ILP Basics

Hi, we’re ILP! We’re a Utah-based organization who sends groups of volunteers abroad for a semester of teaching or helping in an orphanage program. Have a few questions about whether our program is right for you? We have an outline of the basics, right here: 

Can anyone volunteer?

While we would love to send everyone who wants to serve, most of the schools that we work with prefer native North American English speakers. ILP volunteers are required to have a US or Canadian passport or green card.

ILP volunteers are also typically between the ages of 18 – 25.

All locations are open to single females — these countries are available to single males. And for married couples? We have an answer to that question, below. 

Is this the right program for me?

We know you want to do some traveling, but you’re also going abroad to make a difference. We’re looking for volunteers who have:

  • A desire to serve children. The kids you teach will learn to speak because they want to communicate with you. We have found that when volunteers put teaching first, their experience with travel, the country’s culture, friendships and more really open up.
  • High moral integrity. We believe that the best teachers are the best people, regardless of what they are teaching. Parents and schools entrust you with their children’s education and we want to exceed their expectations by providing volunteers who are honest, hardworking and trustworthy.
  • Good social skills. You’re not volunteering alone — you’ll teach with an ILP group of volunteers. You will be living, teaching, hanging out and traveling together all semester long, and it’s important that everyone works well with others (in and out of the classroom).
  • Confident and comfortable: Even if teaching is totally new for you, ILP volunteers are expected to complete several activities in front of a class of kids — like drama activities, art lessons and others. These ILP lessons are more similar to leading a well-structured birthday party than teaching a formal class, but we are looking for volunteers who feel like they can accomplish this after some training and practice.
  • Willingness to follow the rules and Code of Conduct of ILP. ILP has a Code of Conduct in place for a reason; not only are you representing the program and your home country while you are abroad, these guidelines are there to help keep you safe.  

    This is a high standards program — ILP volunteers are expected to:

    • Abstain from alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
    • Abstain from romantic relationships with teammates or locals
    • Avoid vulgar or profane language
    • Obey the law
    • Maintain a neat appearance
    • Follow all rules and help other teachers do the same.

How old are most ILP volunteers?

Typically, volunteers are 18 – 25 years old; most ILP groups contain a pretty good age range of volunteers, but most volunteers tend to be 19-22 or so.

You must be at least 18 years old by the time the semester starts to participate.

Can I volunteer with my friends?

We love when friends go together. When you apply, there is a section where you can let us know if you have any friends who you would like to be in your ILP group.

We often have discounts for referring friends as well. Give us a call or talk to your ILP representative to see what our current referral discounts are.

Can married couples go?

Yes, yes and yes! They add tons to the chemistry of the ILP group and often become sort of a big-brother and big-sister to the group. 

Currently, a few of our locations do not have housing to accommodate a couple (however the majority do). These locations change according to the semester and have a few stipulations so it’s best to talk to your ILP representative about which current spots are a good fit for you and your spouse. This blog post also goes into detail about locations where we can typically work with married couples.

Our program is not a good fit for married couples with children.

How long is an ILP trip? What are the departure and return dates?

ILP semesters are around 3-4 months long and happen three times a year for a Spring, Summer, and Fall timeline (it looks pretty similar to a semester at school). We won’t know the exact dates of your semester until it gets closer, but we’ve got the general time frame listed below. 

Also, each location has an individual departure and return date that works best for the local school that we work with. For example: with the Spring semester, you might depart early January, mid January, or end of January, just depending on which location you’re assigned to. If you have a conflicting event (maybe finals is at the end of your Spring semester at school) talk to your representative and we can see which locations (and their prospective departures) work best with your schedule.

Spring semester: January – end of April/early May. There are also a few opportunities for a shorter semester in Kiev, Ukraine (January-late April and late April-July) and Thailand is a bit unique with an earlier group (early Jan-early April) and a later group (end of March-end of June).

Summer semester: mid-April/early May – mid August

Fall: late August/early September to December (Yes, you’ll be home for Christmas!). Thailand is bit unique with an earlier group (early August-end of October) and a later group (end of September-just before Christmas).

Do you have any shorter programs?

Our program semesters are 3-4 months and we do not offer shorter trips. One of the biggest aspects of our program is that you have the experience of making a real difference in the lives of the children you teach as well as in your own life. We want this to truly be a life-changing experience for you and believe that a full semester abroad is needed to accomplish that. A trip that is 1-2 weeks would be really fun, but it’s just not the same experience as living abroad for 4 months in our opinion!

There are a few opportunities for a slightly shorter semester in Kiev, Ukraine.  Here, Spring semester is typically January-late April and Summer semester is late April-July.

I’m still in school during April and part of May … can I still volunteer for summer semester?

We get this question a lot and the answer is “it depends”. ILP summer semesters typically depart anytime from mid-April to the first (or sometimes second) week of May. We do not know exact departure dates until we book flights, which is 2-6 weeks (usually in March or even April) before the semester starts.

We do ask that you will arrive the same day as the other volunteers which can conflict with some university schedules.

As soon as you know your university’s schedule, talk to your professor to let them know you’d like to volunteer abroad. It’s completely up to your professor (or higher up positions) but some volunteers have had luck taking finals a bit early so they can leave on time for their ILP semester.

You can also talk to your ILP representative about choosing a location that tends to leave the latest for their summer semester. Choosing a location that leaves in May rather than in mid-April may be best for you. Our Thailand group departs the latest (typically early June) so that may work really well! Other volunteers have deferred their spring semester at school and used that time to work and save up before their summer semester with ILP.

Can I get school credit during my semester?

Since ILP is not affiliated with any university, you must arrange all credits directly with your university. Most universities encourage a semester taking classes off-campus whether that’s through online classes or through other methods. We suggest working with your university’s Internship Coordinator to see if an ILP semester would qualify. You can often also work with your academic or department advisor to discuss adapting your ILP service as an internship or to fulfill credit requirements. Some volunteers even take a few online classes during their semester abroad.

But don’t overdo it … The beauty of ILP is that it is not a study abroad, but a service abroad, which is a very hands-on experience. Generally taking more than about 6 credits can be a lot of work to complete while you are abroad. You will only be teaching half of your day, but there are so many things to experience that you probably won’t want to use all of your free time abroad doing coursework in your apartment.

If you need to take credits in order to volunteer with us  (for academic, family, or other reasons) we support you doing so! Credit cost to your university is in addition to the program fee. Since credits are arranged directly with the university, payment for them needs to be made directly to them.

Do I have to be a student to volunteer?

Nope! The majority of our volunteers are college students, but it’s absolutely not a requirement.

Do I have to be religious to volunteer?

Nope! ILP is not affiliated with any religion. 

We do our best to support our volunteers who wish to practice their individual faiths while living abroad and understand that this can be an important part of your experience. 

You may notice some info regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — we are not affiliated with this religion (or any other religion), however many of our volunteers are members of this church and have requested information about church access, etc. 

How do I pick the right ILP country for me?

They all have very different cultures, climates, and traditions, but wherever you go you will fall in love with the country, the kids, and make good friends with your ILP group. The best way to find out more about the countries you’d like to volunteer in is by talking to past ILP volunteers, skimming the Internet, reading the ILP blog and talking to someone who has been there — Call our office and talk to one our representatives! They’ve recently volunteered in different locations and can help answer your questions about what it’s like. We can help find a country that would be a good fit for you. We highly recommend keeping an open mind, as each country has its own unique experience.

Get in touch with an ILP representative by calling our office: 801-374-8854

You can also compare the main differences between our locations here.

What if I've never traveled before?

You’re likely not the only one! The head teacher in your group will have lived abroad with ILP previously, but we’ve seen a wide range of experiences from our first time volunteers (some have traveled, others haven’t). Your semester abroad will be an adventure, whether or not you have experience outside of the country … plus you have many people to support you.

We believe that this experience is a great way to travel for the first time because you can rely on your group and others associated with ILP instead of trying to go it alone. ILP has also put together many tips and resources to help prepare our volunteers — check a few of those on the ILP Blog.

What if I don’t have a passport?

A passport is required for any travel outside of the US. Getting a passport isn’t difficult, but it does take time. If you do not have a passport yet, you can provide a passport receipt to confirm to ILP that you have started the process. Proof of passport is a required step in the application process, but we don’t want that to delay you finishing the application.

Visit the website for the US Department of State and follow the steps to apply for your first passport. Remember, you will need to apply in person and provide proof of citizenship, proof of identity, and 2 passport photos which can be obtained at places like Walgreens, Sam’s Club, as well as certain US Post Offices. We have a blog post about other locations to get passport pictures for the lowest price. 

Are there any fees if I cancel or change my mind?

Because we know that things come up, it is always possible to change your mind.

In order to apply, there is a non-refundable $30 application fee (but we actually have a deal going on right now where that can be waived — when you get to that part of the application we’ll have more details for you on how it works!).

