You guys have been begging us for a volunteer program in India, so we are more than thrilled to tell you that the time has finally come!
Every time we ask our volunteers where they're hoping our next program will be we always hear, "India! India!" among the many guesses.
And we completely agree. It's one of those seemingly elusive parts of the world that offers soooo many adventures. A semester here is packed with so much more than you are expecting, it would definitely take three or four semesters here to really see it all!
Spend a semester abroad in India with us!
We're accepting applications right now — head here to apply
We're talking everything from riding a yak in the mountains (an absolute dream!) to snorkeling and surfing next to beautiful sandy beaches. Taking a rickshaw to go see a temple while monkeys jump through the trees overhead. Riding a camel into the desert at sunset where you can sleep under the stars. Safari to see tigers. Exploring most colorful cities and stunning palaces. Go white water rafting then relax in hot springs. SEE A WORLD WONDER.
But this isn't just India — your new home is tucked away in one of the most picturesque landmarks in the entire world.
Welcome to the Himalayas!
ILP's Himalayan Program — India
International Language Programs (ILP) is a service-based, semester abroad program for college-age volunteers. We started our first program in Europe 30+ years ago and now send volunteers all over the world. We are thrilled to add India to that list.
But First — Why India?
We're always on the hunt for new locations that would be a perfect fit for you to live in for a few months and explore. Our world is so amazing and there are a ton of countries that are still on our wishlist to add as an option for our volunteers.
So out of all the countries in the world, how did we pick India?
Well, first ... it's INDIA. A country that has the incredible Taj Mahal, and so much more — seriously, we cannot wait to spill the secrets on some of the most surprising things you can see, do, and experience here. Second? We love helping you experience cultures and countries that aren't as easy to just travel to on your own for a week long vacation. India is definitely one of those bucket list dream experiences that you want to have, but that you doubt you'll ever actually be able to (until now!).
But as to how we got started here? That's a pretty special story.
How Did We Get Started Here?
Oftentimes we're approached by locals who want to team up and have our English classes available in their community. And for various reasons, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.
When someone from India reached out to us, we were very intrigued — this particular country has been requested (many times) by volunteers, so it's been on our radar. But there are many things that need to fall into place before we will move forward with a program in any country. Primarily, it needs to be a place where learning English is beneficial and we can give you guys an opportunity to do good. It needs to be a community that is welcoming, and can help you experience a completely new culture. There has to be AMAZING adventures, not only around the country for your vacations, but also right close to home for your weekends, too (we're pretty adamant about that).
And the more we talked, the more excited we got about adding India to our list of programs.
Our contact said that there are tour groups that come for a couple of weeks and as part of that experience, they also do some service by spending a day at a school teaching kids English. But there was just one problem ... the kids aren't progressing with their English as quickly as they hoped. They're finding that there's only so much that can be done in a day, when visitors come every once in a while, and they wanted to find solutions to offer even more to the students. The local teachers at the school asked him to find English teachers that could come for longer, asking "Are there teachers that can stay for a few months?"
This is one of the big reasons we're so passionate about having programs that are a bit longer. Our goal is that the fun activities you do with the kids are not just an experience for you, but more importantly, that it truly does help them to be able to speak English naturally — a skill that will open doors again and again for their future. And that takes spending quite a bit of quality time with English speakers (and a lot of practice). By being a part of a volunteer group who will be there for a whole semester (which has consistent semesters of volunteers who will pick up where you left off), we can help with a much more effective way for these kids to learn.
ILP's Himalayan Program
India is such an expansive country, so deciding exactly where we wanted our newest ILP program to land was tough. It's so fun to experience the bigger cities for a day or two while you're exploring, but we love the idea of you getting to spend your typical day-to-day life in a quieter area. Somewhere you can really get to know your community and be immersed in the culture.
We want you to be surrounded with things to do on the weekends and have access to all the places you want to see on vacation, but not have to feel like you're living in a touristy area.
But don't worry, we found the perfect spot for your new home ... and it's right at the base of the Himalayan mountains (eeeek!).
Where will I be living?
You'll be in Kullu — a rural town in Himachal Pradesh, a state in the northwestern corner of India. The Beas River flows right through your little town, with the towering mountains as your backdrop and Nepal and Tibet neighboring to the east. It's known for its green sprawling hills and thick forests. We're in love with the community and it's actually pretty easy to find locals who speak English, thanks to the many colleges in the area (which can be so helpful with the language barrier).
