take you to your company on your first working day. We have a weekly newsletter and organised weekend outings with all the other interns and activities to make sure, that you will meet many different people during your stay.
9. Can I expect a salary?
Unfortunately, not in South Africa. Your visa only entitles you to conduct an unpaid internship and the company is legally not allowed to pay you. In some cases, the Company could give you a contribution towards some of your costs like transport, but do not expect anything.
10. How much money do I need per month?
The amount you would spend will depend on your living standards. Your accommodation costs are similar to the bigger European cities, ranging from R2400 - R3800 per month. Eating out and going partying in general is cheaper as well as petrol costs, which is around R12 p/litre. (1 € = R14,50 or R13,50 to the US$ on Oct 2015) We prefer to get a budget for accommodation from each student.
11. Do I need a car or is there public transport?
We usually try to find you accommodation close to your work place, so that you can walk or use public transport. To be more independent, especially at night when public transport (besides normal taxis) is not recommended, it would be easier to get your own car or even share one with friends you meet here. There are public busses and minibuses, but they are not always reliable or do not go on all routes. Car rentals range from R3200 – R3800 per month, all inclusive, if done via us.
12. How will I find accommodation?
XChange offers a range of different accommodation types. Depending on your preferences, we try to organise you a single apartment or single or double room in a house. Most houses have only shared accommodation – always only with one other person in the room. That is the cheapest accommodation as single accommodation has become very expensive in general. During the period September to February, it is almost impossible to get single accommodation anywhere as it is peak season in the tourism industry. We mix our houses. You will not be alone, you will stay with people from different nationalities and not just people from your own language.
13. What fields does XChange South Africa place your students in?
There is no field we do not have companies for and if we have not worked in a specific field prior to your application, we will find such a placement for you. Popular fields are: information technology, events management, communications, real estate management, law, tourism, many different types of engineering, graphic design, marketing, fields involving animals, agriculture, political, environmental studies, business administration, human resources, social studies, physiotherapy, teaching or pedagogics, medical studies etc…
14. When is the best time to apply?
You should apply between 3 and 6 month in advance to your planned arrival. Usually we also can assist applications at short notice, but to guarantee you our best service and the most suitable internship, it is rather advisable to apply more in advance. If you can apply 12 months in advance, we will be very happy.
15. Does everybody speak English?
Yes, the business language here is English. There are 13 official languages spoken in our country, but even if someone speaks Afrikaans, Xhosa or Sotho as their first language, they all speak and understand English fluently. German and Dutch are frequently spoken in cosmopolitan cities like Cape Town/
16. Do I need a visa?
The visa regulations for SA has just changed again – and as we know them, will change again soon. Please ensure you check with the SA Embassy in your country prior to leaving. We will walk you through the process step by step to ensure it is as painless possible. Visa requirements for an internship (what to submit).
- Form Bl 84
- Non-refundable processing fee of 50 Euro (cash).
- Valid Passport (a passport is valid for no less than 30 days after departure from the Republic of South Africa and containing at least 2 blank pages for endorsements. A Dutch passport must contain a valid long term or permanent residence permit for the Netherlands.
- Two recent identical photographs.
- Proof of sufficient funds by means of bank statements, 3 months back, to prove to cover envisaged living expenses during your stay in South Africa
- Police Clearance Certificate in respect of each country the applicant lived for the 12 months or longer since the age of 18 years – so-called “verklaring omtrent het gedrag” in Dutch. This letter must be obtained at the Consulate and presented to your Town Hall).
- Flights to and from South Africa
- Medical Report (Bl811)
- Radiological report (Bl806)
- A letter from the foreign academic institution confirming enrollment abroad. (if it applies)
- A letter from the host organization or institution in South Africa (confirming that the applicant is a student, completing voluntary unpaid internship) The host organization or institution in South Africa should provide proof that they are responsible for the student/intern and guarantee the repatriation of the student/intern, if not, a repatriation guarantee of 750 Euro should be paid upfront by the student.
- Proof of medical insurance coverage for the period the student/ intern is in South Africa.
17. Please consult the South Africa Home Affairs Website
e.g. www.southafrica.nl For pure voluntary work e.g. with children, animals etc., you can use the word volunteer. For internships, you use the word unpaid internship and for a period of 90 days or fewer, a different process applies as you technically do not need to apply through this process.
18. What is the weather like?
Any true Capetonian will tell you that there can be four seasons in Cape Town per day. The summers in Cape Town are long and wonderful. The temperature usually falls within a consistent range of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit or 27-38 Celsius. A regular south-easterly wind blows often in November to January (commonly called the Cape Doctor), ensuring that Cape Town is never too hot or covered in smog. Our sun is very intense in the daytime and we recommend that you remember sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher!
The winters in Cape Town offers milder temperatures around 8 – 12 Degrees C. We don’t know snow – although higher mountains do get covered in thick layers of snow from time to time causing temperatures, especially at night time to drop drastically. Cape Town gets winter rains (May to September) and Johannesburg summer thunder storms. (September – April.) Regardless, we need rain and we need wind to cool us down. Our summers are long, hot and sometimes uncomfortable.
