Frequently Asked Questions

Application & Basics

International Language Programs is a non-profit organization based out of Orem, Utah providing opportunities for college-age individuals to spend a semester abroad traveling and making a difference by serving with other volunteers. Start the application process by applying online!

  • 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.

    Applicants should demonstrate:

    • A desire to serve children. Your children will learn to speak because they want to communicate with you. We have found that when volunteers put their teaching responsibilities first, doors are opened in other areas such as travel, cultural experiences, friendships, language learning, and other meaningful consequences that are common with service.
    • High moral integrity. Think about your different teachers growing up. Who were the most influential on you, as a person? 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.
    • Good social skills. You will teach in a team with other American volunteers. You will be living, teaching and playing together, and it’s important that everyone works well with others, in and out of the classroom. Your team is an important part of the support network while you are in a foreign country.
    • Performing skills. You need to show competence in any activity that you do in front of people; music, drama, art, or leadership. Employing ILP activities in the classroom is more like leading a well-structured birthday party than teaching a class.
    • Willingness to abide by the rules and Code of Conduct of ILP. ILP volunteers represent the best of American values. The following guidelines are to ensure your safety and your success in teaching.
      • Abstain from alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
      • Abstain from romantic relationships with teammates or locals
      • Do not use vulgar or profane language
      • Obey the law
      • Maintain a neat appearance
      • Follow all rules and help other teachers do the same

  • Can I go to the same city as my friends?

    We love when friends go together. In fact, if needed we will reassign groups of friends to a different city in order to keep them all together. We often have discounts for referring friends as well. Give us a call or talk to your representative to see what our current referral discounts are.
  • Can married couples go?

    We love couples to go! They add tons to the chemistry of the team, becoming kind of a big brother and sister to the group. Currently, the housing provided in China is the best fit for couples and we offer a "2 for price of 1" discount for married couples who volunteer there. Some locations however do not have housing that can accommodate married couples. Ask your representative about your location options when you apply.

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

  • When should I apply?

    We accept applications up to three semesters (1.5 years) in advance. Spots are first-come-first-serve, so if you would like a particular location, apply as soon as possible.
  • 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.
  • What happens after I apply?

    A representative who has previously volunteered will contact you to go over the basics of the program and answer any of your questions before you fully commit. Our review committee will consider your application and you will be notified when you have been accepted (usually within a week of your application being completed).
  • Who should I use for my character and academic reference?

    As part of your application, you will provide two references. Just provide their contact information and we will email a short reference form to them.

    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. Often this is a bishop or religious leader. It is the type of person who would give a reference for you if you were applying for a position to care for children.

  • What if I don’t have a passport?

    A passport is required for any travel outside of the US, however the process for obtaining one is fairly easy. As this process takes time, we will accept a passport receipt (to confirm that you have made steps towards getting one) for your application so that you can continue to apply for ILP while you wait for your passport to arrive.

    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, Costco and Sam’s Club as well as certain US Post Offices.


  • How hard is it to be accepted?

    The program has a self-filtering effect. We look for good people who love kids and want to serve them. When people understand that they are paying to go serve kids, and then choose to apply, they are typically the exact kind of people we want! Occasionally we can tell from a person’s application that they simply won’t have a good experience if they go, so we invite them not to go.

    Because of the high acceptance rate, admittance almost becomes first-come-first-served, so its good to apply as soon as you’ve decided to go. We accept applications up to three semesters (a year and a half) in advance.

    We do not require a certain GPA for admittance. Co-Director Steve Brayton says that if ILP took GPAs too seriously, he could have never gone!

  • What if I’m interested and still deciding, but I’m just not sure?

    It is very important to us that you have enough time to make the best decision for you, and we’re supportive of the prayer process. We also understand that making a good decision depends heavily on having adequate information, so we want to provide you with all the information that you and your parents need. In the meantime, because of the time sensitivity of the application, we encourage you to continue to complete the application, except for paying the $30 application fee. This way, an ILP representative can reach out to you and help answer the questions you have and the very moment that you decide to go, you will only need to pay the application fee and be ready to be reviewed for acceptance.

    If you are not sure of when you would like to go, we encourage you to apply now and decide when later. We try to help people be able to go when they want to instead of when they feel they need to. Typically the deciding factor is either a financial or academic one, with which we can usually help.

    We encourage our volunteers to look around at all their options and make the best decision for them. Speak with a representative if you have any further questions about serving abroad.

  • After I'm accepted, is my spot guaranteed?

    No.  There are a few steps within the application process. The first step is to apply online. You will be contacted right away by one of our representatives to answer any of your questions.

    Second, you will be accepted as a volunteer for a particular semester of your choosing. You will find out within a week of submitting your application whether you have been accepted.  You must then submit and complete certain requirements such as applying for a passport before the third step, which is being assigned.

    Within a week of completing that second set of requirements, you will receive an email stating your official assignment to a city and school.  City and school assignments are on a first-come-first-served basis, even if you have already been accepted.  If you want to guarantee a particular country or location, submit your required documents as soon as possible.

  • How long will I be abroad?

    Semesters are typically 4 to 5 months, depending on the time of year that you go.

    Spring semester: January - May or February - June, depending on the country. There are also a few opportunities for a shorter semester in Kiev, Ukraine  (January-late April).

    Summer semester: mid-April-August

    Fall: August to December (Yes, you'll be home for Christmas.)

  • How is ILP organized? Who is in charge?

    ILP was organized in 1992 as a non-profit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization. It employs three full-time directors, an assistant director and other staff. The method founder is the late Dr. Trevor McKee, Ph.D., former professor of Human Development and Psycholinguistics at Brigham Young University. ILP has full and part-time staff at its headquarters in Orem, Utah. In-country, each group has a peer head teacher and a local coordinator to help with arrangements with the school, housing, and food.
  • Is ILP sponsored by any church?

    No, ILP is not sponsored by any church or university. ILP is an independent non-profit organization.
  • Can I get school credit?

    Usually, but this depends on how successful you are at arranging it. 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 and often, arranging credit with your university is simple. Some universities have an Internship Coordinator for each department, which could prove very useful to you. 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.

    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. We have had volunteers who were stuck in their dorms completing a midterm on Chinese architecture when the rest of the group left on an excursion to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City! The majority of our volunteers do not arrange credit, and they have the most profound academic experience of their college career.

    If you need to take credits in order to go (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.

    Generally taking more than about 6 credits can be a lot of work to complete while you are abroad. You only teach half a day each 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.

  • What will I get out of the program?

    There is a different answer for everyone. Some of the common things past volunteers always mention are: a relationship with the kids, a love for the people and country, a love of the language, an appreciation for loved ones at home, a profound spiritual experience, a profound academic experience, a general global awareness, a love for service, etc.

Support

In each location your service to children links you to a network of friends that provides the support that you need. Volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but for many this is the first time living out of the country. We try to provide all the help a volunteer needs to acclimate themselves to their new environment.

  • Has anyone in my group already taught before?

    Yes, there will be at least one person (your head teacher) who has taught before. Head teachers are American volunteer peer supervisors that have at least one semester of teaching experience, and lead a team of volunteers in each location. Their primary responsibilities are advising teachers, teacher training, and program administration.

    You may also have alumni who are returning to teach for the second or third time.

  • Can I talk to someone who has already taught?

    Our office representatives have all recently returned from a semester abroad and are happy to answer your questions.  Once you have been accepted, you are invited to join your country's Facebook group.  There, you can connect with alumni, current volunteers, and others like you who are planning to go.  This is a good source to ask specific questions such as, "Is there a computer I can use at the school?"
  • Are there any local leaders?

     ILP has native, on-site coordinators that help volunteers enjoy their country safely as a foreigner. Coordinators cover our cultural blindness and help volunteers understand what places are safe, what is happening in the local community, activities to be involved in or stay away from, and how to respect local customs and traditions. They help with cultural issues, safety and medical care, interaction with the schools and parents, and look out for the general needs of the volunteers while abroad. They are typically professionals that live with their families close to the location of the teachers.
  • 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. If for some reason you don't feel like they are meeting your needs, you have a representative at our office in Utah who is eager to help.  Your representative will be your contact person before departure, but is also there to help you during your experience abroad. The ILP directors give you their emails and cell phone numbers. You can even call them at midnight! Well, hopefully you're only calling them at midnight if there's an emergency...but you have that option available. You have many resources to reach out to.
  • 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 and with experience we know the best way to handle things is on a case-by-case situation. One of our directors has a scheduled call with your head teacher each week 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.  Our office is also in contact with your local leaders when needed.
  • 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 to our standard.  Each semester, one of the program directors 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 and to see how we can help you.
  • What if I get homesick?

    Everyone handles stressful and foreign situations differently, but we know that homesickness is a common thing. During your pre-departure training, we address this issue and help you understand ways to overcome homesickness.  Your head teacher and group members are also there to help you enjoy your experience.  Just know that sometimes the experiences where you grow the most come only after stepping out of your comfort zone.  We're here to help WHEN you miss the comforts of home.
  • 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. It will be an adventure and you have many 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.

Money

The program fee includes airfare, visa, housing and meals for the entire semester, language and culture classes, training, on-site supervision, a great education and meaningful service for children. Being an ILP volunteer is less expensive than going to school for a semester! The program fee varies depending on the program and location you choose. Ask a representative how you can qualify for current discounts.

  • Do I have to pay everything right away?

    No. We have a $30 application fee, but even that can be waived (ask us how!). There is a $270 deposit to guarantee your spot and the rest of the program fee must be paid in full one month before departure. During the application process, you will set up a payment plan that is realistic for you.

    If you have done all you can and fall short, talk to us. We will work with you. If you can’t make payments until you start a summer job, propose a payment plan to reflect when your job will begin.

  • What if I can’t afford it?

    It used to be a rare occurrence that someone would have the full program fee sponsored but that has changed. Recently we have had whole groups fundraising the full amount. To help you get started, we have a fundraising packet that explains how others have had success and experienced representatives who can assist you along the way. It is a lot of work, but many have had great success with fundraising. There is much we can do to solve financial concerns, including payment plans.

    Did you know that since ILP is a non-profit organization, any donations are tax deductible? When someone sends in a donation toward your program fee, made out to ILP, we will send them a receipt (if the donation is smaller than $75 please request one) which they can keep in their files for tax purposes.

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

    Yes. Since ILP is an IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) organization; the program fee and other contributions are tax-deductible. Many times more than half of all program fees are paid by someone other than the volunteer. Parents, relatives, and friends may participate by sponsoring an ILP volunteer for a portion or the entire program fee.
  • If I’ve paid my entire program fee, can I still get sponsors after?

    Yes. In fact, many volunteers 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 up to the full program fee amount from received donations.
  • Are there any discounts?

    Yes, we have several discounts to help you make this even more affordable. Ask your representative about our current discounts, but you can often qualify for things like paying the program fee in full when you're accepted (instead of choosing a payment plan), referring friends, and being willing to be placed wherever you are needed most.
  • How is ILP funded?

     ILP is funded by the volunteers their sponsors in the U.S., and in our Exchange Program locations is subsidized in part by the hosting schools. This arrangement keeps costs to a minimum for both volunteers and the students. Students in the Exchange Program host schools come from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Why do some locations cost more than others?

    There are two programs that you can participate in within ILP: Exchange and Humanitarian.  You can compare the programs and their fees here.

    In our Exchange programs, the service that you give is subsidized by the host school and your student's family. It is a true exchange. These students come from a wide variety of backgrounds (typically middle to upper class) and they contribute to funding the education you provide them which is used to help keep your costs low.

    In our Humanitarian programs, the students and children you serve 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.

  • What extra expenses should I plan for?

    It's always good to plan for extra expenses. Expenses outside of the program fee may include a passport, medical exam, ID photos, immunizations if needed, teaching materials (if not donated), airline luggage fees, and transportation costs to travel to training in Orem, Utah. We also recommend that volunteers budget around $1,000-$1,500 to cover any in-country costs during the semester such as travel during vacation and free time, eating out with their group, shopping, etc.
  • What is the best way to purchase items in a foreign country?

    Credit or debit cards work very well, especially Visa and MasterCard. 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 what that fee entails. In some countries, cash is the preferred method. In those instances, volunteers can access money through a secure ATM. It is often best to carry both debit card and cash.

    Carrying cash always involves some risk, however using good judgment, being discreet when you access it, etc. minimizes this risk.

  • Is travel expensive?

    You will have many opportunities to travel outside of your city (including scheduled vacation time and each weekend), as we know that is a major part of your experience abroad. Travel is often your biggest expense and more than half of your personal spending budget. Many volunteers who manage their money well are able to have spending money throughout their semester as well attend all trips during vacation periods with the suggested $1,000-1,500 budget. How much you spend abroad is completely up to you.

    If you cannot afford to travel, it is not required and you are welcome to stay in your city during vacation times. Certain locations do require some travel 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.

  • How much money should I bring?

    Volunteers typically spend around US $1,500 on personal items such as souvenirs and travel during vacation periods. You can get by on less, but you may miss some unique opportunities to travel outside of your assigned city or country and have additional experiences. Naturally, personal expenses vary depending on your own spending habits and location, and they can change without notice due to political and/or economic conditions in the country.

Safety & Medical

There is no place that ILP spends more energy than keeping our volunteers safe. This process begins by selecting applicants who display good judgment and agree to abide by the Code of Conduct and Safety Rules. We are fortunate to have had thousands of volunteers return home safely, and intend to keep that record going!

The key to feeling comfortable in a foreign country is having close friends that know you and that look out for you, but that also understand the country where you are living. One of the benefits of serving while you are abroad is that the people whom you are serving take an active interest in your well-being. Host families are usually overprotective and staff at schools are anxious to see that volunteers have a great experience in their country.


  • Is it safe?

    Yes, it is safe. Our volunteers’ safety is our highest priority. Any ILP representative will be happy to share with you or your parents the different levels of supervision we have in place to ensure your safety. Our directors welcome any calls from parents who would like the concerns addressed further.

    There are always certain risks associated with travelling in an area that is foreign to you. Our volunteers’ good judgment in abiding to rules is their first line of defense. Most of our very few cases of robbery could have been avoided by adherence to ILP safety rules. For example, crowded subways and buses are prime areas for pickpockets in all big cities. Robbery risk can be greatly reduced by carrying your wallet in your front pocket and wearing your backpack in front of you, etc.

  • What preventative measures are taken?

    ILP follows several safety benchmarks in order to ensure safety of each volunteer:

    • ILP Code of Conduct and Safety Rules: All ILP volunteers agree to abide by the ILP Code of Conduct, and Safety Rules. Our volunteers’ good judgement in abiding by these rules is their first line of defense.
    • Head Teachers: ILP Head Teachers are peer-age leaders who have previously taught at least one semester with ILP, who stood out as exemplary teachers, and who demonstrated good social skills and team skills. They act as “coaches” to the teams of teachers, helping with on-site teacher training, lesson plans, program finances, excursions, and group morale.
    • Native Coordinators: Native Coordinators are a generation older than the volunteers, and act as the local Mom or Dad of the volunteers in each city. They are native to the country and city. They impose curfews as needed, restrict both local and long distance travel, advise about local political circumstances, and advise regarding any local situation that may effect the safety of volunteers but has not come to the attention of the media or expatriate public. They also assist with host family and apartment living situations, visa support, language and culture classes, and occasionally even homesickness. Foreign affairs offices (China): In China, the Foreign Affairs staff at each school fills all the previous-mentioned responsibilities of the Native Coordinator, plus assists with any needed creature-comforts associated with food and housing in the dorms.
    • State Department/Embassy: All volunteers are registered with the nearest American embassy or consulate, which informs them of our presence, and allows them to 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 over 75% of our volunteers are members, and we maintain contact with missionaries 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. We inquire about political or travel advisories, as well as disease epidemics or outbreaks.

  • What happens if I get sick?

    If you get sick while abroad your Head Teacher, Local Coordinator, or Foreign Affairs Office will ensure that you are well cared for and can accompany you to get medical care and provide support and translating. For minor injuries (such as a broken leg) or sicknesses, local medical clinics are readily available. If hospital care is required, you will receive assistance 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 assist you in doing so. Any associated costs with medical care of travel 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.

  • Can I trust the medical care abroad?

     Western medical facilities or high quality health care facilities used by foreigners and government officials provide quality care in all ILP locations. Native 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.
  • Do I need immunizations and antibiotics?

    ILP leaves these decisions up to you, as a personal choice. Consult with your health care provider. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is the best source regarding immunizations. Most suggested immunization lists assume that you will be living in a rural area. Most ILP schools are located in larger cities.

    Penicillin is readily available at all ILP locations, however you may prefer other types, which would be more plentiful in the US. Your doctor may recommend that you take antibiotics with you just in case.

  • What if I have special health needs?

    If you have special physical, emotional, or mental health needs, you will consult your doctor to learn if your needs can be met living abroad. It is very important to us that all of our volunteers have an equal opportunity to have a great experience!
  • How will the political and economical situation affect me?

    The political situation is currently friendly towards the US. We have found that service to children is an international common denominator.

    The economic situation is challenging but improving in all of the ILP countries. Host families must be financially able to support another person in order to qualify. Most schools which host an ILP program are attended by children from middle-upper class families with the exception of our Humanitarian programs.

  • What happens in case of an emergency?

    The majority of Head Teacher training focuses on how to handle emergencies. Native Coordinators and Foreign Affairs offices work together with the Head Teacher to solve medical, political, host family, and safety problems. The Head Teacher is in direct contact with the 3 ILP Directors who make themselves available at all times.

    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.

Travel

ILP arranges for volunteers to have several holidays throughout the semester when they can travel outside of their assigned city. Excursions can also be arranged during time off each weekend.  Volunteers pays for travel costs during vacations.

  • How many bags should I bring?

    Most volunteers bring 2 carry on items (such as a backpack and purse) and 2 checked suitcases. Once your flight is purchased, check with your airline in order to follow their baggage policies.  Many airlines will allow the first checked bag free up to 50 lbs and have a fee for the second bag up to 50 lbs as well. Volunteers will be responsible for their own baggage fees, if any.
  • Will I have vacation time?

    Yes! We recognize that having free time to travel, explore, and experience more of the culture that you are living in is a large part of your experience abroad. Volunteers teach part time (up to 20 hours per week) and have every Saturday and Sunday off. Most volunteers find that they have more daily free time than they're used to at home.

    You will also have about 9 days scheduled vacation time from volunteering spread throughout your semester, typically in around 3 separate vacations where you can travel with your group to other parts of the country and often see neighboring countries.

  • Where can I travel?

    We leave travel plans up to each group to decide, as long as travel rules are followed (traveling in groups of at least 3-4, having travels plans outside the city approved by a director, etc). Certain locations have approved travel vacation areas. Once you have completed the ILP program, you may travel on your own outside of these approved destinations if you wish.

    • Europe Volunteers - Travel within the European Union and Ukraine.
    • China Volunteers – No travel outside of mainland China or to Special Administrative Regions (SARs) is permitted.
    • Thailand Volunteers – There are many amazing places to travel to within Thailand and an opportunity to travel to a neighboring country like Laos, Myanmar, or Cambodia.
    • Mexico Volunteers – No travel outside of Mexico or to border towns. There is plenty of amazing travel within Mexico!
    • Dominican Republic Volunteers - There are plenty of places to travel to within the D.R., but travel is approved in most of the Caribbean Islands surrounding.
    • Haiti Volunteers - Travel within Haiti is limited because of the poor economic situation, so ILP may recommend certain parts of the country (that are very beautiful!) that are more suited for travelers. Travel is also approved in most of the Caribbean Islands as well and of course, neighboring Dominican Republic.

  • Who plans my vacations?

    Volunteers will decide their own travel plans, with destinations approved by the ILP directors. Once you arrive, Head Teachers and Native Coordinators will help your team with travel arrangements such as how to buy tickets, where to stay, places to see, etc.
  • What will I do during my vacation?

    Since volunteers plan their own vacations, this is completely up to you! There are popular destinations in each country and past volunteers have left their advice in an "Area Book" to give you suggestions.  You may decide to go with your group to walk on the Great Wall in China, shop in Oaxaca before heading to the sandy coastal beaches in Mexico, or tour Eastern European countries like Czech Republic and Hungary.

    We suggest researching the areas you would like to travel to. There is so much information on the internet and guides such as the "Lonely Planet" series are very helpful. ILP posts daily on our blog which has many travel recommendations and tips.

  • When are my vacation dates?

    Vacation dates vary each semester and closely follow local holidays. When you arrive in country, your Head Teacher and Local Coordinator will discuss vacation dates for that semester. Your group will then meet together to discuss dates and start planning destinations.
  • Do I have to travel?

    While travel is a major part of your experience abroad, we understand that some volunteers financially cannot afford to go on extra vacations.  You may opt to spend your vacation times exploring your own city further rather than traveling with the group.  In some locations however, visa situations require that volunteers travel outside of the country at least once during their semester. Talk with your representative if you are planning to not travel so that we can place you in a country that better fits your financial needs.
  • Can family and friends visit?

    Your parents may visit you during the semester, 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 they may choose to come during a scheduled vacation time. Your vacation dates are set by the host school and you will receive those once you've arrived. ILP cannot predict your vacation dates prior to that time, so your parents will likely need to wait to purchase their tickets.

    Friends are not allowed to visit during your semester unless they are accompanying your parent's visit. Instead, they may schedule a trip with you once your semester is completed if you choose to travel on your own.


Teaching & Training

Duolingual Education is a methodology developed by the late Dr. Trevor McKee, Ph.D., professor of Human Development and Psycholinguistics at Brigham Young University. Using the Duolingual Education methodology, teachers implement developmentally appropriate activities entirely in English with the children. In ILP classes, children learn English similarly to how they learned their native language: through experience and activity while interacting with a loving adult.

  • How do classes work?

     In each Kindergarten program, enrollment is limited to each group of eight children being taught separately by a native-speaking English teacher. Each child participates in activities in English for 3 hours a day. During this time they rotate to each of six different content areas taught by different teachers. Teachers do not teach translation or grammar rules. The learning environment is similar to that of a birthday party: children will play games, sing songs, hear and act out stories, or participate in creative expression in each of the teaching areas, using activities designed by ILP for teaching language. The teaching areas focus on what the children are familiar with from home. A child may make a cake in the kitchen, act out “The Three Little Pigs” in drama and make a clay elephant in art all while speaking English.
  • Will I be trained?

     Prior to departure, volunteers are required to attend a 2-day training workshop. At the training workshop you’ll get a basic introduction to the experience. The training workshops are also a qualifying experience. Once you’ve completed the training seminar, you will be qualified to teach in ILP schools. At training, you will have a chance to meet some of the others who are going with you, learn the teaching methodology, and attend cultural and preparation seminars to help you get ready for your volunteer experience.
  • What if I forget something about teaching after training?

     Although you will be fully trained prior to departure, your real learning begins when you have a chance to actually start teaching. To help in this sometimes-difficult transition, in-service workshops are conducted by the Head Teacher throughout your teaching experience. Your Head Teacher is a peer supervisor who has at least one semester of experience teaching with ILP. They are a great resource for help planning lessons, working with specific children, and giving the children the best English education they can get.
  • What kind of clothes should I wear while I’m teaching?

    When you are teaching, you should be neat and clean. Nice pants and button down shirts are preferable, but neat jeans and tee shirts are acceptable. In a few locations the schools require that female volunteers wear skirts or dresses.
  • How many hours a week will I teach?

    Volunteers teach three to four hours each day (with the weekends off), depending on the school, the number of classes and children, and the children’s normal teaching schedule. Depending on the school, you may teach in the morning or afternoon.
  • How can I teach them when I don’t speak their language?

    ILP teachers teach English IN English through natural, organized play. The method works by creating an environment that children acquire the language without it being taught. As a teacher, you will plan “play episodes” with the children in six teaching areas (such as games, gym, and kitchen) where the children will be engrossed in a fun activity that is conducted entirely in English. We focus on 23 Basic Mobilizing concepts (BMCs) like “I like” or “I can”, which, once mastered, enable the child to be mobile in English. The setting is very much non-traditional. Instead of desks and textbooks, there are games, gym, kitchen, and other fun activities.

    Since teachers speak only in English while teaching, other language skills are not required.

