Frequently Asked Questions

About us:

  • ELI Abroad - Who are we?

    ELI Abroad - Who are we?

    ELI's full name, Experiential Learning International was founded in 2001 by Director Dr. Kevin O’Neill. Here at ELI, we believe that the most compelling life lessons come through experience, and that international experiences are among the most profound influences on our sense of self and our view of the world. Our mission is to help others to establish their own international experiences. We see learning as a lifelong journey: our participants have ranged in age from 18 to 82 and come from all over the world. To date we have had participants from 44 countries! Many of our volunteers have gone on to work in the non-profit sector, or even form their own foundations.
  • What does ELI do?

    What does ELI do?

    ELI looks for, and partners with, small humanitarian and environmental organizations without the means to recruit volunteers. The technology costs alone - computers, Internet access, website maintenance - are often insurmountable for these groups. ELI screens volunteers, helps with placements, provides travel planning assistance and is responsible for customer service western volunteers expect and rely on. This frees the host organization not just from technical expenses, but also from the expense of hiring an English-language staff to answer phones and emails. In other words, we do all the legwork, take care of the details and provide wide-ranging assistance, then send volunteers to projects where they are needed. In the meantime, ELI serves as your advocate - and is here to help you have the richest, most rewarding volunteer travel experience possible.
  • What makes us different?

    What makes us different?

    A charitable non-profit, we are here because of our belief in what we do. Our staff is experienced and knowledgeable. Our program fees are among the lowest. Our relationships with our foreign partners are based on mutual trust and respect. We work hard to build long lasting relationships with all our partner organizations and take pride in the long term benefits communities have experienced as a result of the hard work done by ELI volunteers. We've had volunteers go on to found orphanages, food banks, school scholarship funds and more, "paying it forward" in appreciation for the amazing experiences they have had through ELI!

The Experience:

  • Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

    Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

    Technically, you don’t! If you would rather search for organizations yourself, this can certainly be done. Of course, you might find it difficult to verify how legitimate they are. You may also have trouble finding acceptable accommodations. ELI is a placement organization. We work hard to keep costs down. We urge you to comparison shop - you'll discover that ELI's prices are not just competitive but also downright low compared to most volunteer travel organizations. By far, our biggest expense is to our foreign partners. We emphasize a fair fee for their services. This helps the local economy and raises the quality of life of our partners and their families. There are organizations that pressure their foreign partners to get the lowest possible price. A sad irony for a volunteer program. Now that you've seen what others charge, consider expenses ELI and our host organizations face -- expenses that dictate the need to charge volunteers:

    • Infrastructure: Odds are, you found us over the Internet. Website construction and website maintenance cost. As do computers, software, advertising, Internet connections, international phone service, etc.
    • On-site support: From the moment you arrive at your ELI placement you rely on the services provided by the local organization and paid for, in part, by your fees. Consider just your airport/train pick-up: cars, gasoline and automobile insurance are necessary. Salaries of English-speaking local coordinators, by definition educated and skilled, need to be factored in. If your daily work as a volunteer takes you to a remote area, the host organization must provide food you can eat, water you can drink and in some cases even guides/guards to insure your personal safety. What if you get sick? Break your leg? Have a family emergency? The host organization must have the means to meet your needs - and in the third world, that alone is a huge and costly challenge.
    • Housing: ELI programs vary but in all cases the host organization is tasked with housing for volunteers. In some projects, local families are paid to host the volunteers: someone needs to find and screen these families and provide alternate accommodations if necessary. In other projects, where placement with a family is not offered, local coordinators must find appropriate hostel/guest house accommodations and then negotiate a reasonable fee for ELI volunteers. All this takes time, involvement and personal investment on the part of the local organization.
  • What’s the benefit of working abroad?

    What’s the benefit of working abroad?

    Interning or volunteering abroad is an excellent opportunity to combine adventurous foreign travel with meaningful work. In addition to gaining experience that will look great on a resume, you will get the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and improve your transferable skills like teamwork and communication. Above all, it presents an unrivalled opportunity to gain an insight into a new culture and way of life, something that is becoming increasingly necessary in our globalized world. If you need more convincing, check out our Director’s Blog.

  • What’s the difference between interning and volunteering?

    What’s the difference between interning and volunteering?

    Volunteering is all about giving back through meaningful, hands-on service in a project of your choosing. Volunteers may choose to do a project in a field that they are relatively little experience with or is unrelated to their career/area of study. Internships are designed for participants looking for more of an academic focus related to a major or a career path. The work assignment will be directly related to a specific field and will be supervised by a knowledgeable staff member. However, with both programs, you’ll be fully supported by the amazing in-country staff, living in the comfortable accommodations with ample opportunities for free time, independent exploration, and reflection.

    Not sure which is right for you? Let us know and we can help you find the program that best suits your needs.

    Read our director's full description here

The Application Process:

  • Where can I go?

    Where can I go?

