With SO many options, are you looking for a little help choosing the right country for you? Whether you're looking for your own semester (or are a parent trying to help), these five guidelines are here to help.
With International Language Programs, volunteers have the opportunity to live in a foreign country for an entire semester in one of our amazing countries, found all over the world.
Although they will have incredible and life-changing experiences no matter where they go, we do understand that some countries are a better fit than others for specific personalities and interests.
Obviously, this will depend a little bit on availability for that semester, but since a lot of our countries offer similar benefits, you should be able to find at least a couple of countries to be interested in:
Read Next: Learn about ILP here
While the activities and type of service you're doing during your ILP semester play a role, there are some fundamental elements for each ILP location that make a big impact on your experience.
Here are some of the common specifications that past volunteers expressed as an important factor in deciding where they would be volunteering —
Which ILP Country Will Be The Best Fit?
In each of our programs, volunteers are placed in groups to teach, travel, and explore with — those group sizes vary depending on the location, but no one is out there alone!
We have some groups as small as four or so, and other groups as many as 30+ some semesters. The group dynamic can have a big influence on your semester, which is why it's a big factor to consider:
Our smallest group of volunteers is typically 4-6 people (including a head teacher). You'll find small group sizes often in Mexico, and in some locations in Thailand.
There are some major pros of being in a small group — Since everyone needs to be actively involved in planning activities and vacations, you get to know each other very well. With group sizes like this, the whole group will be teaching, living, traveling, and doing everything else together. Best for volunteers who are willing to get along with everyone and come home with close friends!
Most of our groups are between 6-10 volunteers, but some of them are a lot bigger (up to 20 or 30!)
One major location where the most volunteers are able to live together is in Uganda, as well as the Dominican Republic. In both countries, you'll have a larger group living together, which means lots of time to play games, plan vacations, and explore their country with different pockets of friends within the same group.
The benefits of a big group are that there are more people to watch out for each other, more potential friends, and more options for vacation groups since they do have to find at least two other volunteers wanting to go to the same places they do for each vacation.
Volunteers are in charge of planning all of their vacations and choosing what do to with their free time, so there's a definite level of budgeting that needs to happen for most people on our program.
We recommend that all of our volunteers bring $1,500-$2,500+ to take care of the traveling they'll get to do during their vacations. They get to choose and plan what they do so we've had some volunteers spend a lot more and others spend a lot less.
While all of our programs include the same things, there are some that are more budget friendly, for a few reasons. As a reminder, the Program Fee includes your roundtrip international airfare from the US, airport pickup + drop-off, visa, housing, at-home meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), WiFi, pre-departure + in-country training, and support throughout the entire experience, as well as cultural experiences.
However, some countries have more affordable in-country costs when it comes to vacations, transportation, activities, etc. Some of our top picks are Nicaragua (which is practically perfect) and Mexico (where you really have it all). Both countries are colorful options with lots of beach time and adventures available.
... and it's really a toss-up between those countries when it comes to high adventure on a budget. In Mexico, you can snag a bus for $5, spend $2 on the best tacos of your life, soak in hot springs for a few bucks, and release baby turtles for $3. Amazing.
But in Nicaragua, you're kind of looking at the same things. Get a chocolate massage, go zip lining, snorkeling, whale watching, surf lessons and have beaches all to yourself for half (or less!) of the prices you'd find in nearby Costa Rica. We're kind of in awe at all the things to do in this hidden-gem-of-a-country.
Here's more about the best ILP countries for those on a budget.
All of our volunteers should be excited to dive right in and try new foods, figure out the language barrier, and have so many new experiences, but some countries are a better fit for some personality types.
Think about what types of adventures you are wanting — traveling to many different countries? Trying high-adventure activities like zip lining or volcano trekking? Trying out different foods at restaurants on a weekend trip of touring cathedrals and museums? Seeing the different country activities can also be a decision-maker.
In Costa Rica, volunteers can take a trip on a zipline that gives incredible views while they fly superman-style, hike up volcanoes, and dive into waterfalls colored a bright blue.
In Nicaragua, they can go boarding down a volcano or slackline over crystal pools. Oh, and don't forget about chasing waterfalls up in the jungle, or trekking up to see the sunrise over a row of active volcanoes.
Uganda is another country crammed with adventures — swimming in pristine lake resorts, trekking on a safari, and vacations to some dreamy destinations.
India is another one to consider, with the chance to go zip lining, white water rafting, hiking in Himalayas, and tackle other adventures on vacations to see the Taj Mahal, India's pristine coastlines, and colorful cities.
Another country where you can cram in a lot of traveling on a budget? Mexico. Hop on a bus for $5 every weekend and explore a new city.
Every ILP experience has a lot to do with the culture, but some countries are a better fit depending on what you are looking for.
One of the best ways to have a real cultural experience is to actually live with a host family who are native to the country where the volunteers are teaching. This experience is unique to most of our Europe locations. Our volunteers who have this opportunity almost always say it was their favorite thing about their semester abroad!
These host families are selected by the local coordinator in that country, and usually their children are students in the English classes taught by our volunteers. The families don't always speak English, but being good hosts is very important to the European culture. Read more about what to expect from a past volunteer who had this opportunity.
Making A Difference
Being able to learn English from native speakers is a huge blessing to the children in every country we send volunteers to. But, in some of our locations, the volunteers are teaching children from privileged families who can afford to pay for the quality of education we offer. In other countries, the children depend on the generosity and service of our volunteers. If your volunteer wants to really make a difference in the lives of these kids, then our humanitarian programs are for them!
The cost of these humanitarian programs is a bit more than the standard exchange ones, but that's because these kids and their families don't pay a fee to attend the volunteer's classes (which is then used to subsidize the volunteer's costs in the exchange programs). Nicaragua, Uganda, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Vanuatu are all places where volunteers will make a huge difference by offering classes that are completely free to attend. India is another Humanitarian type experience (it's our first Hybrid Program) where a portion of your teaching time is spent with children from limited means.
If your volunteer wants to help kids but isn't interested in teaching, then Romania would be a great fit for them. Read more about the unique opportunities in Romania by clicking here.
Want to talk to a past volunteer?
Every person that works in our office has been a volunteer at least once before. If you have other specific questions about countries, they are definitely the best people to talk to. Click the button below to talk to one of these representatives!