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Top Tips For USU Students + An ILP Semester Abroad

Posted by Emily Henkel on 4/16/23 12:40 PM

ILP Romania

If you’re a USU student and have been thinking about how to make a semester with ILP work out with your school schedule, everything you’re wondering about is right here! 

One of my biggest regrets during my college years was not taking more time to travel. I felt like there was this pressure to graduate and get all my schooling done ... then I graduated and wondered what to do next. I found ILP and went on two semesters, but I had tons of friends who fit an ILP semester into their school schedule and I wished I had done the same.

So if you’re wondering about traveling, volunteering, and exploring somewhere in Europe, Asia, the South Pacific or another one of the ILP countries while at USU, you’re absolutely in the right place. 

Wait, you’re not an ILP volunteer yet?
Here’s how to apply

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself — what even is ILP? International Language Programs is a non-profit organization that sends college-aged students (like you) abroad to teach English or volunteer in an orphanage program. It's a great resume builder, plus you’ll get the chance to travel around and make the experience even more meaningful by volunteering. We don’t work with only one university, but quite a few of our volunteers do come from Utah State University. Go Aggies!

ILP is Utah-based and has a code of conduct that appeals to volunteers who are looking to do some service and work with children, all while getting to really experience another culture (and do lots and lots of traveling!). 

If you're thinking this could be exactly what you're looking for, I have great news. Here’s all the info you’re looking for if you’re wondering if you can make this work:

ILP Costa Rica

I'm In School, When's The Best Time To Go?

What Are The Semester 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.

  • 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. 

Go During The Summer 

If you're not taking classes during the summer semester, going on an ILP semester would fit into your plans quite easily. Most ILP programs for the summer semester leave towards the end of April or sometime in May, then you'r ehome sometime in August.  You can check how that fits in with the USU academic schedule here. 

There are a couple of locations that have slightly earlier departures, which may conflict with your spring semester that's ending. If you have your eye on those, talk to your professor about taking your exam early so you don't have to worry about that while you're abroad.  See all of our countries here.

If you don’t want to go during a summer semester and have your sights set on a fall or spring semester, you have a couple of options! 

Go Fall/Spring — Deferring A Semester 

Going abroad with ILP during a fall or spring semester is also an option, even if you're currently a student. All you need to do is defer a semester. 

To get technical, deferring is called a Leave of Absence or Deferment at Utah State. You can take a leave of absence for up to 3 semesters or push back your first semester for up to 1.5 years, which is plenty of time for you to go on ILP at least once while you're a student at Utah State University. 

The ILP semesters line up really well with the fall and spring semesters offered at USU. If you leave during the fall, you'll be able to have an adventure in Asia, or hang out in Europe, then come back before Christmas and before your Spring semester of classes start. Or, decide to defer a spring semester and leave (typically in January) for sunshine and beaches in the Caribbean or the South Pacific, getting home typically around the end of April . . . plenty of time to start up summer classes or a summer job. 

Here's what one ILP alumna had to say about the process: "I just deferred which was super easy and there wasn’t much I had to do with school. I made sure to meet with my advisor to make sure everything was in place for when I get back though and I definitely recommend that! "

We dive into a little more detail about deferring a semester at USU here if you'd like to read more about that. 

Go Anytime — Take Online Classes 

If you don’t want to defer or go during the summer, you can go any time you want by taking online classes while volunteering with ILP.

As an ILP  volunteer, you’ll spend about a half day volunteering (up to 4 hours of direct interaction with the kids, plus preparation time, transportation, and clean up). You'll be volunteering Monday to Friday, so you could work with an online class or two if you'd like.  That way you can get college credit during the Fall or Spring semester without "missing" school.

We’ve had multiple volunteers go that route. It makes for a very busy semester and we don’t recommend taking a full load (because you don’t want to miss out on weekend trips to cool beaches, an incredible safari, or magnificent cathedrals because you have too much homework) but it’s helped students make fall and spring semesters work. 

