Service-Learning Program Overview
At ISA Service-Learning, we connect dedicated people looking to make a positive impact with over 20 diverse communities abroad. We have developed partnerships with over 100 non-profit, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide that have identified needs and projects to which you can volunteer your time and contribute your strengths. During your time abroad, we provide you with on-site staff and support to help you focus and reflect on your service-learning experience. By offering step-by-step guidance as well as individual and group reflection exercises, our service-learning programs will allow you the opportunity to observe how change is being affected in communities across the globe and to grapple with the complexities of real-world issues.
Comprehensive Advising & Support
A team of helpful Program Managers guide participants through the entire admissions process and abroad experience. ISA U.S.-based staff helps prospective participants with program selection and provides pre-departure orientation materials. The U.S. staff is in regular contact with our resident staff abroad, who provide support to participants during their program. ISA Service-Learning staff members also provide assistance to participants upon their return home after the program.
Bridging Cultures Program
This expereince is a multi-day, in-country orientation that blends adventure, lecture, and culture into an exciting and informative introduction to the participant's new host country. Each Bridging Cultures Program is designed to:
- Provide participants an opportunity to socialize with other ISA participants.
- Guide each participant through a goal-setting activity to encourage them to refect on their expectations for their experience abroad.
- Introduce participants to the local culture through a variety of activities including learning key words and phrases in the local language, tasting traditional food, understanding transitions, and more.
- Prepare participants for health and safety issues in their host country.
- Inform participantsof the cultural and professional differences they may experience.
Housing is included in all programs. ISA Service-Learning programs offer the following housing options to participants:
- Homestay: Most ISA Service-Learning programs offer the option for participants to stay with local families.
- Apartments: Some ISA Service-Learning programs offer the option of apartment-living.
- Residence halls: Student residences are available in some ISA Service-Learning locations. Each residence hall varies by site.
Please refer to the specific site page for more information.
Participants enrolled in a Study + Service-Learning Combo program will use the housing option available for their ISA program.
Resident Staff Support
Full-time resident staff assist participants with all aspects of their experience abroad including orientation, cultural activities, group reflections and much more. Staff members are trained to ensure the well-being of each program participant and are dedicated to facilitating a positive and meaningful abroad experience. Participants are provided with a 24/7 emergency ISA number upon their arrival in-country to contact resident staff in case of emergency.
Each program location is equipped with an on-site ISA office which serves as a meeting place and resource center. ISA Service-Learning participants enjoy free computer and internet access at ISA on-site offices.
A Blanket Accident and Sickness Policy is included in the price and covers the program participant while abroad for the official on-site period of program. This is not an optional benefit; every ISA participant will be covered by this policy. Coverage can be extended before or after a program, up to four weeks total. Students can extend their policy for $25 per week by contacting their Program Manager.
We recommend that all program participants maintain comprehensive health insurance while abroad. This is particularly important if you have any pre-existing conditions, but is also beneficial if you have an injury or illness while abroad and require further treatment upon your return home. Consult with your current insurance provider to confirm coverage policies while traveling abroad.
For more medical insurance information visit the ISA page.
Our U.S.-based staff provides participants with visa information and offers guidance for each of our program countries and their corresponding U.S.-based consulates.
Transportation is provided from the airport for participants who arrive during the designated pick-up times. Additionally, airport drop off is included for programs in Valparaíso, Amman and Meknes.
Throughout the service-learning program, participants engage in group and individual reflection activities. These activities are documented and included in each participant's ISA Service-Learning Portfolio along with an overview of the program, a description of the placement or project at the host organization, an evaluation from the host organization supervisor, and a certificate of completion. For a more detailed description of the ISA Service-Learning portfolio, please visit REFLECTION on the right side of this page.
Academic Credit (additional fee may apply)
Participants have the option to receive a U.S. transcript and 1-6 credits for their service-learning program through Carroll College for an additional fee. Credit awarded will be based on the number of contact hours accrued at the host organization and successful completion of the ISA Service-Learning Portfolio. Visit the Academic Credit page for more details.
Many of the host organizations operate on small budgets that are often stretched thin to meet the high demand for their services. Your service-learning participation includes the cost of materials necessary for you to be successful in your placement such as teaching supplies, building materials, etc. Project materials are not included in all programs.