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

    Teaching is the most rewarding, and often the most challenging aspect of the whole experience. The teaching method has a similar learning curve as a foreign language. It is not difficult, but teachers can feel when they become “fluent” using it, usually after 1 to 2 months. The method is extremely effective, with most children becoming functionally fluent after about 500 hours (about one year) of classes.

    The majority of our volunteers have never taught before, so you want be the only inexperienced one.  Some are education majors who are looking for more experience, but most volunteers simply want to serve and have an incredible experience living abroad. All levels, even beginners, can be successful. 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 the first ILP semester.

    The kids are great. You will be surprised how close you get to them during your time of service. Many past ILP teachers feel as close to their ILP kids as they do their own family. That is the miracle of service, that the server and the servee grow close together - the difficult part is deciding who is who!

  • How long does it take to plan lessons?

    It is good to plan on two hours per day for prep time. This includes set-up and clean-up time. You may need a little more time than this in the beginning of the semester while you are getting used to the children, a little less time at the end. You will plan lessons one week in advance to be approved by your head teacher.
  • How old are the kids I teach?

    Kids can begin as young as age 3-4. The kindergarten goes from 4-6. This is where they become functionally fluent speakers through organized play. At age 7, they 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, with students sitting at desks, with assignments and homework. In China there will be a small need for ESL teachers to teach ages up through High School aged students.
  • How many students are in each class?

    In the kindergarten classes, there are up to 8 children per class, in Basic Reading 10-12, and in Follow-Up a maximum of 15. You will teach alone, but in rare cases you may team-teach.
  • Are the children I am teaching poor?

    ILP has two programs: Humanitarian and Exchange. The difference in the programs is the economic background of the children whom you are serving.

    In the Exchange program, families who are primarily middle to upper socioeconomic classes are more likely to hear about, to value, and to take advantage or this type of opportunity. Usually, these families are the best to provide a safe and fun experience for volunteers, and their children are the future leaders of their community. Your influence on them is significant. To keep the costs to volunteers low, host schools subsidize most of the expenses through tuition.

    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 such as the Caribbean. 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 which speaking English will afford them - what we didn’t realize is that speaking English would be only the “tip of the iceberg” of the social, educational, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual good which comes to the children from the heart-felt work of volunteers. To date, over 20,000 children have had immeasurable good come to them from the efforts, care, and dedication of over 7,000 ILP volunteers.

  • Is teaching the only type of service I can do with ILP?

    Helping children learn English is the main purpose of our program, but there is one other option for you to serve in an orphanage. Our program at the orphanage in Romania is very unique because instead of teaching, you will work with the orphans to help them develop and meet goals for physical growth. You will also have opportunities to visit children in local hospitals as well.
  • Can I use ILP's teaching method once I'm finished volunteering?

     Once you get back from teaching, you will have a skill that is valuable for teaching your own children a second language, teaching Limited English Proficiency (LEP) children in schools, or starting a home duo lingual care group in your own home. ILP supports alumni who are interested in using their ILP teaching skills after returning. Please contact ILP if you plan to teach or share our methodology outside of personal use.

Language & Culture

Your first time exploring and immersing yourself in another culture can be an exciting adventure. Nerves about travel are very common as there are so many unknowns getting used to a new location. Participating in ILP is a great way to fully experience and add to another country, rather than simply touring it. We can help you with the adjustment period as you get settled into living in a new home for the semester.


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

    You’ll manage just fine! The majority of ILP volunteers don’t speak the local language of the country they will be living in, but many learn while they are there. It is always helpful to be proactive and learn the most common conversational pieces of another language either before you go or during weekly language classes while abroad. If all else fails, charades works as well!

    Your Native Coordinator and local friends that you meet can help you navigate more difficult tasks such as ordering a train ticket, but you'd be surprised how much you can understand without speaking the same language.

  • How will I communicate if I'm living with a host family?

    However you can! Some families speak minimal English, but not all.  At first, you will communicate using a dictionary, charades, pictures of home, etc. Very soon you will learn some of their language, and they some English, and you will be on your way to a wonderful relationship. You may have a host sibling who is an ILP student and then you'll have a little live-in translator.
  • Can I take classes to learn the language and more about the culture?

    ILP arranges informal language and culture classes, provided by the host schools, 1-2 times each week for volunteers. These classes are driven by the desires of your group and based around what you'd like to learn more of. If there's something you'd like to focus on, you can request it.
  • Do you learn the language while you are there?

    Yes, but the amount of the language that you will learn depends heavily on how much you study on your own. Those who have acquired the most language during their stay studied on their own daily, and used the ILP language classes as a resource to supplement their studies, rather than depending on the language classes as their only source of learning. Learning any foreign language takes effort, but it can be very rewarding.

    You can get by without learning the language, but your efforts tremendously add to your experience.

  • Will there be a guide?

    Your Head Teacher and Native Coordinator will help orient you to your city once you arrive and help you find your way around. Usually you will also make friends who would love to spend time with you showing you their city. However, much of the experience is trying new things. A huge adventure could just be wandering around a new part of town and stumbling upon fun activities with your group.
  • What are the differences between the country locations?