After you’ve been accepted into the ILP program, you will complete ILP Orientation which covers potential fees in detail before you make any commitments. Essentially fees for cancelling or deferring vary, depending on where you are in the assignment process. Fees increase the closer it is to departure time (to cover the costs of replacing you). If the semester you’re signed up for no longer works for you, it is often cheaper to defer to a later semester rather than cancel altogether. We are here to help you and want to be very clear with you about these fees during the process, so you’re never surprised.

Application

You can start your application online, and we’re around if you have any questions.

What happens when I give you my name and number?

Don’t worry, you are not making any commitment when you leave this information. We will contact you within a few days to see if you have any questions or help you through the application process if you have chosen to apply. If you aren’t interested, we won’t bug you anymore.

When should I apply?

We accept applications up to three semesters (1.5 years) in advance. Because we’re limited on how many volunteers we can send to each country, the earlier you’re able to apply the more likely we’ll have spots available!

As we mentioned, each location has a certain number of volunteers needed. Once those spots are assigned, we work off of a waitlist system. The waitlist shifts quite a bit (volunteers switch countries, defer to another semester, etc), so it’s not uncommon to be on the waitlist when you first apply and then to receive a spot a bit later.

Are there any deadlines?

There are no deadlines! As soon as we open up a semester on our application, you can apply. You’ll find that you have more options the earlier you apply, but we frequently have last minute spots available even during the weeks or days leading up to departure. 

Can I apply before I’m 18?

Yes. ILP Volunteers must be at least 18 before they leave for their ILP semester; you’re welcome to apply 1.5 years in advance (so when you are almost 17 or 17) if you’ll be 18 before you’d leave to go abroad. You must have a legal guardian who is able to sign the agreement in your behalf until you are a legal adult (at which time you will sign the agreement for yourself).

Who should I use for my character and academic reference?

As part of your application, you will provide two references (the application asks for their contact information — after that’s provided, we will email a short reference form that they can fill out and send back).

For your academic reference, you may choose any teacher who has given you a grade within the last two years, including high school teachers.

For the character reference, each situation is different. Typically, you choose a respected person who can attest to your good character with authority, who is not related to you. Religious leaders (bishop, pastor, preacher, etc), are a great option for this. However, managers, coaches, mentors, and others who have worked closely with you work as well. 

Should I wait to apply until I know for sure which country I want to go to?

Don’t wait to apply! There is plenty of time to decide before it’s official — the online application and country assignment are broken up into separate stages.  When you apply we’re just asking to see which countries you are interested in. You are not locked in to that spot. Also when you apply, you’ll be put in touch with an ILP representative who is there to answer your questions and give you more information about each country you have your eye on. There will be time for you to decide on a country to volunteer in later; right now is a good time to do some research and get your questions answered about certain countries. You’ll have plenty of time after you’ve applied before you accept an official city and country assignment.  

We’ve actually found that many volunteers end up switching where they’d like to go anyways after talking to their rep and learning more about each program.

How much is due when I apply ... do I have to pay everything right away?

There is a $30 application fee (although this can be waived, we’ll let you know more about that after you’ve sent in your online application).

After you are accepted, there is a $270 deposit which is due in order to accept and secure your official spot in a location that semester.

If you would like to pay your program fee right away, there is a $100 discount (for paying in full within 3 weeks of your acceptance). We also have a couple of payment plans if that works better for you! We especially love our monthly payment plan (and it’s the most popular option too) because it is really customizable — you get to choose your start date, so in a nut shell the earlier you start the smaller your monthly payments are.

What happens after I apply? When will I know if I'm accepted?

An ILP representative (who has been a volunteer with us before) will contact you to help you complete the next steps of your application and talk over the basics of our program. They are also there to help answer any of your questions before you fully commit.  

Once you apply, our review committee will consider your application. It typically takes two or three weeks before you’ll be notified if you have been accepted via email.

When will I find out what my official country and school assignment is?

First you need to apply and complete all the application parts. Then you’ll be accepted as an ILP volunteer and will need to complete our ILP Orientation and a second set of documents. Once those have been completed and submitted, it takes around 4-6 weeks for you to be officially assigned to a city and a country if there is a spot available. Hooray!

If the country you want most already has a waitlist, we can talk to you about your options. You may want to be assigned to another available location while also be placed on the waitlist for other countries you want. If a spot opens up, we can easily transfer you.

How do wait lists work?

There is a specific number of volunteers that we can send to each location, determined by the host school, based on things like housing and the number of students attending that semester. If there are more volunteers applying for a country than there is room for, ILP starts a wait list (one location may only have room for 4 teachers that semester, but if 20 people apply, 16 will be put on a waiting list after we’ve offered the city and school assignments to the first 4 applications who got all their paperwork in. Make sense?).

Just because you are on a wait list doesn’t mean you won’t get into that country. Because people are applying so far in advance (often a year or 1.5 years early), it is common for plans to change. Additionally, the majority of our volunteers are on wait lists for multiple countries, which all change frequently. The wait list frequently changes because when one person gets into a country, it has a domino effect, which impacts the wait lists for that country, and the other countries that volunteer was waiting for. See how that works?

Your ILP representative can work with you when it comes to being put on a waiting list or choosing another country to volunteer in. We have many volunteers who accept an assignment in another country they were also interested in while still remaining on a wait list for their first choice location in case that opens up. We will do our best to help you receive a volunteer spot that you are excited about while also remaining as fair as possible to all applicants.

 

Support

Whether you’ve traveled out of the country before or if this your first time, we do our best to give volunteers all the support they need to have a successful semester living abroad.

Who’s there to help while I’m in-country?

ILP has native, on-site coordinators that help volunteers enjoy their country safely (called Local Coordinators). They are there to help as you adjust to living in a new country and look out for the general needs of the ILP volunteers. They speak the local language (which is very handy) and can help with some language barrier issues.

Your relationship with your Local Coordinator depends on a few factors (some like to be very involved and get to know the group, while others are there to help via text, phone call, or visit when necessary). They’re often quite protective of their group of volunteers and work closely with your Head Teacher to help with what they can.

Local Coordinators are locals, and act as a liaison from the Head Teacher and ILP group to the local staff of the school. They usually keep an eye out for the ILP volunteers and can help with some housing and scheduling concerns, but aren’t there to take on the role of a parent (they aren’t there to make sure you’re getting along with others or that you are taking your vitamins!). ILP’s structured as an independent program, with some support from your Head Teacher, other group members and a Local Coordinator.

What if my local leaders aren't helping me?

We do our best to choose both Head Teachers and Local Coordinators who will follow the standard that we ask of them, but if for some reason you don’t feel like they are meeting your needs, don’t worry; you’ll have the contact information of your Program Manager (and the ILP Directors) to help you with any issues that may arrive once you’re in-country. 

The ILP Directors also give you their personal emails and cell phone numbers so they can be reached at any time. You can even call them at midnight — Well, hopefully you’re only calling them at midnight if there’s an emergency … but know that you have that option available. You have many resources to reach out to if you feel like one support system isn’t working.

Has anyone in my group already taught before?

While most first time volunteers have no experience teaching prior to their ILP semester, yes, there will be at least one person (your Head Teacher) who has taught with ILP before. Head Teachers are volunteer peer supervisors that have at least one semester of ILP  teaching experience. Your ILP Head Teacher works with your ILP group — they are there to help lead the group, conduct teaching trainings, give suggestions for working with the children, plus work with the Local Coordinators and school to help keep things running smoothly.

You may also have alumni in your group who are returning to teach for the second or third time, so don’t worry — you’ll have lots of support and places where you can get your questions answered.

It’s also good to remember that most locations are familiar with the ILP program. Children who have been in ILP classes for a few semesters typically know what to expect (though they do like to bend the rules to make sure you’re paying attention!). But even if you’re the first semester in a brand new location, you will have a Head Teacher there who’s familiar with the ILP method to help you.

Does the ILP office keep in touch while I'm abroad?

Yes! You may not see it, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Each semester is different but we have lots of experience figuring out how to handle what may come up during your semester. In addition to the ILP Directors, each group has a Program Manager who has frequently scheduled calls with your Head Teacher while you are abroad. They talk about what’s going on with your group, the school, and what improvements or changes need to be made if any.

Your group’s Program Manager or one of the ILP Directors also comes to visit every ILP location during the semester to check on the program. Additionally, our office is also in contact with your local leaders when needed. We handle things on a case-by-case basis, but don’t hesitate to reach the ILP office during your semester if you have questions or concerns.

Does ILP ever check up on the situation at the school?

We go to great lengths and costs to make sure that we are sending volunteers to schools that are consistently keeping up our standard.  It’s such a priority that each semester, one of the program directors from Utah visits each and every school. They meet with both the school and local leaders as well as each volunteer to make sure that your experience is a successful one.

What if I get homesick?

Everyone gets at least a little bit homesick at one point during their semester which is why we’re here to help. During your pre-departure training, we’ll talk about it and help you understand ways to overcome homesickness (giving you tips on how to adjust to the new culture, ways to spend your time rather than watching Netflix, and ways to connect with your group). 