Donation to Organization
ISA Service-Learning is committed to both the transformative experience of its participants and the long-term success of the organizations with which it partners. In order to account for the resources used to train and orient participants at these organizations, which are often under-funded and under-staffed, ISA Service-Learning donates a portion of the participation fees to its host organizations. Donations to the host organizations are not included in all programs.
ISA Service-Learning participants may need to use public transportation to reach their placement. The transportation allowance covers the cost of getting to and returning home from your host organization.
Participants are provided with a basic, pay-as-you-go cell phone in some ISA Service-Learning locations. Participants are responsible for adding additional minutes to the phone for outgoing calls/texts.
In order to maximize cultural immersion, the ISA resident staff develops unique cultural activities. These custom-designed activities invite students to experience the local color of their host city, while learning about the history and culture of their new surroundings. Speaking the native language with locals, tasting the regional cuisine, and partaking in the native traditions are just a few of the ways these cultural activities lead to full appreciation of the program city. Cultural activities may include city tours, museum visits, attending sporting events, dance classes, cooking lessons, art and cultural festivals, etc. Please note that cultural activities vary by site.
Optional Excursions (additional fee may apply)
For participants enrolled in full-time service-learning programs, organized ISA excursions may be available at an additional cost, depending on program dates and length. For participants enrolled in a Study + Service-Learning Combo program, excursions are included in the programs fee. Excursions include ground transportation, entrance fees, and guided tours as well as hotel accommodations and breakfast for all overnight excursions.
Subscription to The New York Times
All ISA students will receive a one year digital subscription to The New York Times. This will allow access to thousands of articles, interactive media, videos and archived journalism dating back to 1851, the year the paper was founded. ISA resident staff will engage students with The New York Times to further learning in the areas of the ISA Discovery Model. This initiative, created to complement ISA's co-curricular programming, enables students to connect more deeply with the host culture and global community.
Budgeting for Additional Expenses
To make sure our participants are prepared for additional expenses outside of what is already included in their program, we have outlined some items that should be taken into consideration to make it easier for them to properly budget. Some additional expenses are listed below, but please visit the site-specific page for a more detailed estimate of costs based on local prices.
- Round trip international fare
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable)
- Personal travel
- Personal spending money
- Transportation (outside of transportation to and from host organization)
- Optional excursions
What To Expect
Service-learning provides you with the opportunity to observe real-world issues and social problems by working with organizations that serve their local communities. Through a service-learning experience abroad, you can develop the intercultural skills and ethnorelative attitudes that are necessary to become an active global citizen in our rapidly changing, diverse world.
The ISA Service-Learning worldwide network is committed to facilitating your transformative experience abroad. As an ISA Service-Learning participant, here is what you can expect throughout your program:
Before You Depart
Working with ISA Service-Learning in Austin
The ISA Service-Learning team in Austin, Texas will assist you from the very first step. Our Outreach Manager will advise you to help you find the program that is the best fit for you and your ISA Service-Learning Program Manager will guide you through the application process. Your Program Manager will assist you through the post-acceptance process and provide you with pre-departure orientation materials to introduce you to service-learning, your host country, and host organization so you can be prepared before you arrive.
Once You Arrive
Working with your ISA On-Site Service-Learning Coordinator and ISA On-Site Staff
From the moment you arrive in your host country and throughout your entire program, the ISA on-site staff will encourage, help and support you. For most programs, on-site staff will greet you at the airport and you will begin your experience through the Bridging Cultures Program. This comprehensive on-site orientation will give you a more in-depth understanding of your new home as well as equip you with the tools you need to navigate the city safely. On the first day volunteering at your host organization, the On-Site Coordinator will guide you on your first commute, introduce you to your host organization supervisor, help you create your schedule and facilitate group discussions twice a month. Throughout your program, the Service-Learning Coordinator will be available to ensure that your service is going smoothly and to give you support and feedback when you need it.
Working with Your Host Organization
Each host organization has agreed to accept you into their workplace based on your past experiences and future goals. The on-site Coordinator will check-in with your on-site supervisor periodically to ensure that everything is going well. The on-site supervisor will complete an evaluation of your work at the end of your program, which will be included in your ISA Service-Learning Portfolio.
