If you're currently a student at Utah Valley University, you could easily fit a semester volunteering abroad in. International Language Programs (that's us!) has UVU students applying to volunteer every semester and here's how they make it work.
We're big advocates of the value that a semester abroad can add to your overall college experience. If this is your first time leaving the country (or really even just leaving home), volunteering with ILP is a perfect way to step outside of your comfort zone while having the much-needed support of an organization.
Most volunteers join our program because they're looking for big, life-changing experiences, but we love that there's the added bonus of this being an incredible thing to add to your resume. And some volunteers are even able to qualify their semester with ILP as an internship.
For me, ILP was the perfect break between semesters where I could still feel productive but get out of the familiar, mundane, day-to-day life of UVU classes.
What are you waiting for? Apply right now!
Help me get started
- What Is A Semester Abroad With ILP Like?
When Are The Trip Dates?
- How Do I Make It Work While I'm A Student?
- Can I Get Credit?
- Free Passport Photos
- Would ILP Be A Good Fit?
What Is A Semester Abroad With ILP Like?
Just in case you're not already familiar with what International Language Programs is, we'll do a real quick introduction. In a nutshell, we're a non-profit organization based out of Orem, Utah and we focus on providing travel and service opportunities for college-age volunteers.
Our trips are a semester in length (about 3-4 months). It's just long enough to really give you a chance to immerse into a different culture, travel and see quite a bit, and really contribute to the community you're living in with a group of American volunteers who are your same age, while still fitting easily into your college schedule.
You'll spend about 20 hours a week volunteering your time helping children learn English or spending 1-on-1 time with kids in our orphanage program. Some programs have additional ways to give back, like building springs in Uganda where locals can have access to clean water, cleaning up the litter and garbage from the beach in Costa Rica, or helping fundraise new homes for families in the Dominican Republic (just to name a few).
To learn more about the details, I recommend checking out this post.
Learn More At A Meeting On The Utah Valley University Campus
To get more information you can also join us at a quick info meeting that we hold frequently on the Utah Valley University campus (as well as in Provo). They're quick meetings where someone who has already volunteered with ILP shares their experiences and answers questions to help you decide if this is the right program for you.
Everyone's welcome to come, you don't have to RSVP, and we usually have some free lunch or a treat for you!
ILP info meetings are held in Orem and Provo frequently (usually 1-4 times a month).
When Are The Trip Dates?
We offer 3 different semesters throughout the year — Spring, Summer and Fall! Each country/group leaves on different dates, but here's a general time frame to give you an idea. They tend to line up well with UVU classes and the UVU schedule:
- An ILP Spring semester: Departing sometime in January - end of April/early May (some group dates are a bit later, like February - June). We send volunteers to every one of our locations for the Spring semester.
An ILP Summer semester: End of April/early or mid or late May and ends sometime in August (you may be getting home earlier in the month, in the middle, or towards the end).
An ILP Fall semester: Mid-August (or to late September/mid-October) and coming home mid-December (or the end of November). Volunteers are always home in time for Christmas! Just like Spring, we can send volunteers to every one of our locations for the Fall semester.
Some countries, like Thailand, send two groups during Fall and Spring, so there's an early group and a later group, which can help give you some wiggle room in the same semester since there are two groups.
The ILP semester dates are really similar to UVU's fall, spring and summer semesters so that makes it really convenient if you're looking into going abroad while you're still in school. We have some volunteers who prefer to defer a semester so that they can get a break from school, while others prefer to go during their summer break. It's up to you!
If you're like me — and many other UVU students — the semesters could not have worked out more perfectly!
How Do I Make It Work While I'm Taking UVU Classes?
Defer A Semester
Some volunteers take a semester off of school so that they can spend that time volunteering abroad. The UVU enrollments office allows students to defer a semester for certain things, like a humanitarian trip.
So for example, you could defer your fall semester and go live in Africa with other ILP volunteers ... going on safari instead of writing essays? Count me in! A lot of volunteers like this route because it just gives them a quick break when school gets overwhelming, or if they're still trying to figure out what their major is going to be and just want some time to refocus and get hands-on experiences.
