Have your eye on a specific country you want to volunteer in? We know the feeling, and following these tips will help you get your application in so you can snag a spot in one of your top preferences!
When trying to pick which country to volunteer in for a semester with International Language Programs, you’ve got a tough choice ahead of you. Does serving in Europe while spending your vacation days in places like Paris, Rome, and St. Petersburg sound like the dream to you? Or would you rather be volunteering in Central America and get the chance for some high adventure ziplining and volcano boarding? Or maybe you have your heart set on spending weekends on safari.
Not an ILP volunteer yet?
Here's how to apply
Since there are so many options, we know you're probably trying to find the one that will be the best fit for you. Here are some tips that might help you with that decision! And make sure you follow @ilptakeovers to get an insiders look from our volunteers what a typical day for them is like in each of our locations.
Once you've picked a few countries you're most interested in, that's where these next tips come in! And these are things that everyone should keep in mind about the application process, no matter where you want to go.
- How Early Should I Apply?
Do I Get To Choose Where I Go?
- What's The Scoop On Waiting Lists?
- What If I Get Assigned To A Place That Wasn't My First Choice?
- What If I'm Not Totally Sure I Can Go?
How Early Should I Apply?
Really, no matter where you’re looking to make a difference, we recommend applying early. We accept applications up to 18 months in advance, with a new semester or two opening every March 1st and September 1st and January 1st (or so). We do have volunteers apply that early! So if you have even a hunch for what semester and country you will be able to go, we recommend just completing the application process.
Pro tip: you can actually get all the way through to acceptance without having to pay a cent. Worth it! Just ask your representative about how you can get the application fee waived.
Do I Get To Choose Which Country I Go To?
Yes ... with some longer explanation attached to that yes.
In all of our countries, the schools have requested a specific number of volunteers for each semester based on how many students they have attending. In some countries, we have schools that ask for only 4 teachers for each semester. In other countries, there can be multiple groups of 20 volunteers or more. It totally just depends on the country, the semester, and the needs of the schools. But regardless, to keep things as fair as possible all of the assignments are made on a first-come-first-serve basis.
When you apply, you'll be accepted for a particular semester. Then, we'll talk to you about which countries you're most interested in going to and do our best to get you there, but it does depend on the availability that we have at the time you apply.
We're almost always able to offer a spot in a country to every volunteer who is accepted, especially if you're open to different locations.
What’s The Scoop On Wait Lists?
There are certain documents that need to be turned in even after your acceptance before you can be assigned to a country. We usually encourage people to get these completed within 24-48 hours of being accepted. In fact, if you do, you can sometimes even sneak ahead of people who have been accepted for a longer time, but who have been taking their time getting in their docs or are still deciding if volunteering is a good fit for them that semester. Don't worry—your representative will help you through the whole process and answer any questions you have!
If you get all of those documents turned in, and your representative lets you know there's currently a waiting list for the country that was your first preference, do not panic. This is a part of the process that happens to more volunteers than you would expect.
We're all in a stage of life when plans are constantly changing, right? So every semester we have volunteers who switch semesters or are on waitlists for multiple countries, so when they get their assignment it shifts all of those other waitlists. Because of this, wait lists are regularly changing and you may still get a spot in one of your dream countries.
Here is a ton more info about the wait lists and how they work, plus what your options are if you get put on one! And heads up, you can be on as many waiting lists as you would like to be on. Your assigned representative will also send you an email with a lot more info for all of the frequently asked questions about wait lists.
What If I Get Assigned To A Place That Wasn't My First Choice?
Throughout the application process and even the documents required before assignment, you'll be asked several times to give your order of location preferences. This is because our assignment coordinators really do want to help you get to a country that you are excited about! They will always go in order of your preferences and put you on the wait lists for the preferences they are not able to assign you to right away.
If you do end up getting assigned to a place that wasn't initially one of your first preferences, do some research! Head to our blog! Watch everything on our Instagram! Talk to people who have been! You may be surprised by how much more you end up loving your new assignment, even if it wasn't what you were hoping for.
One of our volunteers, @jill_brinton18, said that when she first applied for ILP, she wanted to go to the Dominican Republic. When we were not able to offer her a spot there, she decided to take one of the open spots in Romania instead, after looking into that unique program. Jill told us, "I've never regretted it. For sure my best decision of this whole process."
What If I’m Not Totally Sure I Can Go?
Like we mentioned earlier, we still recommend applying. We regularly have volunteers who change their minds and/or plans. It is so easy to change location preferences, and also simple to defer to a different semester if you still want to go but the dates don't work for you anymore.
If you are under the age of 18 at the time you're applying, we will need your parents to sign the consent form before you can be accepted, so make sure you talk about it with them, too. If they are hesitant at all, especially about safety or the authenticity of our program, we always have representatives in our office during open hours who are more than happy to talk about their own experiences and to answer any questions. Chances are that our parents had the same fears and concerns! We want you to feel completely informed while you're applying for our program, and that often just involves having conversations with our office staff and asking all the questions you can think of.
Ready to start the application process?
Better sooner than later! And we're here to help you through the whole thing. We can speak from first-hand experience—this will be a life-changing and unforgettable opportunity no matter where you end up serving and traveling! Click the button below to get started: