Note for Parents
You love, provide guidance, education, and financial support to your child. You have tried to instill in them the values that will make their lives satisfying and productive. Now your son or daughter has expressed interest in living, studying and volunteering in a different culture, contributing their talent and energy to help make the lives of those in need a little easier.
IPSL programs, which unite study abroad with volunteer service, build upon students' desire not just to see the world, but act in it for the good of others. The programs provide students with cultural immersion, in-depth understanding of cultural and global issues, and an opportunity to make a difference in local communities around the world. Parents of previous students have told us time and time again how proud they are of the work their now-adult children have done in IPSL programs, the knowledge they acquired, the skills they developed, and the values they have chosen to govern their lives.
You, as parents, play a vital support role for your student both before, during and after their experience abroad. There are many resources that can help you understand the many changes your students will go through and to help you support them. Students typically undergo distinct stages of adjustment both upon what we call "entry" to the new culture and "re-entry" back to their home culture. The information on the Idealist.org website will be helpful to you as well as the booklet, "Know Before You Go," which has been furnished to your student.
Here's a student perspective; we hope this provides useful insight and some reassurance of what makes IPSL and study & service abroad so beneficial.
Still have Doubts? We know all the reasons why parents might feel their student does not need to have this experience. We are parents! Check the link below.
Communication: Helpful Hints
Advice about communicating with your student while abroad is abundant. While IPSL does not presume to dictate the parent/child relationship, there are some guidelines to keep in mind to facilitate your son's or daughter's adjustment process to his or her new culture and living situation.
- Aside from a quick check-in to let you know they have arrived safely, it is best to limit communication for the first couple of weeks. This will help ease homesickness and speed acclimation.
- We believe it is best to allow your child to have this personal experience without parental presence, therefore we highly discourage parents/guests visiting students while on the program.
- Should parents/ guests visit, it is never advisable to stay at the student's homestay.
- Parents/guests are not allowed to accompany their student on an IPSL excursion, observe courses nor be present or participate in any of the official IPSL program components.
We understand that parents may go through many changes as well during this process, but remember, this is your son's or daughter's experience, not yours. Help them to get the most out of it.
IPSL international service-learning™ programs unite academic study for credit with substantive volunteer service, creating a powerful dynamic between direct cultural exposure and academic learning. Interaction with the community teaches students how the culture functions. Time in the classroom teaches them why the culture functions as it does. By testing theory with practice, IPSL students find their learning takes on greater depth and meaning.
A key component of the IPSL student experience is the homestay. Most programs provide this unique opportunity to engage with the host culture and host individuals on an intimate level. Living with local residents is part of the immersion experience. Instead of being a tourist, an IPSL student gets to know what it's like to be part of the culture.
The benefits of living with a host family are enormous and our alums regularly tell us that this (along with their service) was the most impactful and enjoyable part of their IPSL program. The homestay offers students the opportunity to make life-long friends, reinforce language skills, and experience the culture from "the inside."
All IPSL host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students (in particular, North American Students). Host families are vetted, go through an extensive screening and initial orientation process, participate in annual refresher orientations and are visited by the onsite homestay coordinator staff during the term(s) they are hosting. Many host families have been with IPSL for a number of years. In each program location, families have formed a network that supports one another and are guided and supported by the IPSL housing coordinator onsite. Students are supported in the homestay experience by the housing staff as well as part of the orientation, where cultural and typical family norms are reviewed.
Students are typically placed individually in a homestay as IPSL strives to increase the opportunity for students to integrate into their family. This method also greatly facilitates rapid language acquisition. IPSL onsite staff place students in their homestay based upon the personal need and preference information students provide at the time of program application and enrollment. Should a compelling reason arise to change host families, the IPSL onsite staff will facilitate this on an as needed basis. Homestay placements are made with great care and concern to ensure a safe, healthy and pleasant environment.
Service-Learning Versus Internship/Practicum
IPSL service-learning placements are determined, in part, by student interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Central to the philosophy of service-learning is the notion of service. Service-learning is not the same as an internship or practicum, although it may look very similar. The service in service-learning may or may not be career-related. An internship is designed mostly so that the student will benefit by learning about his/her future profession. In contrast, in service-learning, the outcome of the student's work-- the service, –-is as important as the student’s learning. There are--or should be--identifiable benefits to those served. This reciprocity is a key component in international service-learning.