Go here to start your UVU deferral request and see how it works. You can also ask questions to the UVU admissions office with their got a live chat – they will be helpful if you're wondering how volunteering abroad will impact your UVU scholarship (you may be able to put it on hold while you're abroad).
Volunteer During The Summer
Are you normally out of school on summer break anyways? You could go abroad for the summer without missing a beat with your college class schedule. Looks like many of our summer trips line right up with your summer break from UVU courses.
Feel free to call us at 801-374-8854 with any questions regarding our semester dates.
Can I Get University Credit?
Good question! Potentially yes, but it's ultimately up to Utah Valley University. There are a couple ways we've seen volunteers be able to get credit in the past.
Take UVU Online Classes
Some volunteers choose to take online classes while they are living abroad and that's one way to continue moving forward with your education (if taking a break from school isn't really best for you).
ILP volunteers commit to spending 20 hours per week volunteering. It's good to consider that in our programs where you're teaching English, you'll spend a few hours a week on top of that planning lessons, but the rest of the time is yours!
ILP doesn't plan out your free time, so ILP volunteers get to choose what they want to do, but just keep in mind there are lots of fun things to go see and do with your group so I have a feeling you might not want to miss out on those. Most volunteers have said that if you plan on taking online classes, it's probably better to only stick to a few credits.
Another thing to think about is that many countries around the world have a Wifi connection that is slower than you're used to or not reliable (it's not unusual for the Wifi to cut out completely for a couple days randomly), so it's best to pick flexible classes. If you're planning on taking online classes, you can talk to an ILP representative about which countries have a more reliable internet connection that might be a better fit for you.
Check out UVU's website on online classes right here.
We recommend weighing through your options thoroughly, because although sometimes it's a little tough to take a semester off, who wants to spend their vacation week studying for a final exam? You might want to talk to your academic advisor to figure out the best plan of action.
Also, in my experience, some online classes require you to take the final at the UVU Testing Center. You might not even know this until you're all registered and go to start your classes the first day of the semester and find it in fine print on the syllabus.
Get UVU Internship or UVU Class Credit
Your academic advisor is an amazing resource to not only ask about which online classes (if any) to take, but also to find out if you're eligible to receive credit for the experience you're getting during your semester with ILP. Since ILP is not affiliated with UVU directly, we can't offer class credit. But some volunteers in the past have been able to get credit depending on their major and class requirements.
Abby, a past volunteer with ILP, said that by talking to the International Internship Counselor at UVU she was able to get school credit! Wahoo! Like I said, it might depend on a few things like your major and how long the semester is, but talking to that department is a great place to start.
Check out this checklist that UVU has for getting credit for international internships! One of the first steps is setting up an appointment with the department's counselor (that's what Abby did), so that's a great place to start.
Bonus! Get Free Passport Photos
Did you know that the Utah Valley University campus has a place where you can get your passport photos taken right on campus ... for totally free?! It's such a cool perk that UVU provides for its students. You'll need passport photos to apply for your passport when you're getting ready to go abroad, so it's pretty lucky that you won't even need to leave campus — just head on over to Campus Connections Room SC 106f.
Check out their website for more information about that!
Would ILP Be A Good Fit?
We think so! But it depends on a few things. We've worked with thousands of students and quite a few come from UVU. You'll be able to ask all of your questions when you start your application and get in touch with an ILP representative, but if you're someone who is looking to be adventurous, are motivated to explore a new country, dive right into a new group of friends and totally new experiences, it sounds like this is the start of a pretty beautiful friendship. Our organization is set up to help you begin your trip, but then the experiences you have are up to you.
Every location is really different, but those who have a good experience on our program are excited for what life in a new country is like. I'm talking new food, a new language, a new definition of what's normal for you, and so many stories. This isn't a program where we have everything scheduled out for you. It's kinda half and half, with a set teaching schedule and so much free time and vacations that are completely up to you.
Sound like this might be a good option for you?
We know it's a big decision to go abroad, and that there's even more to think about when you're deciding which program or opportunity is best for you. Check out our site to get more of your questions answered to help you decide.