You play an integral role in your success as well as the long-standing success of the service-learning program. You have volunteered to dedicate your time and energy to your host organization, and your host organization will count on you to help meet its mission. It is expected that as an ISA Service-Learning participant you are patient with yourself and with others, proactive, flexible, open-minded, punctual, respectful, responsible and communicative with your on-site Coordinator and on-site supervisor. Remember that you are an ambassador for ISA Service-Learning and your country, and that you have chosen to step outside of your comfort zone in order to contribute to international community development.
Working with ISA Service-Learning in Austin
When you begin serving at your host organization, your ISA Service-Learning Program Manager will follow-up with you to ensure that you are staying on track with your required service-learning Portfolio requirements.
When You Return
Working with ISA Service-Learning in Austin
Once your program is complete and you return home, the ISA Service-Learning team in Austin, Texas will provide you with re-entry resources and will keep you connected with the ISA Service-Learning community through social media, the ISA photo contest, opportunities to serve as an alumni contact, and the Global Ambassador Program. 6-8 weeks after your program, you will receive your ISA Service-Learning Portfolio via e-mail.
Learning by Reflection: ISA Service-Learning Portfolio
Learning does not happen as the result of an experience itself, but through intentional reflection upon an experience. Therefore, a vital part of service-learning is critical reflection through a guided curriculum. This is what distinguishes service-learning from community service and volunteering. Throughout the program, you will complete guided reflection assignments and activities, including Logs of Hours, a Weekly Journal, Reflective Essays, and Group Discussions. All of these components make up the ISA Service-Learning Portfolio, and serve as the ‘learning’ piece of your service-learning program. See the section on Academic Credit to see how you may be able to earn credit for participation in a service-learning experience and successful completion of the ISA Service-Learning Portfolio.
Your ISA Service-Learning Portfolio consists of the following:
Log of Hours
Every week, you will submit a Log of Hours to keep track of the number of hours you have spent serving at your host organization. The number of hours you indicate in all your Logs of Hours over the course of the program will appear on your Certificate of Completion at the end of the program. If you are receiving credit, you need to pay extra attention to the timeliness and accuracy of your submissions so that you and your Program Manager are aware of whether or not you are on track for completing the number of hours that are required of you to receive academic credit.
Journal entries allow you to describe your activities over the week, express any challenges you faced, and the progress you feel you have achieved. By documenting your experience, you may be better able to see what you’ve learned over the course of your time abroad.
Every two weeks, you will submit a series of essays that will encourage you to reflect on a different topic or issue relevant to your service-learning experience. These reflections will assist you in identifying key cultural differences between your home and host countries and encourage you to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by your host community.
You will have the opportunity to meet with your fellow service-learning participants every other week for a Group Discussion facilitated by your ISA Service-Learning Coordinator. During Group Discussions, you will participate in activities and exercises that have a learning objective. These meetings allow for you and your peers to have a forum to talk about your experiences with one another. Common activities that ISA staff has organized for Group Discussions also include presentations by local community members or visits to community-based organizations or historical sites.
After the completion of your service-learning program, you will receive an evaluation from the supervisor at your host organization providing you with professional feedback regarding your contribution to the organization. The evaluation highlights the level of professionalism you demonstrated, achievements you made, and your successful completion of projects and/or initiatives as established by the supervisor.
Certificate of Completion
Upon successful completion of your program, you will receive a certificate demonstrating your service-learning participation. The certificate indicates the total number of hours you served at your host organization in addition to the number of group discussions you attended and the number of weekly journals and reflective essays you submitted.
Service-Learning Program Eligibility
ISA Service-Learning programs are available to current students and recent graduates who meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Must have graduated high school by the start date of the service-learning program
- Must be at least 17 years old by the start date of the service-learning program
- Must have a minimum of 2.5 GPA or be able to provide an academic letter of recommendation and a statement of intent
- When applicable, participants must meet the minimum language requirement
Eligibility for specific placements is determined by your resume, cover letter, and interview upon application.
For programs with language requirements, eligibility is determined through an oral language interview conducted by phone upon receipt of your completed application. For applicants with lower language levels or who were unable to meet the hostorganization language requirements, you have the following opportunities:
- ISA Service-Learning placements in India and Morocco
- ISA Intensive Month + Service-Learning (San José or Valparaíso)
There are specific eligibility requirements for some program locations due to immigration visa regulations. Please refer to the specific site page for more information.