19. How do I withdraw money?
The easiest will be just to bring a bank card (EC, Maestro) to withdraw money. There are plenty of ATMs (banking machines) throughout the city. Contact your bank prior to arrival to enquire if they have cooperation agreements with any South African bank. This can save you on banking fees. Bringing a credit card is an advantage if you would like to rent a car or want to book any trips via internet, as often you may need a credit card to pay a deposit. Also it is much easier to pay with a credit card at most places. You will not be able to open a local bank account without having either a study or volunteer visa though.
20. Do I need any insurance?
You have to have a health insurance (medical cover) prior to entering SA. Currently some countries specify it has to be travel insurance taken out with a South African company, but we will assist you with that. Always make sure personal valuables are insured.
21. Can I use my cell phone?
You should bring your cell phone, as we will provide you with a South African sim card. (not for iphones etc.) Just ensure it is unblocked should you have a contract phone. If you have a sim-cardless phone, it cannot be used in South Africa. If you have an older phone, it is recommended that you use that for day to day usage in South Africa and rather leave more expensive phones at home. You can purchase a cheap basic phone here under R200 – well worth keeping your iPhones safe.
22. Do I need any injections or health risks I need to know about?
South Africa, especially Cape Town, is not a malaria area. For any other inoculation advice, contact your doctor or the tropical institute. Should you go to the Kruger Park or other Southern African countries, you can get your malaria prophylaxis in every pharmacy. That you purchase in SA as it is far cheaper here. South Africa boasts high hygiene standards with safe drinking water (South African tap water is rated as the 6th best in the world) available in most tourist areas and whilst Aids is a problem throughout Africa, you will only put yourself at risk of contracting HIV if you partake in unprotected sex or intravenous drug taking. The use of drugs is illegal in SA and should a student be caught, ending up in a jail is totally possible. We will also ask a person to leave our program if caught in possession of drugs.
There is a risk of contracting malaria if you are visiting certain parts of the Kruger National Park, parts of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Northwest , Northern provinces or crossing over into other African countries. The decision whether or not to take precautions against malaria is a personal one, especially as the drugs prescribed for this are unsuitable for long term use. Local inhabitants of malarial areas cover up arms and legs during early mornings and the evenings, often using a mosquito repellant spray for any other areas of exposed skin and nets over sleeping and sitting area’s.
The most serious health risk you are likely to face is from the South African sun which can be unforgiving at any time of the year. European skins are simply not suited for our heat and adequate sunscreen, UV filter sunglasses and a hat would be essential. If you are particularly of fair skin be careful not to overdo exposing yourself to the sun. Even 10 minutes under the summer sun is long enough to burn red if you are not used to it! There are no compulsory inoculations if you arrive from the West, but it would be wise to ensure your polio and tetanus vaccinations are up to date.
23. Is it safe to stay in SA?
It is as safe as in any other bigger European or world city. On your day of arrival, we will take you on an orientation tour and show you all the basic safe places to do business in and also give you advice about things not to do. Basic common sense issues like not to wear any expensive jewellery or carrying cameras in public, especially at night time, not walking alone at night time, will assist that you have the time of your life without a problem.
24. Can I drink the tap water in Cape Town?
Cape Town and most of South Africa has excellent quality tap water and boasts one of the cleanest natural water supplies on the planet.
25. Where do the interns and volunteers come from that come through XChange South Africa?
Over the past 17 years, we have been fortunate to host interns and volunteers from over 58 (plus) countries worldwide – including Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Pakistan, France, Turkey, Spain, Australia, Bulgaria, Russia, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Switzerland, Chili, Argentina, Colombia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Iran, Egypt, Norway, Indonesia, Ireland, Belgium, Australia etc.
- The ages of our students and volunteers range from 18 to a spirited 68 years.
- The average age of females is more or less 22 to 23 years.
- The average age of males is between 23 – 25years.
- We have about 50% male and 50% female on average per annum.
- We know that more than 35% of our current interns have between 3 – 5 visitors per person while they are in the country. Sometimes that is even more.
26. Financial Planning – Expected Costs
- Agency Fees
- Visa Application Fees
- Flights (return)
- Health Insurance
- Health Checks
- Police Clearance Certificate
Monthly Expenses in Cape Town
- Rent - ranges between R2,400.00 to R3,800.00 per month
- Key deposit - (refundable once-off payment) R1,500.00
- Electricity - (shared by all) between R150 – R400 p month, depending how many people in a house
- Food - Making your own meals will save you a lot of money.
- Cell phone - WhatsApp or Viber useable keeps costs down.
- Car Rental - (if applicable) +/- R3200.00 – R3800.00.
- Fuel for car - (if applicable) +/-R13.00 per litre but changing all the time.
- Entertainment - Cheaper than in Europe or USA.
- Internet - Most houses have WiFi, but at a fee. Use work internet for downloading or uploading perhaps and make use of free WiFi in café’s.
27. Where can I get more information about Cape Town and your internship program?
Our Facebook Page is an excellent place to learn more about our program and communicate with program alumni. You can look at our website for information about us, our programs, our students and activities. It will offer you a visual overview of the program and our internship testimonials page will allow you to read about the internship experiences of past participants spanning over many years.
For more information about our South African or Cape Town internship program, please email us to request by filling in the response request on our website or mailing us your CV, dates, internship requirements and we will get in touch with you.