This is the part of the country where the locals come when they're looking for the best outdoorsy-kind-of-vacations, with surrounding towns to explore. This area is nicknamed "The Switzerland of India" if that gives you an idea of the mountains, alpine lakes, and meadows waiting for you! Come for white water rafting, hikes to waterfalls, hot springs, ziplining, yak rides through the mountains, Tibetan prayer flags, and ski resorts. Oh, and some of the best hiking in the world. You live about 10 miles from the entrance to the Great Himalayan National Park, so hiking the trails in these iconic mountains is just a typical weekend for you.
No matter what semester you come here, you'll experience what some say is the best weather in India — cooler temperatures! Think warm (but not swelteringly hot, like other parts of India) mountain summers with green rolling hills. Then, a crisp fall, and a rainy spring time filled with fresh flower blossoms on the sunny days. In the wintertime, find snow for skiing up in the mountains.
Oh and the Dalai Lama agrees that this is the best spot to be ... he lives nearby!
When is it?
We have 3 trips each year that you can join!
- Spring: early/mid February — end of April/early May (come celebrate Holi!)
- Summer: early May — middle of August
- Fall: end of August/early to middle of September — middle of December (home in time for Christmas)
Who can volunteer?
ILP volunteers are American college-age adults. Still in high school and dreaming about going? No problem! You can get ready by applying now for the first semester that starts after you turn 18.
We're planning on having about 7-10 people in the group which means lots of new travel buddies to experience it all with!
In some locations, we're a bit limited on who we can accept due to housing, but that's not the case with India (yay!). We will be accepting applications for both single males and females as well as married couples.
And like we mentioned before, there is no experience required.
Help Young Kids In India Learn English
You'll love getting to live in another part of the world for a few months, but the volunteering you do is what really makes this experience as meaningful as it is.
Like we mentioned, teaching English is the focus of this program! Just like our volunteer programs in other countries, you’ll plan fun lessons and activities for kindergarten and 1st graders, all held in English, (about 4 hours a day, Monday-Friday) with a group of other college-age American volunteers.
Teaching with ILP isn’t like traditional language classes reciting grammar from a textbook in a room full of 30+ students — ILP volunteers spend time “playing” one-on-one with the kids and planning fun lessons structured entirely in English to help them learn the language in a natural way. You’ll be teaching with our unique methodology and will receive training and support the entire semester from both our main office in Utah, USA, and locally in India.
Don't worry, teaching experience isn't necessary with our program. Actually, most volunteers have never taught prior to their semester with ILP. You don't need to be in school, have a degree, or any other certification! You also don't need to speak any other language since your classes are held entirely in English.
ILP's First Hybrid Program
If you're familiar with ILP, you might know that we have 2 types of programs that you can choose from.
Exchange Programs are built to be exactly like the name ... a true exchange. You teach English classes and there is a fee for the students to attend, which is in turn used to help subsidize your costs (making your ILP program fee a bit lower).
Humanitarian Programs are similar in that you're teaching the same types of classes, but here, your service is going to help children who come from very little means and would not otherwise be able to afford to attend. You're teaching in areas that struggle with poverty and your class is a free gift to that community!
That brings us to India — and our very first Hybrid Program! You're going to do a little of each in this program. In this program, you may split your time between a private school, with students who are a bit more affluent, and also teach students who come from limited means at another school. Or, you may be teaching students who come from limited means, and have costs subsidized by the government. This type of program helps us bring the cost of your program fee down, making it even more affordable for you while also being able to help more children.
What does it cost?
We work hard to keep your costs as low as we can. And considering where our newest country is, we worked some magic for you guys!
For Volunteers — $3,970
For Head Teachers — $1,000 (and you'll also receive a stipend to help with your personal spending and vacation costs. (Want to learn more about being a Head Teacher? Head here.)
As always, that program fee includes your roundtrip international airfare to and from India, airport pickup, housing and at-home meals, pre-departure and in-country training and support throughout the entire experience, as well as language and culture experiences. We've got some Hindi language classes in the works for you that we are so excited about.
We also offer monthly payment plans. After you're accepted we can set up a custom plan that works for you, so no worries about that. If you're able to pay in full within 3 weeks of the date you're accepted there is a $100 discount for that though!
What's my housing like?
You'll be living on campus at one of the schools you're teaching at with your group! Think of it like dorm living — there's an open-air hallway with several bedrooms leading off from there. You'll get to share a room and a bathroom with one of your new friends in your volunteer group, just steps away from the rest of your group (which provides a very short commute to one of the schools you'll be teaching at).
What's the food like?
There is a cook at your school who is preparing your at-home meals so it's all arranged for you! Most of your meals will be local Indian dishes, but they also want to help you feel more at home, so you may see some attempts at westernizing versions of Indian dishes, too.
Culturally, many locals are vegetarian and in some parts of the country it may even be hard to find meat dishes at all. That's the case at your school, too — they're strict vegetarian and don't typically have meat dishes, but again, they're looking for ways to help you feel at home and are planning to prepare a few dishes each week that do include meat.