But, we can give you a little advice right now! Finding ways to love your country and have fun is really key to avoiding the big homesick symptoms. It helps to stay in touch with friends and family back home but finding things you like about your new home is a big boost, too. This blog post may help you know what to anticipate, and how to handle some things that may come up during your semester. 

It’s also good to remember you’re not alone! Any time you want, you’ll be able to call and text friends and family, post on social media, video call, and share everything about your semester to everyone back home.

Plus, you have your ILP group with you. Sometimes the best experiences come only after stepping out of your comfort zone to help distract you from missing home — ask your ILP group to try a new local snack with you, plan a trip for your upcoming weekend, or check out a shopping street to keep your mind busy.

I have questions — Can I talk to someone who has already volunteered with ILP?

Of course! Our office representatives have all been on at least one ILP semester and are happy to answer your questions; you are more than welcome to call our office (801-374-8854) and talk one-on-one with an ILP rep. You can also schedule a time for a representative to call you.

Another resource is the ILP Takeover Instagram Account. That account is run by volunteers in-country to show you what it’s really like — taking you through a house tour, explaining meals, running through what vacations are like, and more, with tons of pictures and videos. Groups typically have a day where they answer all sorts of questions.

Then, once you have finished your application and have been accepted, you are invited to join your country’s Facebook group which is full of ILP alumni for your country and future volunteers (like you). Loads of volunteers use the ILP Facebook groups to ask specific questions about their country or their school like “any tips on things to pack?” or “what coats and boots do you recommend for a winter in Eastern Europe?” or questions about what teaching is like and where to get teaching ideas.

If your parents have questions, they’re more than welcome to check out the same resources, this blog post, and/or email the office to set up a call with one of the Directors — just email office@ilp.org.

Money

We do our best to provide an experience that is affordable for your budget including multiple program fee options (you can compare programs and their costs here), discounts, payment plans, travel and money saving tips on our blog, and advice for fundraising.

What does my program fee include?

No matter where you’re going (whether that’s on one of our humanitarian programs or an exchange program), your ILP program fee includes a few things:

  • Roundtrip airfare to your volunteer country
  • Housing for the semester
  • 3 meals a day for your semester (apart from vacation days and weekends adjacent to vacation time)
  • Your visa (if necessary)
  • Training (you’ll need to arrange transportation to Utah, but the 2-day pre-departure training and materials are included. You’ll also receive in-country trainings through your semester.)
  • Some culture and language workshops (depending on your location, you may have access to language classes, a tour around the city or cultural classes like a cooking class).

What's the difference between the Exchange and Humanitarian Programs?

There are two programs that you can participate in within ILP: Exchange and Humanitarian.  You can compare the programs and their fees here but in either program, your program fee covers the same things.

In our Exchange programs, the service that you give is subsidized by the host school and your student’s family. These students come from a wide variety of backgrounds (typically middle to upper class) and are able to contribute to help fund the education you’re providing. This helps keep your costs low.

In our Humanitarian programs, the students and children you serve generally come from extremely limited means. Many are so underprivileged that getting their basic needs such as food and housing is a daily concern. Some of the children live in an orphanage. The volunteer work you provide them is a gift – free of charge – as their families could not otherwise afford an education like this. This means that your program fee will be higher than the Exchange programs.

You can discover how unique each of our Humanitarian Programs are and choose which one is right for you here.

What extra expenses should I plan for? How much spending money should I bring?

While your program fee includes quite a lot, you will need to budget for a few extra expenses that you may need like a passport, medical exams, ID photos, immunizations (if desired), teaching materials/supplies (if not donated), airline luggage fees, and transportation costs to travel to training in Orem, Utah.

When it comes to spending money in-country, we recommend that volunteers budget around $1,500-$2,000+ to cover any in-country costs during the semester such as travel expenses during vacation days, weekend excursions, eating out with their group on vacation days, souvenir shopping, tickets to local museums, etc.

How much you spend during your semester is really up to you. Your personal spending habits plus where you are volunteering may mean planning a different budget than another ILP volunteer. You can certainly get by on less, but you may miss some unique opportunities to travel outside of your assigned city or country and will need to watch your spending when it comes to snacks and souvenirs.

If you’re looking for a more affordable semester, your ILP representative can help you choose a country that has a lower cost of living, where you won’t be paying as much on your vacation days than you would in another country or region. 

What if I'm worried about affording it?

There are many ways to make it happen and we’re happy to talk to you about ways that might work best for you. First we recommend checking out our free Guide To Affording a Semester Abroad which is full of helpful tips.

Fundraising is the way to go. We have had past volunteers fundraise half or even all of their program fee. It takes work and can be a little intimidating but the pay-off is so worth it. To help you get started, we have a fundraising packet that brainstorms lots of fundraising ideas, explains how other have had success fundraising and puts you in touch with experienced representatives who can help you out along the way. You’ll have access to that when you are accepted.

Fundraising aside, we can do a lot to help you with financial concerns, including offering payment plans and discounts. Many volunteers sign up a year or more in advance, giving themselves plenty of time to work, fundraise, and save up before any payments are due to ILP.

Are there any discounts?

Yes, we have several discounts to help you make this experience even more affordable. Our available discounts tend to change, so talk to your ILP representative about which ones you may be eligible for.

Do I have to pay everything right away?

Nope. We have a $30 application fee, but even that can be waived (ask your ILP representative how!). There is a $270 deposit that is due after you are accepted to guarantee your spot and that must be paid before you can officially receive an assignment to a specific location.

After you’ve been accepted, you will complete ILP Orientation where you will set up a payment plan that is realistic for you — We have a couple of different payment plans to help break up the program fee over a few months to make things easier, plus have fundraising tips and discounts to help even more.

If you would like to pay your program fee right away, there is a $100 discount (for paying in full within 3 weeks of your acceptance). We also have a couple of payment plans if that works better for you! We especially love our monthly payment plan (it’s the most popular option) because it is really customizable — you get to choose your start date, so the earlier you start, the smaller your monthly payments are.

We really want to do what we can to help make this realistic for you. If you can’t make payments until you start a summer job, we can help you pick a payment plan that matches up with your paychecks when your job begins. While there are some specific payment deadlines (like when your flight needs to be purchased), our payment plans are set up to help keep you on track — but we are here to be flexible. Just let us know what’s going on and we can do our best to work with your situation. 

Is traveling on vacation expensive?

Travel is a big part of your experience — every ILP volunteer has Saturday and Sunday off from teaching, plus scheduled vacation days. While you’ll need to budget some money for things like museum tickets and ice cream, travel is where volunteers spend the bulk of their spending budget.

How much you spend on vacation will vary — flying is going to be more expensive than taking trains or buses, certain countries are going to be more expensive than others, etc. Volunteers who have managed their money well on other things (like eating out and buying souvenirs) were able to attend all trips during vacation time with a $1,500ish budget, particularly in countries like Mexico, Thailand and the Caribbean.

Just remember, how much you spend abroad is completely up to you; we have had volunteers get by on less, and have had volunteers who have spent double that amount. You and your ILP group will decide your travel plans including things like where you’ll go, how you’ll get there, where you’ll stay, and which excursions you do throughout the vacation … which means you have a lot of control on how much you spend.

If you cannot afford to travel, you are welcome to stay in your city during vacation times. Certain ILP countries do require that you leave the country at some point to abide by visa rules, so if you’re planning to not travel please let your representative know so that you can be placed in the right country for you.

What is the best way to purchase things in a foreign country?

Cash always works, but credit or debit cards work very well too, especially Visa and MasterCard. Some countries accept cards at most restaurants, shopping stalls and eateries, while other countries operate better on cash — either way, you’ll need a credit or debit card to pay for things directly and/or to get local currency out of an ATM. It’s often best to carry both cash and a card so you have options.

There is often a minimal foreign conversion fee each time you use your card and you may want to contact your financial institution to be aware of how much that fee is. There will probably also be an ATM fee associated every time you take out cash; comparing those fees may help you decide whether to pay for most things in cash or pay for more things with your card. You may also want to consider opening up an account that offers no fees on foreign transactions to save a bit of cash.

Can my parents receive tax benefits for paying my program fee?

Yes. ILP is a non-profit organization, so donations made directly to International Language Programs are tax deductible (we’re an IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) organization; the program fee and other contributions are tax-deductible). When volunteers fundraise, many have had luck getting half of all program fees (or more) through generous donations.  Parents, relatives, and friends can all act as ILP program “sponsors” to help you make this semester abroad happen.

If I’ve paid my entire program fee, can I still get sponsors after?

Yes. We have quite a few volunteers who opt to receive the $100 discount for paying in full within 3 weeks of acceptance and then fundraise to “pay it back”. Once you’ve paid in full, we will refund you the money received from donations (up to the full program fee amount). This typically happens just before your semester begins.

Daily Activities

You will have quite a bit of free time during your semester. Volunteering takes up about half the day (Monday through Friday), with plenty of free time. Plus, volunteers have every Saturday and Sunday off.

We’ll try to give you a pretty good overview of what a typical day looks like for an ILP volunteer, but details will change depending on your semester and where you’ll be volunteering.

What is a typical day like?

You will volunteer for about 3-4 hours per day, Monday through Friday. Unless you’re serving in the Romania orphanage, you’ll also need to spend some time during your week planning your lessons and preparing to teach — that usually amounts to 1-2 hours a day. There may also be time spent commuting to school, depending on where you live.

You may be volunteering in the morning and afternoon, or the afternoon and evening; the times are determined by your Local Coordinator so that they work best with the program there, but either way, you’ll have quite a bit of time outside of your volunteering hours. How you spend your free time has a big impact on your semester — living abroad should be spent out exploring, not spending hours watching Netflix!

Here’s one example of what your day could look like, if you want to make the most of things:

Waking up to FaceTime or video call with your family (you may be 2 hours ahead of them, or 12!) then you could go for a quick jog with your ILP group before eating breakfast at your apartment. Next, you’ll have some time to plan lessons before visiting a nearby cathedral or maybe you need time to run to the grocery store for snacks to eat on the train for your weekend trip! Have lunch with your group and finalize some details that you’re planning for your upcoming vacation.

Since you are with the kids in the evenings, you’ll have lots of free time before you even need to be at the school, so make the most of it.

Next it’s a commute to school … you may walk, or take a bus, ride the metro or take a taxi. You’ll spend 3-4 hours with your class  — you’re teaching kitchen today and the kids loved the idea of celery, peanut butter and raisins as “ants on a log”, but not every lesson goes perfectly! Don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience … and there will be good days even with the hard days. After class, time to tidy up before commuting back to your apartment for dinner and playing a few games with your ILP group before bed.

There will also be days where you want to stay inside, lessons don’t go according to plan, or you are homesick. Hopefully, you are able to get out and make the most of your ILP experience each day because the experience really does go by quickly.

What can I do in my free time?

We leave this up to you. ILP does not scheduling out your entire day (just your teaching schedule), which gives you the opportunity to really take charge of your experience and decide what it will be.

We can’t encourage volunteers enough to just get out and explore — you may have the chance to attend some language and culture classes provided by your school, but you’re also welcome to work on the language yourself, go out with your ILP group to grab a treat downtown, head to the theater to see a ballet, concert, plan a picnic in the nearby park, visit the local pop-up market, do some shopping, take a hike to the mountains behind your school. Each location will be unique, but in every city you’ll find there’s plenty to be explored. You’ll also need to spend your free time planning vacations and other adventures.

We recommend brainstorming and making a big long list of things you want to see, do, experience and eat during your semester abroad with your group (get help on the ILP blog!); that way, you’ll always have a list of ways to really get to know your country. On you’re officially accepted and assigned to a location, you will also have access to your City Page (a website of tons of info for assigned volunteers), which has city-specific ideas for things you can do. 

What are weekends like?

On the weekends, you’ll have even more free time —  there are no volunteering hours scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. Some groups leave to explore a nearby city (or even a new country, depending on where you’re located). You can also spend the full day adventuring in your home city, like a little stay-cation. Take a train out to the edge of town, spend all morning at a museum, or take a full-day hike to a nearby volcano, beach or castle.

Again, once you are assigned to your specific location, you’ll have access to a City Page that lays out favorite weekend trips. You can also look at our blog for ideas — many posts there are destinations that are easily done on the weekend.

Can I go to church services?

On the whole, yes. As a reminder, ILP is not affiliated with any religion, however, many of our volunteers are religious and would like to attend services.

Church services of many faiths are available in ILP countries and cities. There are often many opportunities for members of various faiths to worship in local services — if finding a meetinghouse or service to attend regularly is important to you (ie: one that is closer than another location), feel free to talk to your ILP representative about finding a location that would be best.

In general, there are a number of ILP volunteers who are interested in attending services for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  There is an option for members to attend church in every location, whether that be a local branch or ward.

Just to clarify, this is a common question because many of our participants are religious, but it is not a requirement to attend church or to be religious to volunteer with ILP.

How often will I see my group outside of teaching?

You’ll see them every day — one of the most important parts of your semester abroad is the friends you’ll make with your ILP group. If you’ll be living with a host family, you’ll be getting together with your ILP group to explore your city or check out a new restaurant together when you’re not spending time with your host family.  If you’ll be living with your ILP group, you’ll be spending most of your free time together.

Is there a guide around town?

Your Head Teacher and/or Local Coordinator can help orient you to your city once you arrive and help you find your way around. You may also make local friends who would love to spend time with you showing you their city. Often though, the best way to explore your city is to simply wander around with your group members. It can be quite the adventure even just walking around a new part of town and is a great way to discover more activities for your group to do throughout the semester.

Past volunteers who have lived in your city have recorded some of their favorite spots they’ve found and recommend you check out which can be invaluable for your group. You can find suggestions once you’re officially assigned on your City Page! But still, we encourage you to just explore to find new spots around your city — we know there are places just waiting to be discovered.

How can I exercise?

Your school may have a track or gym that you can use, but if not, look for a nearby park with a running path or grab your ILP group and go for a run in your neighborhood. There could be a neighborhood gym you could get a membership for. If none of these options are available, you can look online to find workout videos and host a yoga or Zumba night with your ILP group.

Once you’ve been assigned to a country and school, you’ll be able to ask the ILP Facebook group for your country and see how past volunteers exercised at their school. On your City Page, there is a section about working out and resources are explained there. You can also see if that question was answered in a previous ILP Takeover on this Instagram account (or ask the next group). 

You may need to get creative with what you have available, but every semester volunteers find ways to stay active.

How will I get around my city?

Most volunteers get around by walking or using public transportation — the specific type of transportation depends on your country, but you’ll typically run into buses, trams, metros or motorized carts like tuk-tuks or rickshaws. If you don’t live near the school you teach at, you’ll also use public transportation to get to your classes. Some volunteers have chosen to purchase a cheap bicycle for getting around town (instead of walking or riding the bus) but in almost every location, you’ll be walking quite a bit so bringing good walking shoes is a must.

Can I take online classes?

It’s not recommended, but it is an option for you.

Taking a class can be a productive way to fill your free time (most people are actually surprised by how much free time they really have), but it also means missing out on some of your ILP experience — like studying or doing homework while you’re group is out exploring. It’s recommended that you’re mindful of the type of class and the credit load if decide to take a class online during your semester.  

You’ll also need to be aware that WiFi in general tends to be less reliant and slower than you’re used to in America. Because of this, it’s best to take classes where you can work ahead or have a flexible professor so that you’re not caught in a scenario where the internet happens to temporarily go out the evening your paper is due. You may want to talk to your ILP representative about locations that have better connection than others if you’ll be taking an online class.

We have more in-depth info about this question, here.

Housing

Housing is arranged for you and is covered by your program fee. Depending on which country and city you’re volunteering in, you will live with a host family, in a dorm at the school or apartments with your ILP group.

Do you live with other volunteers?

It depends on your housing which is different in every location. If you live with a host family, most often you will not live with another volunteer.  In every other housing (apartment, dorm, etc.) you will live with other group members. Most setups have volunteers sharing a room with at least one other volunteer, sometimes more … if that’s the case,  it’s a slumber party every night!

Host family locations are typically found with our European locations, however, there are some host family situations for male volunteers as well as married volunteers in other locations.

What is the housing like?

Volunteers live like the locals, in local neighborhoods — That may mean living in a Soviet-Era apartment in Ukraine or a tropical wooden cabin called “the Tree House” in Costa Rica.

In some of our Humanitarian locations, you’ll be living in a home that you might not consider nice, but it’s an obvious step up from the tin roofs and dirt floors of your neighbors. All ILP housing could be described as basic, complete with necessities like beds, chairs, tables and desks, along with running water, electricity, etc. ILP volunteers won’t be living in grass huts or living with dirt floors but there will be some adjustments compared to comforts you may be used to growing up with — for example, most locations use fans instead of air conditioning. If you’ll be living with a host family, you’ll typically be living in modest, middle-class housing that may or may not have the things you’re used to (like a dryer for your clothes). Living like the locals is one of the most influential ways to really immerse yourself in the culture of your country and makes up a big part of your ILP experience.

How does living in a dorm or apartment compare with living with a host family?

There are countless pros and cons to each living situation, but here are some to consider:

Many past volunteers say that living with a host family can feel a bit scary at first because it’s a new experience, but it quickly became one of their favorite memories from the semester. You’ll come to love your host family, you’ll be more exposed to the language, have opportunities to experience more of the culture firsthand, and so much more. As a heads up, living with a host family can be challenging in the beginning, especially if you don’t speak the language. It’ll be an adjustment living with a new family and possibly a host sibling but most volunteers settle in within a couple of weeks. We really encourage you to spend time with both your host family and your ILP group.

If you’ll be living in the dorms or the apartments, you’ll spend even more time with your ILP group, because you guys will be living together (and probably sharing a room). There’s a strong social connection with the other volunteers which brings a little more “America” in your overall experience, but the cultural aspect you get with a host family might not be as strong. We encourage you to really go out and explore your country with your group since you won’t have that automatic resource like you would in a host family.

Do you have your own room?

If you’re single, probably not. Volunteers living with a host family might have their own room, but sometimes you’ll share a room with a host sibling of the same sex. If you’ll be living in apartments or dorms, you’ll be most likely be sharing a room with at least one other volunteer of the same sex, sometimes more. Your Head Teacher will help make room assignments, so let your Head Teacher know if you’d like to have a say in who your roommates are.

Married couple volunteers will have their own room.

When will I find out who my host family is?

If you are living in an area that utilizes Host Family living arrangements, you will find out more details about your family once you arrive in-country (your Local Coordinator makes these assignments). Before you leave, you will fill out a little questionnaire which will be sent to your Local Coordinator, so they can help find a host family to best match your personality and interests.  

 

How are the host families chosen?

Your Local Coordinator is responsible for finding host families each semester — about 50% – 75% of host families either had or currently have children in the ILP program, so they are happy to participate.

Host families must be financially able to support a volunteer living with them (plus, they must be supportive of the ILP Code of Conduct). While host families are most often a great part of the experience, if for some reason things aren’t working out with that host family, you are never stuck. If needed ILP will remove you from the situation right away and work with your Local Coordinator to find you another family.

Needing to switch host families could happen for a lot of reasons; maybe your host family needs your room so a relative can move in, maybe your host parents lost their jobs or became ill. Sometimes the family isn’t a good a fit for the volunteer or vice-versa. Just let us know if you feel uncomfortable with your host family for any reason.

Each volunteer will fill out a “Host Family Question” form where they can share a bit about their preferences, habits and other personality traits so your Local Coordinator can work to find a host family that should be a good fit.

Is there married housing?

Yes, but it does depend on location. Talk to your ILP Rep to get more details for your particular semester, but you’ll also find some married housing in countries like the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, and a few others. Get a full list, here.

Food

Three meals per day are also covered by your program fee (except on vacation days, and weekends adjacent to vacation days). You’ll be eating what the locals are eating, which helps volunteers get a front-row seat to the local culture. You may be eating at the school cafeteria, your host family may cook for you, or you might receive a stipend for groceries so you can prepare your own meals. It all depends on what works best for where you are volunteering.

Are all of my meals provided?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided to you by either your school, your host family, or via a stipend. Meals are not provided during scheduled vacation days, which also include any weekends adjacent to those vacation days (most volunteers are traveling and eating out during these days anyways — it’s just something to be aware of if you decide to stay home instead of traveling). 

Volunteers are responsible for purchasing any supplement foods like snacks, treats, going out to eat, or any items that you’d prefer to have in your diet in addition to what’s provided.

What is the food like?

You’ll be eating like the locals, so what foods you’ll be eating depends on which country you’ll call home:

Eastern Europe: Common foods are potatoes, beets, different kinds of soup, chicken, bread, dumplings, cabbage and cauliflower, etc. Tea is also very popular. Plan on lots of meals served with bread, soup, and your favorite root vegetables.

Asia: Common foods are rice, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, vegetables, local fruits, curries, stir fries, and soups. Oh, and rice is a staple here.

Central America: Meals here often consist of rice and beans, fried plantains, corn tortillas, and meat like chicken or beef. Even for meals like breakfast, you’ll find a scoop of rice and beans.  You’ll also run into fresh fruits like pineapple and papaya.

The Caribbean: You’ll find lots of beans, rice, pasta, tortillas, chicken, pancakes, bread, fried plantains, fruit and other foods in the Dominican Republic. Plan on running into fruits you know from home (like bananas) and others you might not recognize (like sugar apples).

Africa: Many local dishes include staples like rice, beans, pasta, plantains, pork, and fresh fruit like bananas and jackfruit.

South Pacific: You’ll have lots of fresh fruits and veggies (avocado, pineapple, raspberries, coconut, papaya, cucumber, tomato, etc) that are grown locally. Yams and other root veggies are popular, served with rice, eggs, and some proteins like chicken, beef, or fish. Lots of dishes are made with coconut milk.

Even though meals are provided, ILP volunteers are responsible for purchasing things like snacks, ice cream and other additional items you may prefer; if you incorporate a lot of fruit and fresh veggies in your diet and you’re headed to country that doesn’t eat a lot of fresh produce, feel free to add a bit into your budget to shop at a local market for that.

What if I have special dietary needs?

If you have allergies or certain dietary restrictions, you’ll need to be proactive about finding meals that work for you. With as many unique diets and needs as there are, we are unable to accommodate everyone.

If you have certain dietary needs, plan on adding more to your spending budget so you can purchase snacks and meals that fit your diet better than what the local cuisine may provide.

You may find the following information helpful, as well as this blog post about eating vegan, vegetarian, and/or with dietary restrictions while traveling:

Additionally, we can talk to you about certain countries that might be a little easier for you to work around your dietary needs. 

Can I drink the water?

Not in most countries. You will have purified water available at your home and usually at the school if you cannot drink the water from the tap in your country. We suggest packing up a metal water bottle that you can easily refill from these purified water filters to take with you to school and to use during the day. On vacation, you can purchase bottled watered at any convenience store.

It’s also important to remember things like not drinking liquids with ice in them at restaurants (unless you know for sure the water to make the ice is purified), or eating fruits washed with a questionable water source. If you’re not sure, best to eat fruits that have a thick peel (bananas, pineapple, etc) instead of ones you bite directly into (like apples).

Some volunteers have preferred to travel with a purifier instead of relying on bottled water or purified water at their ILP house or apartment.

Language & Culture

Your first time experiencing a new country and culture is crazy exciting (and maybe a little nerve-wracking … which is normal!). ILP is here to help you get ready and adjust to living in a new country for a semester.

Do I need to speak another language?

No. In fact, most volunteers speak only English. It is not a requirement and it’s completely possible to get by with relying solely on the English language, friendly locals you meet, and Google translate.

How does it work if I don't speak the language?

You’ll be fine! The majority of ILP volunteers don’t speak the local language and have a fun and successful semester. It is helpful to learn a few key phrases and words to help you get around and connect with the people around you, but it isn’t required. Especially with apps like Google Translate which can help you get over the language barrier, you can get by without knowing the local language. In fact, in locations where travelers come from all over the world — English is the go-to language and you’ll find that you encounter many people who speak English, whether they’re a local or a foreigner. Plus, you probably already know charades which will come in handy during your semester (seriously).

If you’d like to learn the local language, we say go for it! Not only will it enrich your semester abroad, but locals you meet really appreciate that you’re attempting to speak in their language (even if you’re still learning). And of course, it can be helpful when it comes to buying a train ticket, shopping, and ordering food. Many Local Coordinators arrange opportunities for ILP volunteers to have the chance to attend culture classes which often include some basic language lessons. You’ll have plenty of free time to use for your own language study if you’d like to learn the local language.

Also, your Local  Coordinator and local friends you meet can help you with the language barrier; in the past, Local Coordinators have helped ILP groups buy train tickets or make reservations over the phone.

As far as volunteering goes, classes are held entirely in English using ILP’s methodology which is similar to immersion. We’ll show you strategies to holding a lesson and interacting with your kids even if they don’t speak any English yet. Even if you do speak the local language, you’ll be asked to speak only in English while teaching. However volunteers who serve at the Romanian orphanage (and are not teaching English classes) often learn a few basic Romanian phrases to help communicate a little easier with the children there.

If I live with a host family, will they speak English?

It depends on your family. Some families speak minimal English or have a family member that speaks well. Some volunteers have host families where no one in the family knows English. Sometimes, the only one in your family who speaks English is your 5-year old host brother, who speaks a second language a best as a 5-year old can.

It can seem like an intimidating obstacle to overcome, but so many of our volunteers have had incredible experiences with their host family, despite a potential language barrier. At first, you might only be able to communicate using some charades, pictures and Google, but you’ll probably pick up some phrases and words in the local language that you can use. Your family might pick up a bit of English too — some families may have a host sibling who is an ILP student … and can act as a little live-in translator.

Can I take classes to learn the language and more about the culture?

Prior to the semester, ILP volunteers attend a Pre-Departure training and a portion of this is to give you a quick overview of how to prepare yourself to live in another country and adjust (including things like safety, culture shock, and things that are unique to the country you’re going to).

While you live abroad, many Local Coordinators arrange informal language and culture classes 1-2 times each week for volunteers. They are a good way to get more out of your experience. Classes may be focused on learning some helpful phrases in the local language, learning how to make a local dish, or might include a tour around your city with your Local Coordinator. Because in the past some groups have been more interested in attending than others, classes are typically only offered if your group expresses interest in having them.

Can I take classes to learn the language and more about the culture?

Prior to the semester, ILP volunteers attend a Pre-Departure training and a portion of this is to give you a quick overview of how to prepare yourself to live in another country and adjust (including things like safety, culture shock, and things that are unique to the country you’re going to).