    They all have very different cultures, climates, and traditions, but wherever you go you will fall in love with the country, the kids, and your fellow teachers. The best way to find out the differences is by talking to past ILP volunteers, researching on the internet, and reading, reading, reading about them. Call our office and you can talk to one of our representatives! They've recently volunteered in different locations and can help answer your questions about what it's like and help you find the right spot for you.
  • Are the people receptive to Americans? Will I get unwanted attention?

    For the most part, the people really like Americans and are interested in you. They want to learn more about you and talk to you. Sometimes they will stare but it is more out of curiosity than rudeness. The program directors and administration watch very closely for any anti-American sentiment. You do stand out, and they will know that you are foreigners, but usually this will help them be more patient and willing to help you.

Communication

The most common form of communicating with friends and family is through the Internet and an international phone plan. Each volunteer will have access to the Internet either at their home or at the school.


  • Can you get letters and packages?

    Yes, volunteers love to receive mail from home! However, you should never send anything irreplaceable because the mail systems can be unreliable. Postal time is quite slow in both directions, ranging from 10 days to a couple months. It can be very unpredictable how long it will take.
  • Should I bring a laptop?

    Most volunteers bring their own laptop, smart phone, tablet or any combination of these things. Some schools also have computers that you are free to use. When we ask volunteers what item they either wished they had brought or were really glad that they had, the number one answer is always a laptop, ipad, smart phone, or tablet.
  • Will there be Wi-Fi?

     In every country you will have access to the internet either at home or at your school. Every location is different. Keep in mind that because you are living in another country, you'll likely not receive the same level of internet that you are used to at home. There may be times where the connection is slow or non existent for a period of time.
  • Do I need an international phone plan?

    It used to be that most volunteers would turn their phone plan off temporarily for their time abroad and just use communication apps on their phone while in WiFi range. Apps like Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts provide options for you to talk and message for free.

    However, international phone plans and becoming more and more realistic and affordable and most volunteers choose this option. Check with your current provider as you may already have many features on your current plan. ILP offers an option to purchase an international plan for your semester with unlimited data and texting plus emergency calling minutes. If your current plan doesn't cover your needs, consider purchasing a plan through ILP.  It can be incredibly helpful to have data on the go for things like finding directions, checking in, finding contact information, or texting a group member if you lose them in a crowded market. Your parents may also appreciate the ability for you to always be able to reach out in case of an emergency.

    There are several options available. Pick the best option for you. There's no reason to not be in contact with your family and friends from home!

Daily Activities

You will teach Monday through Friday half of the day, while the other half of the day is yours to use as you please as long as you follow ILP rules and guidelines. Often volunteers are surprised by how much free time they actually have. We recommend using that time to the fullest, by setting personal goals, getting to know the culture, cultivating friendships, exploring, etc.


  • What is a typical day like?

    You will volunteer for about 3-4 hours per day Monday-Friday. Plan around 2 hours per day (depending on the individual) for planning and preparing your lessons. Outside of volunteering hours, your free time is what you want to make it!

    There are often options for taking language and culture classes. You'll have group meetings about once per week to talk about classes, learning the skills of teaching the method, and have group discussions as needed. You may want to explore the city with your group. Grab a treat downtown. See a show. Or just spend time with your group or your host family.

    Volunteers have each weekend off and again that time is yours. Some groups choose to do things like explore a nearby city on the weekend or go on a hike. If you'd like to attend church on Sunday, that option is yours as well.

  • How often will I see my group outside of teaching?

    You will see them every day.  One of the most influential parts of having a successful experience abroad is the friendships you make with your group members.  In countries where you live together, you will spend most of your free time with your group. In countries where you live with a host family, it takes a little more effort to meet with your group, but completely possible.  We just ask that you remember that your host family would like to spend time with you as well, so its best to find a balance.
  • Is there a guide around town?

    Your Head Teacher and Native Coordinator will help orient you to your city once you arrive and help your find your way around. Usually you will also make friends who would love to spend time with you showing you their city. Often though, the best way to explore your city is to 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.
  • Can I exercise?

    Yes. It may take resourcefulness on your part, but you can usually find a track or park to jog in, or you may bring an exercise video to use with other teachers while you’re there, etc.
  • What is transportation like?

    You will get around town by public transportation generally. The type of transportation is different depending on the country you live in but it may be something like a bus or the metro. In some locations volunteers live at the school, so transportation to school is not needed. Some volunteers have chosen to purchase a cheap bicycle for getting around town during their free time instead of riding the bus. In almost every location you will be walking quite a bit, so good walking shoes are highly recommended.
  • Can I go to church?

    Yes. Church services of most faiths are available at all ILP countries and cities. Even in China, depending on the city, some groups who are interested in attending LDS services will hold their own mini meetings and there are also church services available via Skype from Beijing. Just to clarify, this is a common question because many of our participants are religious, but it is not a requirement.
  • Can I do missionary work?

    Often the best missionary work you can do as an ILP volunteer is to be the best teacher you can be! You are able to answer questions from locals regarding religion in all ILP countries except China, where it is strictly forbidden.