One helpful tip from an ILP alumna who took USU online classes while on ILP? Try to avoid any broadcast classes. They typically meet at set times and sometimes require you to be in the state (which won't be possible for you). It will be very helpful for you to talk to your academic advisor about which classes would be best for you to take while volunteering in a different country. You'll have to consider things like different time zones and the possibility of the internet being spotty and unreliable in a few areas of the world, but multiple ILP volunteers have made it work.

You can get some more general advice on taking an online class while abroad here. 

Can I Get Credit? 

The answer is maybe. No situation is exactly the same, but it is possible. 

Since ILP doesn’t work with a set university, it’s up to your university (USU) to determine if they’ll give you credit while you volunteer with us. Sometimes it depends on your major's requirements.

Since there isn't an exact science on how to do this, you'll need to talk with your advisor. You'll work out your credits through the school, not through the ILP office, but we’re happy to help where we can. If you’re required to provide some paperwork about your ILP semester and what you’ll be doing, give our office a call and we can help you out. 

Things really are pretty individual and are handled on a case-by-case basis when it comes to USU school credit. Start by speaking with your counselor and see where you can go from there. You may need to do a little digging to see who you need to speak with in your department, but it's worth it, right?  

Here are a couple more specific strategies for getting credit for your ILP semester with Utah State University. 

Try An Internship 

Talk with the internship coordinator and see if there's a USU internship that you can replace with an ILP semester. If not, you may be able to work with staff at USU about creating an internship that works specifically for your situation. Check out this webpage for more info on USU internships. 

Work With A Professor

This works kind of like an online class, but it is catered to your particular situation. Some students have had luck working with a professor and completing a set of directed readings as a way to get credit while volunteering abroad. Typically, you'll work with a professor who you're familiar with (someone you've taken classes from before and someone in your major), and complete a set of directed readings while abroad. You'll typically need to also submit a variety of essays and reviews. Think of it as a more personalized online class. 
The most important thing to keep in mind is that each case is really unique and depends on a lot of factors. The ILP volunteers who have been able to get credit while volunteering with ILP have talked with their Career Coach and various staff to explore all of their options. It hasn't worked out for everyone, but it's worked out for some! 
ILP Uganda

Can I Hear From ILP/USU Students? 

We reached out to a handful of ILP + USU alumni to get their thoughts, advice and opinions on how to make a semester with ILP work with your school schedule. There's advice sprinkled throughout the post, but we also wanted to have this section to share a bit more about what some said.

Talk To Your Advisor

Maddie H. went to Uganda with ILP and had this to say: "I didn’t actually try and do anything online for USU to get credit while I was on ILP. My counselor was great and did Zoom calls with me while I was in Uganda, to help me set up my schedule and housing and all that for the next semester!"

If You're On The Fence 

"For advice, I would just say that ILP was so worth it! USU is an amazing school and is so much fun! And it’s also so diverse and there are always people coming and going mid-semester because of missions, gap semesters, or students who just wanted to work for a little bit. I was so worried about coming into a school halfway through the school year, but USU has so many other students doing the same thing! And the school is stacked with activities, parties and games so it’s so easy to meet new friends!" 
 ILP Adventure


Where Can I Learn More? 

Come to an Info Meeting! Each semester, we have multiple meetings in Logan that share a little bit about ILP. There will be someone who has volunteered with us before and you are free to ask all the questions you want. Meetings are pretty quick, about 20-30 minutes and you don’t have to RSVP. Bring your friends and join us — and come hungry because there’s almost always free food or a treat. 

See our upcoming meetings in Logan, Utah here. 

If you still have a few questions about ILP, we have more resources available. This post talks about who can apply, the costs associated with our programs, and how vacations all work out. I’d suggest reading that post real quick, then figuring out when you can attend a meeting and talk to someone who’s already volunteered with us. 

ILP Mexico

Would ILP Be A Good Fit For You? 

We think so! But it depends on a few things. We've worked with thousands of students and quite a few come from USU.

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.

ILP Costa Rica

Still have a few more questions?
Not a problem — just talk to an ILP Representative! They can tell you more about volunteering with ILP (International Language Programs). Every semester, we send college-aged volunteers all over the world; we can make this work for you. 
 Text Me! I've Got Questions

Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering, 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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