While you live abroad, many Local Coordinators arrange informal language and culture classes 1-2 times each week for volunteers. They are a good way to get more out of your experience. Classes may be focused on learning some helpful phrases in the local language, learning how to make a local dish, or might include a tour around your city with your Local Coordinator. Because in the past some groups have been more interested in attending than others, classes are typically only offered if your group expresses interest in having them.

Staying In Touch

The internet and affordable phone plans make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family while you live abroad.

Will there be Wi-Fi?

In every country you’ll have access to the internet either at home or at your school but every location is different. Keep in mind that because you are living in another country, the internet will probably run a little (or a lot) slower than you are used to. In certain locations, you may run into a very slow connection or periods where the WiFi cuts out completely temporarily.

If you are dependent on having a better WiFi connection for something like an online class that you’re taking, talk to our representatives at the office and we can help direct you to countries that tend to be more reliable.

Do I need an international phone plan? How can I get one?

It’s not required, but does come highly recommended.

International phone plans are becoming more common — first, talk to your current provider and ask what their international plan consists of. If you’re lucky you might already have international coverage, while other providers may have a fee to add limited data or minutes (which can get pretty expensive).

If you can’t get a good deal on an international data plan, know that volunteers have had luck purchasing data cards from local shops in their country. We have information about this on your City Page (a website you have access to once you’re assigned to a specific school) with details like where to get one, and the price of some plans available. 

Also, apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are free to use so you can message and call home whenever you’re online, but you might want a data plan so you don’t have to rely on the internet to stay in touch. It’s pretty helpful to be able to download Google Maps on vacations so you can get around or check in at home whenever you’d like. Plus, parents tend to like knowing that you’re always in reach, even when you’re away from your home.

Should I bring a laptop?

It’s up to you, but most volunteers bring their phone, and some sort of tablet or laptop. Some schools might have a computer that you can use, but it’s not common or something to rely on. In general, volunteers regret not bringing something like a tablet or laptop. They come in handy when you’re planning lessons, planning vacations, and keeping in touch with friends and family, but ultimately, it’s up to you. The rule of thumb is, if you use it every day at home, you’ll likely want to use it every day abroad, too.

Can I get letters and packages?

It depends. Volunteers love to receive mail from home, however we’ve had more luck with items arriving in some countries vs others. Once you’re assigned to a location, we’ll have quite a bit of information to introduce you to your new country, including information about receiving mail.

If you do send a package, you should never send anything irreplaceable or terribly valuable because the mail systems can be quite unreliable. Just so you know, it can take quite a while for a package to arrive — in some locations, it can take up to two months for something to get to you.

Volunteering & Training

The main objective of the ILP program is helping children to learn English fluently in a way that will help empower them and provide more opportunities as they grow to adulthood.

ILP volunteers follow a teaching method known as Duolingual Education; it’s a methodology developed by the late Dr. Trevor McKee, Ph.D., professor of Human Development and Psycholinguistics at Brigham Young University. ILP volunteers will use this teaching method in the classroom which helps the kids learn English similarly to how they’d learn their native language naturally as a young child: through fun activities and experiences, all conducted by a native speaker (that’s you!)

We also have a unique program in Romania where volunteers do not teach English; instead they provide love and individual care to children who live in an orphanage, assisting them at various stages as they prepare for adoption.

Is teaching hard? What if I’ve never taught before?

You don’t need any previous teaching experience to volunteer with us. And no one is expecting you to be the best teacher on the first day! Actually our teaching method is quite different than traditional teaching methods, so it will be new for everyone on their first ILP semester (even if you happen to already have some teaching experience). 

As a heads up, there is a learning curve to teaching — it’s not difficult, but it usually takes most volunteers a few weeks (or a month or so) before they feel more comfortable teaching.

The method is extremely effective, with most children becoming functionally fluent after about 500 hours (about one year) of classes. You may not notice your students improve with their English skills day-to-day, but know that you are still making an impact. It takes time to learn a new language. When you look back over the semester you’ll likely see how they’ve grown and you can feel proud that you’ve had a hand in that!

Plus, most volunteers totally adore the kids they teach; there will be difficult teaching days, but by the end of the semester, volunteers have a hard time saying goodbye to their students. The majority of our volunteers will tell you that teaching is the most challenging but most rewarding part of the whole ILP experience.

How do classes work?

When teaching the younger kids (the Primary Level), classes are made up of around 8 students; they’ll attend ILP classes and complete activities in English for ideally a couple hours a day. During this time, the students will rotate to different “lessons” (or content areas) taught by different teachers (each one lasting about 20-30 minutes). For Primary lessons, teachers won’t be teaching in a formal sense  — it’s more similar to a structured, fun party. In English, children will play games, sing songs, hear and act out stories all through activities which focus on students learning to speak English.

For more advanced classes with older students (Elementary level), teachers create lesson plans using things like textbooks, grammar strategies, etc as students focus more now on reading and writing, while also improving their speaking skills.

How can I teach when I don’t speak their language?

ILP teachers hold English lessons through total immersion; the ILP method works by creating an environment where the children learn the language by “playing”; the lessons you’ll teach are more like a well-structured birthday party than formal classes. These lessons are broken up into six teaching areas (areas like arts & crafts, games, gym, etc). Instead of desks and textbooks, the kids start the ILP program with games, gym, kitchen and other fun activities. For older, more advanced students, the classes become a bit more traditional while still utilizing our immersion methodology.

All ILP lessons are meant to be fun and engaging and conducted entirely in English, so no need to learn another language!

Is there training?

Before departure, volunteers are required to attend a 2-day training workshop in Orem, Utah.

You’ll go through training workshops to qualify you to teach and volunteer with ILP — we will cover the ILP teaching method, cultural seminars to help you prepare for your new country, and it is an opportunity to meet other volunteers going on your semester (likely to your own country or city).

Throughout the semester, your Head Teacher will hold training workshops each week with your group to revisit skills you briefly learned about in Pre-departure training. It’s often easier to understand these skills as you practice them in a live setting, so your Head Teacher will drop in on some of your classes each week to help you work on those skills you’ve been learning, help you troubleshoot things that aren’t working so well, and provide feedback as best they can.

If you cannot arrange to attend an in-person training, please talk to us about your options! We’re happy to help arrange another way for you to receive your ILP training before departure.

When will I find out the training dates?

Before you leave to volunteer, there’s a mandatory training you’ll need to attend in Orem, Utah. Training is held usually within 3-4 months prior to when your semester starts. There’s typically 3-4 training sessions for teachers held so that you can choose one that works best with your schedule. There’s usually 1 session for Romania volunteers; we will do our best to get this date to you as soon as possible so that you can fit it into your schedule.

You can find the dates for training on my.ilp.org — you’ll have access to this site once you’ve been accepted as an ILP volunteer and after you register an account name and password. As a reminder, you can get the walk through on how to access my.ilp.org in your acceptance email. Feel free to reach out if you can’t find that email, or need a reminder. 

If you cannot arrange to attend an in-person training, please talk to us about your options! We’re happy to help arrange another way for you to receive your ILP training before departure.

What if I forget something after training?

Pre-departure training briefly covers all of the teaching skills before you leave for your semester, but the real learning happens when you start working with the kids.

There’s quite a bit of information that we have to go over in training and it can be a bit overwhelming. We’ll provide a notebook to help prompt you to take notes on the most important tidbits, but it is still common to forget things. Remember, we expect that you won’t be a perfect teacher the first week. (Actually the first couple of weeks is more about getting used to your new students and how to manage a classroom than anything else).

Your Head Teacher will have workshops with your ILP group to give you tips and remind you about things you learned in training. Your Head Teacher meetings will also cover learning teaching skills. Your Head Teacher has taught at least once with ILP so they are there to help you lesson plan, work with your class (and the troublemakers), and help you give the kids the best English education they can get.*

*In our Romania location where volunteers are serving in an orphanage (rather than teaching English), your Head Teacher is there to help with any specific issues that may come up in your volunteering schedule, help brainstorm ways to interact with the children, etc. 

Can I still volunteer with ILP but not teach English?

Helping children learn English is the main focus of our program, but you can also volunteer in our Orphanage program in Romania.  Instead of teaching, volunteers in Romania are there to help these children develop, meet goals for physical growth, and help them adjust to a family-like setting before entering foster care.

Get more information about our Romania program here.

Apart from our Romania location, every ILP participant is there to teach English (and in Romania, are there to help with our Orphanage program there). We are unable to send volunteers who will not be helping — when it comes to married couples, both spouses will need to participate in the ILP program, whether they are a Head Teacher or a volunteer. It isn’t an option for one spouse to work remotely or attend online school while one spouse participates in the ILP program.

What kind of clothes should I wear while I’m teaching?

When you are teaching, you should be neat, clean and modest. In most schools, nice jeans (no holes) and a nice shirt (tee shirts with no logos) are fine. In general, as long as your shoulders are covered (and all skirts/dresses go past your knees), you’re in good shape. 