Just because Indian dishes are often meatless, it does not mean they're lacking protein. You'll get your fill from things like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and potatoes swirled in a yummy, spiced curry.
For breakfast — you'll enjoy eggs, deep fried scones, tortilla-like breads, toast, pancakes, and rice pudding kheer (which is a sweet dish, similar to pudding).
For lunch — this is smallest meal of the day. After a fuller breakfast, lunch is usually meant to just hold you over until dinner.
For dinner — now, we feast. Dinner in India is the largest meal of the day (similar to how it is in the States). You'll see dishes like Butter Chicken, Malai Tikka, stir fry, curry, and other dishes, served with warm naan. For those westernized dishes we mentioned, things like chicken, pasta, and enchiladas may be served from time to time.
Traveling Around India (+ Nepal too!)
There is oh so much to see and do in India. Of course you're close to the Himalayas so you've got things like yak rides, hiking, exploring mountain towns, white water rafting, ziplining and more right in your own backyard. Talk about perks!
Then, there are colorful cities themed cities painted in pinks, yellows, and blues. Plan on seeing the most intricate temples, ornate palaces, and towering mosques in cities all over this country. If you love design, you're going to be obsessed with the intricate details everywhere you look.
Need some beach time? There are stretches of beautiful sandy beaches waiting for you — just take your pick! Time to snorkel, surf, or kayak these pristine coastline getaways.
Or go glamping out in the desert — a camel will get you there at sunset, just in time to lay out under the stars.
We wrote a quick guide to India destinations to help you start dreaming of where you'll go.
And yep, Nepal is close by and we have a feeling you'll want to check that off your bucketlist, too.
Travel is going to be different here
There are a lot of foreigners who vacation in India, but it can be pretty overwhelming to figure everything out on your own. Most people see India with a tour guide — you won't see many tourists just out exploring the country on their own.
With other ILP programs, we love that you get the experience of learning how to plan your own vacations to gain some confidence in trip planning for your own life, long after your ILP adventure is over. Typically, ILP helps out by gathering all of the recommendations for you (and steering you in the right direction with approved activities and locations, for safety purposes), but your group really gets to make all the decisions — What city are you going to explore? How are you getting there ... bus? Flight? What hostel are you staying at? Infinity pool or budget rooms? It's really DIY. It's a ton of work to plan a trip and of course, there's always a gamble because you're just going off information you probably found online, but it's all part of the adventure.
India is different. Like we mentioned, you really want a tour guide here (it will make your vacations go 100X smoother).
This is one thing we're really excited about, and another thing that makes India just a little bit different than our other programs — We've got THE tour guide for you guys. He's very experienced with working with young American travelers, so he knows all the places you're going to want to see and will help you find the experiences you didn't even know you could do. And he's got the hook ups. He's actually been lovingly called "the magic man" because if there's something you want to do, he makes it happen.
So all of your vacations and excursions for your semester in India will be with our guide and his team. They've got everything planned out for you, so you get to just sit back and enjoy your trip! They'll have different packages you and your group can choose from with vacations they think you'll love. Which brings us to another perk — it's going to be much easier to stay within your personal spending budget when you know the cost of the vacation before you even go! Plus, you have options (there are dozens and dozens of dreamy destinations to choose from).
You can also make requests if there's something you want to do they hadn't already included (as long as they're destinations that are ILP approved). The majority of India is an option, but your travel team does have recommendations based on feedback they've gotten from past tour groups. You'll definitely want to listen to their vacation ideas because they're good ones.
I’m Interested and Ready To Go!
How Do I Apply To Volunteer?
Send in your application as soon as possible! It's just a quick form to get started and then one of our representatives will reach out to help you with the next steps and answer your questions. We're currently accepting applications.
I’ve Already Applied … Can I Switch Countries?
We love all of our countries but we don’t blame you wanting to experience India!
If you are rethinking your original plans, you don't need to send in a new application. Instead just let us know — whether you're still working on your Orientation or you're already assigned to another country, we will be accepting requests to join the India group. Just tap that blue chat box at the bottom right side of your screen or email/text your representative that you've been working with to let us know you're interested.
How Do I Apply To Be A Head Teacher?
As long as you've volunteered with ILP at least once before, you can apply to be the Head Teacher for the Himalayan group. Right now is a great time to apply.
Spend a semester volunteering in India!
Live in a new country for a few months with other American college-age volunteers. It's affordable. It's impactful (for both you and for the community you get to serve while you're there). You get to make lasting friendships and experience real personal growth. We may be biased, but we think it's an opportunity you can't miss.