If you are interested in earning academic credit for your service-learning experience abroad, you may explore the following options:
Transfer Credit from Carroll College
ISA Service-Learning has partnered with Carroll College in Helena, Montana, to offer a U.S. transcript and award 1-6 lower division service-learning academic credits for ISA Service-Learning programs. Credit awarded will be based on the successful completion of the ISA Service-Learning Portfolio and the number of contact hours accrued at the host organization.
Participants will be able to earn 1-4 credits for a 4-week program, 3-6 credits for an 8-week program, and 4-6 credits for a 12-week program. The additional cost of academic credit is $300, and includes a transcript with either a pass/fail or a letter grade from Carroll College.
In order to be eligible for transfer credit from Carroll College, participants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, meet the minimum language requirement, and receive confirmation from their home institution that credit transfer will be accepted. Please note that some placements may have more stringent eligibility requirements.
Credit From Your Home Institution
Participants may work with their home university to receive academic credit for their program. Each academic institution has a unique policy for granting internship, service-learning and experiential learning credit, thus students should inquire about receiving academic credit with their home university advisors, professors, and/or academic department heads. Many ISA Service-Learning participants have successfully received “Independent Study,” “Internship,” “Directed Studies,” or “Special Topics” credit for their program by presenting their Portfolio.
Prices & Dates
Prices and dates vary depending on program location and duration. For more detailed prices and dates information, please click here.
ISA Service-Learning has created a list of various resources to help your fund your program. Please take a look here for more information.
Kalyn Peterson Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship is offered in the memory of Kalyn Elizabeth Peterson whose life was cut tragically short in 2010. Kalyn leaves behind a legacy of promoting diversity and putting others' needs before her own. From a young age Kalyn volunteered her time and was involved in several civic organizations. Recognized for her abilities to bring about the best in others, Kalyn's talents to help others less fortunate will be memorialized through the recipient of this scholarship.
In memory of Kalyn and her commitment to helping others, ISA Service-Learning will award one Spring and one Summer $1000 scholarship to contribute to their service-learning program cost. Accepted ISA Service-Learning or Study + Service-Learning combo students with a sophomore or junior academic standing during the time of their program are eligible. Scholarship winners will be notified of their awards approximately six weeks after the application deadline, and recipients will be posted on the ISA website. Deadlines for applications are as follows:
- Spring Program - October 30th
- Summer Program - February 28th
It is the participant's responsibility to discuss the scholarship with his/her home university and determine whether the financial aid award will be affected if the student is awarded a scholarship by ISA Service-Learning. Download an application to review further details and begin the application process.
View the full details of the other scholarships offered to our students for all ISA programs.
Funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), these scholarships provide up to $20,000 to undergraduate students from the US to study abroad in areas of the world that are underrepresented in study abroad.
Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program
Recipients are awarded up to $5000 to defray the costs associated with studying abroad.
Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grants
Fifty $1,000 grants are awarded each year to help support undergraduates as they seek knowledge and experience in their academic fields by studying abroad.
BUTEX North American Scholarships
Eight $1000 scholarships are awareded each year to currently registered students at US universities who will study abroad at a BUTEX member institution in the UK.
Glimpse Correspondents Program Grants
The Glimpse Foundation and The National Geographic Society are seeking talented writers, photographers, and filmmakers. Each selected participant will receive a $600 grant and will see their work published in Glimpse and National Geographic media.
United Negro College Fund
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) manages various scholarship programs. Each program has its own eligibility criteria, open/close dates and required documentation.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
HCF (Hispanic Scholarship Fund) provides scholarships to Latino students including the Gates Millennium Scholarship and HSF General College Scholarships.
Local Rotary clubs may provide academic scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, and international study to students in their area
The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent high school graduates to learn less commonly taught languages in overseas immersion programs.
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF)
The NIAF provices scholarships for Italian-American students.
Institute of International Education
This directory features detailed descriptions of hundreds of study abroad scholarships, fellowships, grants, and internships for U.S. undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students, and professionals.
Financial Aid Resources
Study Abroad Loans
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