However each location is slightly unique depending on the host program’s preferences. In a few countries, the schools require that female volunteers wear dresses or skirts while in our Romania orphanage program, volunteers will need to wear medical scrubs. You will be getting more specific ideas on what you can wear while teaching at the Pre-Departure Training.

We also have programs where modesty (while teaching or not) is extremely important for cultural reasons. In those locations, you’re asked to wear flowy clothing that covers you shoulders and goes past your knees and be mindful of covering up when you’re exploring, just walking around town, swimming, hiking, etc. Being respectful of the culture is an enormous part of your ILP experience, and a huge part of that is dressing modestly particularly in certain locations. If you think this may be an issue for you, please contact the ILP office about your semester preferences to see which countries would be the best fit for you. 

How many hours a week will I be volunteering?

Volunteer time is three to four hours each day (with the weekends off). Depending on the location, you may volunteer in the morning or afternoon, but no one will be volunteering more than 20 hours a week. 

Are the lessons already planned for me?

No, ILP volunteers create and plan out their activities. Plan on setting aside around two hours per day, which includes prep time, set-up and clean-up time. You may need a little more time at the beginning of this semester while you’re getting used to the process, and a little less time at the end of the semester after you’ve developed good habits. You will plan lessons one week in advance to be reviewed by your Head Teacher.

In advanced English classes (which are held in certain locations) there are lessons already prepared and you’ll just need to follow the curriculum, but you’ll still take time to go over what needs to be taught and be prepared to fill the class time.

Take a peek at the next FAQ question to get resources, links, ideas, and suggestions for your lesson plans.

In the Romania orphanage program, you will not spend time outside of volunteering planning lessons like the teachers do. Instead, you will create goals for the children to help them progress and work on those skills as you play and spend time with them. For example, if the goal for one child was to learn to share, you might work on passing a toy truck back and forth that day as you play together on the floor. There is much less preparation time needed here.

Where can I get lesson ideas for teaching?

ILP volunteers will be coming up with their own lessons if they are teaching Primary Levels. Pinterest is often your main source for kid friendly ideas. We also have tons of resources to help you plan your lessons, including an entire blog post of ideas, plus more resources online once you’ve been accepted to the program.

Get lesson ideas here.

If you’ll be teaching Elementary students, you’ll just need to follow the ILP curriculum; your lessons are planned for you in a few different textbooks and you’ll get instructions on how to follow curriculum online.

How old are the kids I work with?

Plan on teaching children of all ages! The ILP Program includes levels that start at 3 or 4, and go up to about 15 years old.

Kids in the ILP teaching program can begin as young as age 3-4. The kindergarten level includes children who are 4-6; at this age, they become functionally fluent speakers through organized play. At age 7, students enter our Basic Reading program where they learn to read English. At age 8, they begin our Follow-Up program, which is more of a traditional classroom setting. Kids in this program can be as old as 15 or so. The country, city, and school you’re teaching at determine how old your students are and which levels you’ll be teaching.

At the orphanage program in Romania, the children can range from young infants up to 18 years old. You’ll find that most of the kids are toddlers (7 or 8 years old).

How many students are in each class?

In the kindergarten classes, there are usually up to 8 children per class, in Basic Reading there are 10-12, and in Follow-Up a maximum of 15.  Keeping class sizes smaller is an important and unique aspect of our program. You may find as you look around that other volunteer teaching programs place you with classes that are upwards of 30-50 students (sometimes even more); We find incredible value in enabling you to work more 1-1 with each of your students.

Will I teach by myself?

You will be teaching alone, but in rare cases you may team-teach. It’s natural if you feel nervous about this at first, but you will be surprised how comfortable you become leading an activity. Remember, the groups are small and your students are excited to be there – even if they’re too cool to show it.

Are the children I am working with poor?

ILP has two programs: Humanitarian and Exchange.

In the Exchange program, volunteers are teaching students who primarily come from middle to upper socioeconomic classes. To keep costs low for you, host schools subsidize some of the expenses through tuition. In this sense, it is truly an exchange.

In the Humanitarian program, the children come from extremely limited means. Many families come from underprivileged circumstances and some of the children live in an orphanage. The ability to speak English is an incredibly valuable skill to set the stage for a successful future for any child, and this is especially true in touristic areas. The education you give in these programs is free for the children and their families who are unable to help subsidize your costs.

Our goal has always been to open doors for children by teaching them English — but what we didn’t realize is that learning this language would only be the “tip of the iceberg” — these kids truly benefit from their relationships with our volunteers. ILP volunteers are there to teach, but are also there to act as a positive role model and a friend to these kids.

Travel

We know you want time to explore your city and your country — you’ll have plenty of time for that! ILP volunteers have every Saturday and Sunday off for weekend trips outside of your own city (or maybe another country), plus scheduled vacation days to see even more. Volunteers are responsible for paying for all travel costs during vacations.

How many bags should I bring on my ILP semester?

Most volunteers bring 2 carry on items (like a backpack or a purse, and a smaller suitcase) and 1-2 checked suitcases. Once your flight is purchased by ILP, check with the airline you’ll be flying with to see what their baggage policies are. Volunteers are responsible for their own baggage fees if any. Many airlines will allow one free checked bag (up to 50 lbs) and have a fee for the second bag, but you’ll need to double check the exact policy.

Where can I go on vacation?

That’s up to you! (As long as travel rules are being followed — you’ll need to vacation with at least 3-4 people from your group, and will need to have your travel plans approved by an ILP director, etc). This isn’t a complete list below, but will give you an idea of where you can go during your semester:

  • Europe Volunteers – Travel within the European Union and other approved countries.
  • Thailand Volunteers – You have lots of places to explore in Thailand, but you can also travel to neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
  • Mexico Volunteers – Vacation inside Mexico or head to nearby ILP countries like Nicaragua or Costa Rica.  Most volunteers opt to stay within the country though because there is more than enough destinations in Mexico!
  • Dominican Republic Volunteers – There are plenty of places to travel to within the D.R., volunteers can also hop over to most of the surrounding Caribbean Islands.
  • Nicaragua and Costa Rica Volunteers – Vacation in these two ILP countries or head to approved countries like Panama, Mexico, and even Peru.
  • Africa Volunteers – There is plenty to see and do within Uganda during your semester, but you may also travel to approved countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and more!
  • Vanuatu Volunteers – We love all the things to do on your own island of Efate, but you’re welcome to island hop in Vanuatu (Check out Santo or Tanna). You can also visit Fiji, Australia, Fiji, and New Caledonia. So fun!

Who plans my vacations?

You do! Once you arrive in-country, you’ll decide with your ILP group and Head Teacher where you want to visit. There may be some compromising so that everyone is happy with the travel destinations, but often it works out that you’re able to go to the places you’re hoping to. Your group will plan where you want to go (once it’s approved by the ILP directors), how to get there, where you’ll stay, and what you’ll do together. You can find vacation ideas and vacation planning tips on the ILP blog.

How long are my vacations?

You’ll have every Saturday and Sunday off, plus a few vacation dates scattered throughout your semester. Usually, it works out to be around 9 days off total. You will not know your travel dates until you arrive in-country; your school and your Local Coordinator will figure out your vacation dates.

Usually, semesters have a couple of  3- or 4-day weekends, plus a longer vacation that may be around 5 days off from teaching (plus the time off you get on the weekend, of course).

What will I do during my vacation?

Since volunteers plan their own vacations, this is completely up to you! Each country is full of popular sites to see and things to do, and past volunteers have left their favorite suggestions in an “Area Book” to help you plan your trips. Volunteer groups may decide to go on safari in Uganda, spend a weekend holding baby sea turtles in Mexico or touring cities like Prague or Budapest (and more!). Since volunteers will be planning their own vacations, we suggest you start looking into and researching which cities you’d like to travel to — feel free to check out guide books like Lonely Planet or searching online. The ILP blog also has daily posts which are full of travel recommendations and tips.

When are my vacation dates?

Vacation dates vary each semester but tend to closely follow local holidays. You won’t know your vacation dates until you get to your country as they are arranged by your Local Coordinator and may change from semester to semester. When you arrive in-country, your Head Teacher and Local Coordinator will discuss vacation dates for that semester with the school. Once you know your dates, your ILP group can start planning your vacations.

Is traveling on vacation expensive?

We know travel is a huge part of your experience abroad and often ends up being most of your personal spending budget.  But since you and your ILP group are planning where to go, where to stay and how to get there, you can have some control of how much you’ll spend.

How much you spend on vacation will vary — flying is going to be more expensive than taking trains or buses, certain countries are going to be more expensive than others, etc. Volunteers who have managed their money well on other things (like eating out and buying souvenirs) were able to attend all trips during vacation time with a $1,500ish budget while others who opt for more expensive experiences have reported spending closer to $5,000 throughout the semester.

Just remember, how much you spend abroad is completely up to you; we have had volunteers get by on less, and have had volunteers who have spent more than double that amount.

