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Volunteering and Service


Volunteering abroad means offering your knowledge and services to assist others who have unmet needs in a different country. Often times this gives you the opportunity to work with local people from the host culture. Since you are donating your time, most volunteer positions are not paid. They may or may not be related to your academic interests. Generally, volunteer positions do not require previous experience. Academic credit is not available unless a volunteer experience is done as part of a directed study or research project.

Depending on what kind of experience you are seeking, there are different types of international volunteering that students may want to consider. Some examples of projects you can expect to find on our program include: developing small business enterprise, teaching English, working on women cooperatives, promoting healthcare in rural villages, constructing a school or clinic, supporting human right efforts, etc.

View the Brookings Institution's International Service and the Obama Administration


There are countless reasons why thousands of people volunteer abroad each year. You may start with a desire to travel, learn a new language, or meet new people. By volunteering you will also have the opportunity to lend a hand to those who are working to improve life in their community. Through your daily work and interactions with members of the local communities, you will gain a better understanding of the culture, as well as the issues that affect that part of the world. You will also learn a lot about yourself, as you take on the challenge of living and working in a completely new environment.

The Center for International Programs works with its overseas partners to identify volunteer opportunities in your countries.

A study abroad service-learning program is the opportunity to participate in an organized service project while also taking a class or classes to complement your service. It permits you to gain direct experience working on the same content, ideas, and issues discussed in class through working at a community organization a few hours per week. With the support of your instructor, you build a relationship with a community organization. That relationship is reciprocal--you help the organization meet its goals, and the organization gives you the opportunity to develop professional skills and cultural insights while applying your academic work to real-world situations.

With service-learning, you receive course credits for the work you do. And that work is designed so that you not only give to the community, but you also gain valuable experience through the work.

(Adapted with thanks from web material of the Career and Community Learning Center, University of Minnesota)


  • A community service-learning placement allows you to experience social realities in your host society that are far removed from those of your host university or study abroad center.
  • Some students are able to use service-learning placements to test out a potential career choice. You'll get real-life experience working within an organization.
  • Being in an organization permits you to learn about different organizational structures, cultures, and approaches to social services or social change.
  • In a study abroad context, a service-learning placement is a powerful window to the host culture. Students who engage in service-learning often gain deeper insights than those who confine their learning to classroom settings.
  • The combination of coursework and the service-learning placement is a powerful stimulus to reflection on who you are, how you relate to the wider world, and what you want to do with your life. Students often find service-learning plays a crucial role in helping them clarify their values.
  • A service learning placement is built into a course, and the program will find you a placement that supports the intended learning outcomes of that course.  In cooperation with the Center for International Programs, the International Partnership for Service Learning (IPSL) offers unique opportunities to combine academic study with volunteer service. Current IPSL locations include India, Thailand, and Jamaica.
  • Read more about service-learning based study abroad programs.


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