    We currently have programs in Argentina, Germany, Peru, Bali, Ghana, Philippines, Benin, Guatemala, Poland, Brazil, India, South Africa, Cambodia, Ireland, Tanzania, Chile, Kenya, Thailand, China, Mexico, Uganda, Costa Rica, Nepal, Vietnam, Ecuador, New Zealand, France and Nicaragua. Check with our locations page for more information.
  • What are the age requirements?

    What are the age requirements?

    We work with people of all ages over 18. Our oldest participant was 81 when he volunteered!
  • Do I need to be a US citizen to participate?

    Do I need to be a US citizen to participate?

    No! In fact, we've had participants from over 50 countries. We'd love to add more!
  • How much does it cost and what’s included?

    How much does it cost and what’s included?

    The cost will depend on the program you choose. Most programs have a onetime program fee based on how long you will stay. This fee covers our costs associated with setting up the program, accommodation, some meals, and in-country administrative expenses.

    Please see our costs page for more information.

  • When do I pay?

    When do I pay?

    The program fee is due 30 days prior to departure unless your confirmation is still pending. If you apply within 30 days of your start, and we are able to arrange a program quickly, you will be expected to pay your program fee upon confirmation of your placament.
  • Is the program fee tax deductible?

    Is the program fee tax deductible?

    For U.S. citizens, yes, the program fees may be tax deductible. We are a 501(c)3 registered charitable organization. You will need to check with your accountant or tax preparer for details on how to do this.
  • Is the application fee refundable?

    Is the application fee refundable?

    The application fee is refundable within 7 days of the application. We want you to be happy with your decision to join us!

    Exception: Last minute applications. If you apply to a program within 30 days of your start date, we make an extra effort to move the process along quickly. We need your full commitment to the program. In this case the 7-day policy does not apply.

  • Do you offer scholarships or other financial aid?

    Do you offer scholarships or other financial aid?

    Unfortunately, we do not have the funding to offer grants or scholarships for the programs, but we really work to keep our prices as low as possible for everyone. If you are receiving a grant or scholarship from another organization and wish to apply it toward an ELI program, we will be happy to work with you.
  • How can I fundraise?

    How can I fundraise?

    Check out our fundraising page for tips and suggestions on applying for grants and scholarships, using crowd funding pages and more! Additionally, take a look at our airfare page for tips and tricks for getting the cheapest flights.
  • When can I go?

    When can I go?

    We have programs running all year long! Many of our countries have specific start dates. Check the cost - details page for the country you'd like to visit. You'll find the links here.
  • When should I apply?

    When should I apply?

    It's best if we receive your application at least 2 or 3 months before you plan on starting a program. We will accept applications earlier, of course. Many programs can be set up much more quickly. But don't forget, you'll need time to get ready as well!
  • How long do the programs last?

    How long do the programs last?

    Each program varies in length, but most range from 2-12 weeks. Check out the individual country pages for more information about program length and costs!
  • What's the Youth Aid Initiaive

    What's the Youth Aid Initiaive

    Youth Aid Initiative is a program designed to get volunteers to programs for kids in developing countries. We've chosen locations where the need is the greatest and have dramatically lowered the cost. Check out the current programs here!
  • Can I apply to more than 1 program or combine programs?

    Can I apply to more than 1 program or combine programs?

    As the placement process can be rather challenging and time consuming for our in-country support staff, we strongly encourage participants to apply for their first choice program only. We are more than happy to help participants combine programs, but it is necessary to apply to each program separately. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
  • What is the application process?

    What is the application process?

    We set up all placements on a completely individual basis depending on the information in your application and the needs of the organizations at the time you will be in the program. For an application to be considered complete, we need to receive your application form, application fee, CV/Resume, cover letter, questionnaire, and waiver. If you applied to a program in Latin America your CV/resume and cover letter should be in Spanish. You will receive the questionnaire, waiver and a request for the CV and cover letter after receipt of the application fee. Once we have your complete application, we send the information to our in-country coordinator. The coordinator submits the application information to local organizations for their approval. Matching an applicant with a position usually takes 4-6 weeks, but it can take more time or less time. Once the coordinator has finalized your placement, we will send you the details and an invoice for the program fee. We need to receive the program fee 30 days before you depart in order to make sure everything is ready for your arrival.
  • Do I need travel insurance?

    Do I need travel insurance?

    Yes. If you already are insured at home, you should check with your carrier to see what kind of coverage, if any, you will have while abroad. ELI does not supply insurance for the simple reason that we believe that you should be able to decide on the nature of your coverage. Some insurance, particularly for students, is very inexpensive. We recommend STA Travel International Travel Insurance. You can call STA at 877-777-8717. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance is wise, since we are unable to offer refunds once your program begins. Other sources for affordable insurance:

    • Beta Insurance - Students and Faculty
    • CMI - Students
    • CISI - Students
    • Patriot Insurance - Available to all
    • Multi-National Underwriters - Available to all
  • What skills or languages are required?

    What skills or languages are required?

    The requirements vary for each of the individual programs, please check out our Locations page for more specific information, or give us a call! We’re more than happy to answer any questions.
  • Can you tell me exactly what I'll be doing?

    Can you tell me exactly what I'll be doing?

    Once we finalize your placement, we will send you a job description and information about the organization you will be working with. Remember that all placements are set up on a completely individual basis, so your experience with a specific organization may be entirely different from a past participant's experience. Keep in mind that you are working to fill a need in the organization and needs change over time. International volunteering requires flexibility. We will do our best to inform you of your tasks, but tasks may change once you are in-country.
  • What immunizations do I need?

    What immunizations do I need?

    This varies depending on what country you are going to. For the final word on immunizations, you will need to make an appointment with a doctor specializing in travel medicine, but we recommend following the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control:
  • Will I need a visa?

    Will I need a visa?

    Every situation is different and visa requirements are dependent on the country you are traveling to and your nationality. It is your responsibility to verify your eligibility for a visa and obtain it if it is required, but you can always contact our team if you have any questions. You can also check out our Director’s Blog for more information.
  • Can I be placed with my travel buddy/group?

    Can I be placed with my travel buddy/group?

    Yes! We often work with groups or people travelling together. Please be sure to let us know who you are traveling with on your application.

In Country:

  • What's it like there?

    What's it like there?

    That’s hard to say! Every placement and country is different and your experience will be unique to you. However, we recommend that you check out some of our previous participant blogs or interviews to hear about their experiences. You can also read our Director’s Blog to learn some information about culture shock and travel habits. As always, feel free to contact our team with any questions you have!
  • How much money should I bring with me? Does it need to be all in cash?

    How much money should I bring with me? Does it need to be all in cash?

    We definitely suggest you carry some cash with you at all times, in case ATMs are not working, you need to pay for a visa at the airport, etc. The quantity of cash you need to carry will vary, depending on your destination, the services/items you need to pay for, and your proximity to reliable sources of money (ATMs, Banks). Some volunteers manage to live mostly on the program fees while others choose to spend extra money on activities like socializing with other volunteers and locals, buying snacks and souvenirs, eating at cafes or restaurants, transport and weekend travel. Feel free to ask us for specific recommendations for your individual program.
  • What support will I have when I arrive?

    What support will I have when I arrive?

    From the moment you arrive in the airport, the in-country staff will be there to guide, inspire, share, and support you in every way. Led by an experienced and incredible country director, each team is there for you 24/7. All of our in-country staff have a deep passion for their communities, and the experience and knowledge to lead an immersive and memorable experience.
  • What if I have dietary restrictions?

    What if I have dietary restrictions?

    We are more than happy to accommodate any dietary restrictions. Please let us know what your requests are and we will communicate them with our in-country staff.
  • What will my accommodations be like?

    What will my accommodations be like?

    It depends on the program! Please check the locations page for more information about the accommodations available in the country that you are interested in. Participants stay either with a local host family or in volunteer housing associated with the project.

    Host Family: ELI truly believes that this is the best way to fully immerse in another culture and get the most from an international experience. All families are carefully screened and are well-respected members of the community. Most host families do not speak English, creating a full immersion environment to help participants improve their language skills. Participants will have either a private or shared bedroom with secure storage (volunteer must provide own padlock). Bathrooms are shared with the host family. Volunteers will be provided with breakfast and dinner daily.

    Shared Apartment: The shared apartment option provides you with your own room in an apartment with locals and people from around the world. This housing option is a great way to make friends and contacts your own age while providing the opportunity to optimize your language practice. Participants staying in the shared apartment will have a private, furnished room. Meals are not included.
  • What if I get sick?

    What if I get sick?

    We have quite a few safety procedures in place to help protect against illness in-country—like traveler-safe food and bottled drinking water. But, in the case of an illness, we are ready to ensure that the volunteer receives appropriate and professional care. Whether it means helping you take a few days off to get some rest, or getting an appointment with a local doctor or hospital, our experienced staff is trained and ready to handle any situation. Check out our health page for some tips on what to pack and how to avoid getting sick.
  • Will I have time to travel or sightsee on my own?

    Will I have time to travel or sightsee on my own?

    Although the schedules vary by program, there is often time for participants to do their own exploring in the evenings or on weekends. Once you apply for a program and are accepted, we will send you more detailed information about your placement and the times that you will be working.
  • Can I get academic credit for my program?

    Can I get academic credit for my program?

    Many students receive academic credit for their experience abroad, but as every university is different it’s always best to check with your university about specific requirements. Need help or want ELI to join in on this discussion? Just give us a call to talk about your individual needs!
  • How can I stay in contact with my family/friends?

    How can I stay in contact with my family/friends?

    In most cases, the locations where our volunteers are placed will either have wifi at the project site, or in the volunteer house/host family accommodation. Where this is not the case, project sites are usually close enough to a sizeable city where they will have access to internet cafes. It is important to remember that the internet service in developing countries, as with many other aspects of life, will not be as reliable as you may be used to. Additionally, mobile phones are now widely used almost everywhere. Local mobile phones can be bought, or a SIM card purchased for use in an unlocked phone brought from home. Check with your provider before you leave to see what kind of coverage you will have or if they can unlock your phone for travel purposes.

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