Housing & Food

Teachers live with host families, in dorms at the school, or in apartments depending on your assigned location. The host family and the school staff are important parts of a “support network” that help make your experience safe and enjoyable.

Meals are arranged by the Native Coordinator and prepared by host families or cooking staff at the schools. Meals are generally authentic local cuisine. You will eat what the natives of that country eat. In some locations you may receive a stipend to prepare some of your own meals.

  • Do you live with other volunteers?

    It depends on your housing. 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. In that case, you'll often share your room with at least one other volunteer. It's a slumber party every night! This gives you the opportunity to be very close with your group members as you interact with them every day.

    Currently Ukraine, Russia, and sometimes Lithuania are the only locations where you have the opportunity to live with a host family. All other locations you will be living with your group members.

  • What is the housing like?

    Volunteers live like the locals, in local neighborhoods.  The homes and apartments are often dated. If any repairs are needed, Native Coordinators are available to make sure their needs are met, although it may take a bit of time to get things working again. None of the housing is “third world”: no housing has dirt floors; ILP teachers do not live in shacks or grass huts; all apartments have electricity and running water. Furniture is limited to basics: beds, chairs, table/desk (sometimes in a common area). Some locations have air conditioning, but not always. Host family's homes are often modest, middle class housing.

  • How are the host families chosen?

    To find safe host families for our volunteers, we have found it’s best to let the local schools select them, who are familiar with both the local culture and the ILP Code of Conduct. About 50-75% of the host families have either had or currently have children in the ILP program, so they are happy to participate.

    Host families must be financially able to support another person and be supportive of the ILP Code of Conduct. If for some reason things don’t work out with that host family, you are never stuck. ILP will remove you from the situation right away and assist the host school in finding you another family. About 1 in 7 or 8 teachers change host families every semester, so it is a common event for which ILP staff is well equipped. Common reasons for reassignment include your host family need your room for a relative to move in, loss of a job within the host family, the family not being a good fit for the volunteer, the volunteer not being a good fit for the family, etc.

    Each volunteer will fill out a "Host Family Question" form where they are able voice to their preferences.  Local Coordinators will make assignments to match your preferences as best as is possible.

  • When will I find out who my host family is?

    You will find out your host family assignment upon arrival in country as those assignments are arranged by local country  coordinators.
  • Do you have your own room?

    Typically, at least 2 teachers live in each room (sometimes more), and 1-2 teachers per host family. Sometimes you will have your own room with a host family, but you might share with a host sibling of the same sex. In dorms you will always share a room, usually with one other person. Roommate selections are made upon arrival, so you will have a say in it.
  • Is there married housing?

    We have housing to accommodate married couples in certain locations. In China volunteers like in dorms at the school and this is best suited for married couples. We also have a discount for married couples in China, so the majority of our married volunteers live there. Talk to your representative about other current options for married housing locations.
  • Are all of my meals provided?

    Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided to you by either your school, your host family, or in a few instances a stipend on the weekends.  You will be responsible for extra snacks that you purchase, going out to restaurants, and your meals during vacation and traveling times.
  • What is the food like? What if I have special dietary needs?

    Eastern Europe: Common foods are potatoes, beets, soups, chicken, bread, etc.
    China: Common foods are rice, tons of vegetables (many of which you will not recognize), chicken, fruit, and soup.
    Thailand: Common foods are rice, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, vegetables, delicious fruits, curries, and soups.
    Mexico/D.R/Haiti: Food here is often meat, cheese, rice, corn tortillas, etc. All places cook with more oil, but the food is all very natural and quite tasty! In Haiti you'll also see quite a bit of pasta dishes.

    If you have allergies or certain dietary restrictions, its best to let us know on your application and during Orientation so that we can place you in a location that is best accommodating for you. Its quite common, however, that if you live with a host family you will simply need to politely work out the details with your family as you get to know each other better. In the dorms/apts where the food is served buffet style, you can simply select the things you aren’t allergic to. You may need to increase your personal budget to purchase foods at a local grocery store that fit your diet better.

  • Can I drink the water?

    Water from the tap is not drinkable in most of the countries where ILP teachers live. There will be purified water available to you in your home if this is the case and usually at the school as well. We recommend carrying a water bottle with you throughout a typical day. During vacation times you'll be able to purchase purified water at any convenient store.
  • Can I buy personal items in my city?

    Yes, all necessities are available, but with less selection than we have in the US. If you have personal preferences for brands, you should plan on bringing them with you.
  • How does living in a dorm or apartment compare with living with a host family?

    Living with a host family can be challenging in the beginning, especially with communication, dealing with a host sibling, and having your host family expect you to participate in family events and responsibilities. Many past volunteers say the reward far outweighs the challenge. You come to love them, you are exposed to more language, and you really see the culture first hand. The dorms and apartments let you be in a foreign country, but come home to a little piece of America at night and you’ll build close relationships with the other teachers that you live with. Where the social aspect is strong, the cultural aspect may not be as strong as a host family. You really can’t lose, both options are great.