So you want to spend a semester living abroad, but how in the world are you supposed to choose a country … Which one is the best fit? Talk about a tough choice (because seriously, every country is rad and you've got 10 to choose from … it just depends on what you are looking for). But don’t worry, maybe we can help you narrow it down.
Choosing what country you want to volunteer and adventure in is one tough choice. I mean, it’s like trying to choose between something amazing and something incredible. Good thing we are here to help. (Oh and if deciding between Thailand and Haiti isn’t what’s keeping you from volunteering, we have a free guide that talks about solving some other problems that might be holding you back from a semester abroad right here).
The truth is that you'll love any country you go to. If you ask any ILP alumni where they recommend, they almost always say go to the country they went to. You just fall in love with the experiences and the people no matter where you go!
So, if you fall into any of these categories below, you'll find something you love in any country but we're trying to help you narrow it down, so here's our recommendations to help you have your best experience living abroad!
If you love history …
You are going to loooooove Europe, especially volunteering in Eastern Europe. ILP has schools in Russia, Ukraine and Poland (and a couple other awesome countries), but these three are just bursting with history. Dream about seeing the gorgeous St. Basil’s cathedral in real life, or paying your respects at Auschwitz? That's right...did you know you can actually take a tour of that WWII concentration camp you read so much about in school? Or what about wandering down streets lined with cathedrals that are hundreds of years old or seeing castles in real life? Yep, Europe might be for you.
Also, there are WWII sites all across Eastern Europe, so if you’re interested in that era, you’ll be able to keep yourself very, very busy. Volunteers certainly soak up lots of history in the country they're living in for a semester, but you can travel all around the European Union during vacations (so countries like France, Italy, Germany, Austria and more!) to see even more. If you want to see both St Basil's cathedral and Auschwitz...you can! Volunteer in Russia and vacation in Poland. Done deal.
If you love outdoor adventures ...
This doesn't make your choice any easier, but seriously you’ll pretty much love any ILP location! But if you need to narrow it down, I say set your heart on Asia. Scroll through some photos on Instagram with the hashtags #ILPChina or #ILPThailand and you’ll see what I mean. You will have sooooo many mountains to climb (especially in China — places like Guilin, Zhangjiajie and Tianmen Mountain), and your adventurous heart will fall in love with the jungle side of both countries. You won't believe how green China is and you could spend a lifetime exploring here. And if you think riding elephants is just something you can do in Thailand, think again — our China volunteers love these gentle giants too.
Mexico is also another country to think about. You don't have to travel far to get to explore! There's so many beautiful spots that are just a few hours away from where you'll be volunteering in Mexico so you can be adventuring to a new city every weekend. We especially love the nearby hotsprings overlooking the mountains. You can also take longer vacations to see ancient ruins — some are hidden in the jungle and some are right on the incredible beaches (we’re looking at you, Tulum!). Speaking of beaches, you have a few dozens favorite places to choose from.
If you want to make a difference ...
Again, all ILP locations help you serve and make a difference! However, you’re probably more interested in our Humanitarian Program — we have three to choose from. In the Dominican Republic and Haiti, you’ll be spending your days helping kids in extreme poverty learn English and get some precious one-on-one time. English is incredibly important everywhere, but especially for these kids who live in touristic areas that cater to English speakers. In Haiti, you’ll be volunteering with orphans and will actually live right in the orphanage with the kids and your ILP group — it’s like one big family and you’ll be able to spend more time with your kids out of class because you live in the same orphanage!
Romania is our 3rd Humanitarian option and is totally unique. It’s ILP’s only orphanage program where you’re not teaching English but helping in other ways. Volunteers here will be helping in an orphanage and in a hospital, giving lots of love and one-on-one time with kids you’ll have a hard time saying goodbye to. This post can give you a better idea what it’s all about.
If you're on a tight budget ...
Think about pretty much anywhere but Europe. We love Europe, don’t get us wrong, but costs there are similar to the US. You can eat your heart out in Italy, but it will probably cost around $7-11 instead of spending $2-5 on dinner while in Asia. You’ll freak out (in a good way) at how cheap things can be in China and Mexico. Ice cream for a few cents, a taxi ride split with your group for a couple dollars each and cheap, cheap, cheap tacos and noodles. In some cities in China, a train ride to places like Shanghai is just $6. Practice your bargaining skills the Pearl Market in Beijing and get your favorite pair of Converse shoes for under $10 (and 20 other things you can buy for cheap here). Your money goes a lot further when you’re living in China and Mexico.
If you have a bucket list ...
Again, you’ll be able to cross off a lot in all of the ILP countries so it sort of depends on what’s on your bucket list. If you want to see a lot of different countries, Europe is going to be your best best. Because volunteers can travel around the European Union, you can see 15 European Cities in 10 days if you want. You’ll also be living in cities that have some major bucket list potential (places like Moscow and Kiev!).
But Europe isn't the only place for our bucket listers out there. If you want to run a marathon or camp overnight on the Great Wall of China, China’s your go-to country - This country has a few other bucket list items, like the Forbidden City, eating a scorpion, seeing pandas in real life, and holding baby lion cubs. For someone looking to see another World Wonder (Chichen Itza), salsa dance in a city square or take a horse ride on the beach at sunset, head to Mexico. Thailand of course has the beaches and elephant rides that you've seen so many pictures of, but you can also vacation in Cambodia and see another World Wonder there at Angkor Wat!
If you love traveling the road less traveled...
When you say “I went to London”, people don’t need a lot of explanation. But if you say you are going to live abroad in Haiti or Romania, you are probably going to get a few questions about life there. Every city and country has their own hidden gems, but some ILP countries have more than a few secrets…like the gorgeous lantern festival that happens in Romania every year. Or the huge fortress hidden in the Haitian mountains. You’ll also get a different experience while living in Ukraine and Russia with your very own host family! You’ll be able to hear about the hidden gems in these countries straight from the locals you live with.
Mexico is also a sleeper — people think Mexico is just beaches and tourists, but that’s only a small part of this country. Talk to any one of our volunteers and you may hear about taking hot air balloon rides over cities that look like a long-lost part of Spain, or swimming in underground pools called cenotes. Who knew? You can't experience true Mexico on a trip to Cancun with your family. You've got to live there and visit the cities tourists never make it to.
If you can’t make up your mind, don’t worry — we can help put you in touch with people who have volunteered to where you want to go! They’ll be able to give you some more details and help answer your questions. And it couldn’t be easier, all you have to do is just click that green button right there: