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BYU-I Students: Here's How To Make Your Semester Abroad Happen

Posted by Jen King on 1/20/22 10:30 AM

ILP Thailand

Each semester,  BYU-I students volunteer with ILP all over the world. If you don’t think you can make a semester abroad fit in with your college plans, think again!

Whether you want the chance to see the Eiffel Tower sparkling on a night in Paris, or want an island adventure with your new travel buddies ... or you even just want to add some great experience to your resume, we can help you make it happen.

Ready to find out which country you're going to?
Get your application started right here


Every semester, there are BYU-I students who are traveling, volunteering and doing some rad things with International Language Programs. Going abroad with ILP looks similar to a semester abroad — you get to live abroad with other volunteers your age for about 3-4 months, but the best part is that it's usually 1/2 the cost (or even more than half the cost).

Go to school but also get the experience of traveling, making new friends, and volunteering ... here's how!

Go Abroad During Your Off-Track

One thing that a lot of BYU-Idaho students do is plan their ILP trip to be during their off-track. That way you can spend your semester break wandering around castles in Europe! Or maybe you're more of a sunshine kinda person and you find yourself doing humanitarian work in the Caribbean.  We've got options for you.

If you're on the Fall/Winter Track

You'll want to apply for ILP's "Summer" semester. Here's what it'll look like:

Your Winter finals in Rexburg will happen around the middle of April. Most ILP Summer groups leave mid April to early/late May, so you'll most likely have a couple of weeks to get packing before your trip! You'll go travel abroad and come home sometime in August, so you're totally set for the next semester! Your Fall semester in Rexburg doesn't start until the middle of September, so that gives you about a month to hang out at home before school starts.

If you're on the Winter/Spring Track

You'll want to apply for ILP's "Fall" semester. Here's what it'll look like:

Your finals will happen around mid July, giving you about a month to get ready, go home and give your mom a kiss, and pack for your ILP trip! Your ILP departure will happen sometime between mid August/late September (or mid-October), then you're back home before Christmas. Then your Winter track in Rexburg starts back up just after the New Year.

If you're on the Spring/Fall Track

You'll want to sign up for ILP's "Spring" semester that runs from January or early February-about the end of April or early May (just depending on which country you're going to).

Heads up, ILP's "Spring" semester is essentially like BYU-I's "Winter" semester, sorry for the confusion with those names!

Here's how it'll work:

Your BYU-I finals will be the middle of December, you'll head home to spend Christmas and New Years with your family, and then get ready for your ILP trip that starts sometime in January or February. You'll travel around with your ILP group, do some service, and fly back home around the end of April or early May to start right back up with your Spring semester in Rexburg.

Your BYU-I Spring semester usually starts around the middle of April, which will mean missing a couple of weeks of classes. ILP Spring semester usually come home anywhere from mid/late April, to early/mid May. (Again, you can check general ranges for specific ILP countries here — some generally come home earlier which would work better for your school schedule. 

We have had volunteers take this route. Talk to your professors to let them know that you're on a volunteer trip and may miss the first few classes of the semester. It's completely up to them, but you'll want to be proactive about letting them know so that you don't lose your spot in the class just because you didn't attend the first day. Often times volunteers are able to get this worked out when they explain why they're missing a couple classes, but again, it's completely up to your professors.

A Special Option for BYU-I Students

If you're worried about missing the first couple of weeks of school, we get it. We do have one unique trip that you might want to consider — our Thailand program is split into an earlier trip and a later trip during the Spring semester. So if you were in the earlier group, you would return the end of March or early April (which gives much more breathing room to return in time for your BYU-I Spring semester). Just a head's up though, our Thailand program is very popular and spots are limited. If you're hoping to get into this particular early group for the ILP Spring semester in Thailand, I recommend applying the day we open applications and then work quickly on getting your documents in so that you have the best chances of avoiding a waitlist. If you add your email to this notification list, we'll let you know the second applications open for the semester you're interested in!

If you've got your eye on other countries though, don't worry! We have had many BYU-Idaho students work it out to volunteer during the ILP Spring semester with us.

ILP Thailand

Or You Can Defer A Semester 

You can also decide to take a break from studying and defer a semester to volunteer abroad. Maybe you need your off-track to work and save up (that's what I did), so it makes more sense to just take a semester off of school that year.

BYU-I makes this easy; everyone can defer from BYU-I for one semester without having to reapply when they return. That's a great tool you can use for making ILP fit in with your college life. Thanks, BYU-I! 

So for example, when I was a student at BYU-Idaho, I really wanted to do an ILP trip ... but I also needed to save up some money in order to do it. I was on the Fall/Winter track, so I went to school in the fall and told my academic advisor what I wanted to do. She helped me defer my winter semester so that I could go home, live with my parents (thanks mom!), work full time, and get ready for my ILP trip. I volunteered in Mexico that summer (which was normally my off-track) and then got home just in time to go back to school for the Fall semester.

It worked out perfect for me — I had so much fun and had so many new experiences, but it also gave me a much-needed break which actually helped me get focused and decide what I wanted to choose as my major. Oh, and bonus ... I became really good friends with one of the other volunteers in my group and we decided to be roommates when we got back to school!

Internship Credit 

We have had volunteers turn their ILP semester into an internship, but it's all worked out through your university.  BYU-I has a few requirements for internships, but this blog post goes through it all to help you get started on applying for internship credit.

Take Online and Pathway Classes

Volunteers with ILP are only teaching part-time (you'll spend a half a day volunteering, Monday - Friday) which gives you plenty of time to explore a foreign country and take online classes at the same time. Take a look at your BYU-I grad planner see which classes are offered online, and plan to complete those while you're volunteering.

There are even BYU-Idaho online degrees if you choose to follow that route.

You can also use BYU-Idaho’s pathway program. This program combines online classes with groups of students around the US and the world; there are actually groups located in the areas where ILP volunteers are living in Europe. 

We don't always recommend taking online classes during your ILP adventure for a few reasons, but in the right circumstance, it can work. Talk to your ILP rep if you're looking for advice on that, or follow @ilptakeovers where you can talk to current volunteers and ask them what they think about how realistic it would be to take classes online while living abroad.

Get On A Fast Grad Plan 

While we think that a semester abroad is one of the best investments you can make for your education and future, you might not want to sign up for something that pushes your other plans back. If that’s the case, this is for you.

You can also apply for BYU-Idaho Fast Grad which allows you to go to school 3 semesters in a row. So, now you can defer one semester to volunteer in Thailand, come home, then take 3 semesters in a row with Fast Grad. If you do that you can volunteer and actually still graduate the same time you would have. If you have a goal to graduate by a certain date, it's definitely something to consider.

Lds volunteer programs

Join other BYU-I students on a semester abroad!

Get even more information by talking with an ILP representative too — they can help you figure out which semester and which country would be perfect for your schedule: 

 Text Me! I've Got Questions


Topics: Tips For Your Twenties

Hey friends!

We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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