Hi, my name is Lindsay and I can't stop volunteering abroad with ILP.
If you don't know, International Language Programs is an awesome organization that sends people (just like you and me) to volunteer abroad for a semester in these countries. They have programs all over the world (so good luck choosing!) plus it was easily the most affordable way for me to keep traveling. You're also set up with a group of fellow volunteers (so you're not just hanging out alone in a different country) and you don't have to have any teaching experience. See why I'm such a fan?
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When I was 18, I was about to graduate from high school, hadn't figured the whole college thing out and really didn't know what I was going to do. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law had recently been a volunteer on the ILP program and told me to check it out. Long story short, a few months after I graduated I found myself on my way to live in Ukraine! Little did I know, that semester was going to set something off in me that - really - was out of my control!
10 years later, I have spent a semester abroad in Ukraine, China, Thailand and Lithuania (the last three being as a Head Teacher, where I got to go for free) and worked in the ILP office for almost six years! Some think it's awesome, some think I'm crazy, and others want to know why. Here are my top five reasons:
If you don't know, ILP kids are the cutest kids! Part of your service volunteering is working with children and helping them learn English. They are the best part of the semester and the hardest part to leave behind. Teaching can be hard, but in the end, those kids were my absolute favorite part of any of my trips.
It wasn't always easy teaching a classroom of very energetic kids but when I left each one of my countries, I realized how much I would miss every one of them (yep, even the troublemakers). I may have signed up to volunteer with ILP so I could do a lot of traveling, but each semester, the kids were hands down my favorite part of the experience.
For three of my trips, I signed up to go alone and didn't know a single person that was assigned to be in my ILP group. By the way? Most of us did the same! Most volunteers don't have friends going but plan on just making friends with their ILP group once they got in country.
It was a huge comfort to know that even though I didn't know anyone, I still had a group of people to rely on (most of which came alone too). In the end, they ended up being some of my best friends who I still see and talk to all the time! So many of my favorite memories are of my ILP groups traveling around, tasting new foods, and traveling to so many different countries.
Pretty self explanatory. Backpacking Europe, visiting the L'viv Chocolate Factory, hiking the Great Wall and playing with elephants in Chiang Mai...Never would have been possible without my semesters abroad! I can't tell you how many adventures I've been able to have thanks to my four semesters abroad with ILP. Once you get started, it's really hard to not sign up for another semester just so you can pack in more traveling!
The Program Itself
There's a huge level of support for volunteers with the ILP Program. The organization is based in Utah, and run by directors who are so involved with all of the logistics that go into sending college-aged volunteers abroad. From the minute you send in an application, you're in touch with an ILP representative who's there to answer all of your questions. Then, you're trained on the ILP teaching method and given so many resources to prep you to teach and live abroad. Once you're in country, you're in touch with a local staff who's there to help the program run smoothly, plus the Head Teacher is in contact with their own Program Manager who helps troubleshoot any issues that come up. If you ever need anything, they are right there to help you out!
Head Teaching (AKA volunteering for free)
One of the biggest perks of volunteering with ILP is going back as a Head Teacher! If you go as a Head Teacher, your program fee is waived (or greatly reduced) and you receive a stipend to help with some of your spending money. You can go back as many times as you want (as long as you're doing well) to as many countries as you want! We've had volunteers Head Teach more than 8 times!
Come volunteer with us!
I could go on and on about why I decided to volunteer with ILP multiple times, but I'll leave it with those top reasons. If you some more information about the International Language Programs, click below.