If you cannot afford to travel, you are welcome to stay in your city during vacation times. Certain ILP countries do require that you leave the country at some point to abide by visa rules, so if you’re planning to not travel please let your representative know so that you can be placed in the right country for you.

I don’t have very much spending money, can I still go on vacation?

In short, yes. We’ve had volunteers who have been able to sit down with their group and decide to go on one or two of the group vacations and then spent the rest of their vacation time in their own city. Similar to the point above, some ILP countries do require that you leave the country at some point (for visa purposes) so if you won’t be able to leave the country, talk to your ILP representative about volunteering in a country that would be right for you.

Can family and friends visit?

Your parents are welcomed to visit you, but be sure to call the office to make arrangements prior to purchasing tickets. It often works best for your parents to visit at the end of your semester or during your scheduled vacation days so you don’t miss any teaching days. You will not know your vacation dates until you arrive in-country (they are set by the host school) which can make planning a visit a little tricky. ILP cannot predict your vacation dates, so your parents will  likely need to wait to purchase tickets or plan on visiting you after your ILP semester ends.

Friends are not allowed to visit during your semester unless they are accompanying your parent’s visit. If your friends would like to visit, they can schedule a trip with you once your ILP semester is completed (if you choose to travel on your own afterwards).

Can I stay longer and travel after my ILP semester?

Volunteers can travel after their ILP semester if they would like but there will be some extra costs associated. Your ILP program fee includes roundtrip airfare to your ILP country during the dates of your semester. If you’d like to change those dates (to come home later) or change your airports (so you can leave to go home from another country), you’ll need to pay the cost of those changes (given by the airline and/or travel agency) or in some cases purchase a new flight home.

If you’re interested in traveling after your ILP semester, feel free to contact your ILP representative to discuss what those costs might look like.

Safety & Medical

There is no place that ILP spends more energy than keeping our volunteers safe. One of the benefits of serving while you are abroad (and feeling safe while you do it) is volunteering with a program who is so focused on safety. We are fortunate to have had thousands of volunteers return home safely, and intend to keep that record going!

Ultimately though, we realize that each of our volunteers have the biggest impact on their own safety by the choices they make. We have rules, recommendations, and training setup to help inform and guide them while they live abroad.

Is it safe to live abroad?

Yes, it is safe. The media tends to look for the most extreme stories to report on, and often generalize an entire country even if only one area is affected. Even if stories are being shared on the news, it may not affect our particular program and so we have other watchtowers to rely on when making decisions about the safety of our volunteers; ILP keeps an eye on similar programs who are in the area (like the LDS Church Mission Program and university study abroad programs) and stay in touch with our Local Coordinators in each country as they become our ‘eyes on the ground’.

Our directors welcome any calls from parents (or volunteers) who would like to discuss concerns in more detail.

There are always certain risks associated with traveling but following the ILP safety rules help reduce those risks. Over more than two decades, ILP has worked hard to make sure thousands of volunteers have had a safe experience abroad and will continue to work hard to maintain that for future volunteers.

What does ILP do to help keep you safe?

ILP follows several safety benchmarks to help keep each volunteer safe:

  • ILP Code of Conduct and Safety Rules: All ILP volunteers agree to abide by the ILP Code of Conduct, and Safety Rules. Volunteers who follow these rules self-filter out many of the risks associated with traveling (and being abroad) which is the major reason we have these in place.
  • Head Teachers: ILP Head Teachers are peer-age leaders who have previously taught at least one semester with ILP. These volunteers stood out as exemplary teachers and demonstrated good social skills and team skills. They act as coaches to the ILP group, helping in the classroom, helping with lesson plans, boosting the group dynamic and other behind-the-scenes projects.
  • Local Coordinators: Local Coordinators are a generation older than the volunteers.They’re native to the county and city and help in several ways. They may impose curfews as needed, restrict both local and long distance travel, advise about local political circumstances, and keep an eye on local situations that might impact the safety of our volunteers. Local Coordinators also assist with host family and apartment living situations, visa support, language and culture classes, and other situations as needed. They aren’t there to completely take on the role of a parent, but do often help out in many ways that help keep our volunteers safe while they’re living abroad.
  • State Department/Embassy: All volunteers are registered with the nearest American embassy or consulate; after registration, volunteers will receive any political or travel advisories through the U.S. State Department warden system. 
  • ILP is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but the majority of our volunteers are members; we maintain contact with religious missionary programs and many church leaders in areas where our volunteers serve.
  • BYU and other international programs: ILP exchanges information with international programs that have students in the same locations as we do — like the study abroad programs at Brigham Young University (BYU). We compare notes about political or travel advisories, as well as disease epidemics or outbreaks with these programs to help ensure the safety of our volunteers.

Can I trust the medical care abroad?

Each ILP location has a dependable local clinic or pharmacy for smaller needs and access to larger facilities (most likely in the capital city) for more serious concerns. Local Coordinators are familiar with the area and can assist volunteers in finding adequate health care facilities when needed. They are also available to accompany the volunteer and provide translation if needed.

What happens if I get sick when I’m abroad?

If you get sick on your semester, your Head Teacher and Local Coordinator will help make sure you are cared for and can accompany you to get medical care and provide support if needed. For straight forward injuries (such as a broken leg) and minor illnesses, local medical clinics are readily available. If hospital care is required, you will receive assistance from your Head Teacher and your Local Coordinator to get to quality facilities to care for those needs.

If you or your family prefers that you return to America for medical assistance, your Head Teacher will help you make those arrangements. Any associated travel costs for medical care will be your responsibility.

We do require that volunteers have health insurance while living abroad. If you do not already have health insurance that will cover you internationally, we can recommend an affordable traveler’s card which carries health insurance that includes coverage abroad, emergency evacuation, and other benefits.

Do I need immunizations and antibiotics before I leave?

Our policy on vaccines has always been to leave the decision up to you when we can, but some countries do require travelers to receive particular vaccinations (we have more info about this, below).

For all countries — It is required that all future volunteers be fully vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine prior to departure. Several of our program locations began requiring the Covid-19 vaccine once it became available, and as of late 2021, it is now required for all ILP volunteers, in all ILP countries for various reasons. We have more information about this on our Covid-19 page.

For volunteers headed to Uganda — There are certain immunizations required for all travelers entering Uganda. Please contact us if you’d like more information on the medical requirements for this country.

For these + all other immunizations you may choose to get, consult with your health care provider and what’s suggested on the The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just keep in mind that the CDC lists immunizations that are recommended for those living in rural areas; most ILP schools are located in larger cities, not rural areas.

What if I have special health needs?

If you have special physical, emotional, or mental health needs, you will need to consult your doctor to learn if your needs can be met living abroad. We’d be very happy to provide information that you might need to share with your doctor to help the both of you make the best decision when it comes to volunteering with us. It is very important to us that all of our volunteers have an equal opportunity to have a great experience!

There may be individual circumstances where we believe that living abroad may not be the best situation for you and in those cases ILP will invite you to either postpone your trip to a later date when things have changed or possibly not participate with our program (even if you have consent from your doctor). Over the years we have gained experience working with thousands of volunteers with unique health needs and want to do what we can to help set you up for success, whether that means living abroad or not.

Can I bring my medicine abroad with me?

We typically do not recommend that your medications are sent to you through the mail, so it’s best to speak with your doctor and see if you can get a larger supply temporarily that will last for the entire semester.

If you’re not able to get enough medication to last your trip, talk to us. An ILP director will be visiting each school about halfway through the semester in person. If your parents are able to pick up a second supply of medication for you and bring that to the ILP office, we would be happy to bring it to you on the mid-semester visit. Give us a call and we’ll see if that is something that could be worked out.

How will the political and economical situation affect me?

In each of our ILP countries, political situation is currently friendly towards the US and Canada. We have found that service to children is an international common denominator which can help smooth over any prejudices.

The economic situation is challenging but improving in all of the ILP countries. Each location and semester has unique housing setup that will work best for that city (sometimes you live with a host family, other times in dorm or apartment) and it is arranged by the Local Coordinator. Volunteers typically live in housing that is similar to housing that middle-class locals may live in. You likely won’t have all the comforts you’re used to at home, but ILP works with Local Coordinators to ensure that your basic housing needs are met such as a bed, clean water, etc. It’s an adventure living abroad!

What happens in case of an emergency?

The majority of Head Teacher training focuses on how to handle emergencies. Local Coordinators work together with the Head Teacher to solve medical, political, host family, and safety problems. The Head Teacher is also regularly in direct contact with the ILP Directors who make themselves available at all times. All volunteers and parents will have access to the personal cell phone numbers of our directors.

Along with these resources, ILP uses several safety benchmarks to ensure safety in an emergency situation. We often look to other organizations such as the U.S. State Department, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their worldwide missionary program, and other international programs and universities such as BYU that have participants in the same locations we do and take into account any safety measures that they make.

We do require that volunteers have health insurance while living abroad. If you do not already have health insurance that will cover you internationally, we can recommend an affordable traveler’s card which carries health insurance that includes coverage abroad, along with emergency evacuation, and other benefits.