IPSL's service-learning placements are in local, grassroots organizations, where community members have identified a need, and where the change effort is owned by them. What they need is additional assistance of all kinds from the outside. IPSL participants should remember that they are stepping into a moving stream of initiatives and efforts that began long ago, and that will continue after the participant departs. Your son's or daughter's work is important, but his/her individual contributions may not be visible for many years as change takes time. In the meantime, he/she is fulfilling a need, and the need is huge. A single agency may need hands-on assistance from IPSL participants (direct service) or assistance in the background building capacity (indirect service), so that the agency can one day experience more stability in the delivery of its services. Either way, both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals as each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything, as it should be. Nothing says, "I'm a partner in your community," more than a willingness on the part of a service-learning participant not only to do higher tasks, but also to occasionally to pick up a broom and sweep the floor so that the setting is clean and presentable. Such actions serve to break down stereotypes about Americans, and build relationships based on equality. That is why many of the service agencies with which we work have been our partners for years. Within the description of our undergraduate programs, we list the areas of service and a few examples of the service organizations for each program site. This list is not exhaustive, nor static. The types of work listed do not each represent a distinct organization; they represent the types of work that IPSL participants can expect to encounter at the different service agencies with which we work. The number and selection of service agencies may change at any time. Sometimes there are logistical (transportation, scheduling, etc.) issues that arise and can complicate certain service agency placements and make them unworkable. Sometimes students need to be proficient in the local language in order to serve in a particular agency. Also, we do not place many students in any one agency as doing so, would undermine the immersion environment for which IPSL programs are known.
Each IPSL program is a little different, and we encourage you to explore the pages that describe the particular program in which your son/daughter wishes to participate. However, all IPSL programs do share some common features:
- pre-departure and in-country orientation to provide important cultural information on logistical and safety issues
- academic studies at a local university/institution for a full semester, summer, or year’s credit, some of which is connected to the service experience
- Approximately 15 hours a week of substantive volunteer service in a local school, healthcare agency, community development project, or other agency addressing human needs or social issues
- homestay with a local host family (or in some instances, in university housing)
- guided academic excursions
- support services throughout
- re-entry support
Student safety is of utmost importance to us. Our in-country staff will advise students on issues related to their safety, and give them guidelines about traveling within the city and countryside. It is important that students listen to and adhere to the safety recommendations. The Program Directors are well-informed on local and regional conditions, and will keep them apprised of any changes which might affect them. They are in regular contact with the Portland, Oregon office and are prompt in reporting any changes in conditions to us as well. IPSL has a 24-hour emergency contact system that can be utilized in case of a student health or safety emergency.
Helping students stay healthy during the program is a priority for us. Their health records are kept on file both in the Portland, Oregon office and with the resident Program Director. Before departure, students are sent any particular health information about the program location (should there be any), with advice to consult the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/) in order to find out what immunizations are recommended, if any.
Each IPSL program site has excellent nearby medical facilities and mental health support available. As part of a comprehensive arrival orientation, the Program Director will tell students about these facilities and resources, and how to make use of them should they need them. We encourage participants to inform us of any existing medical conditions prior to departure so that we may be sure that any required care can be accessed. Students with disabilities are encouraged to apply and every effort will be made for any necessary accommodations. IPSL follows best practices with respect to sharing student information on a need-to-know basis with the site team abroad, the sending institution's study abroad administrators, and parents.
IPSL works with an international insurance provider to provide insurance and related assistance and claim-paying services to students participating in IPSL programs for the summer, semester or academic year. IPSL participants are automatically signed up for the coverage for the duration of their program; the cost is included in the program fee. Information about specific coverage will be sent to each student along with their pre-departure materials approximately one month prior to departure.
IPSL recognizes that students in a new environment and culture need the help and advice of those who know the local conditions best. IPSL students are provided with support from many people throughout the program, allowing them to gain independence step by step as they gain knowledge and familiarity with the culture.
All programs begin with a period of formal orientation in which students are taught practical skills such as how to use the telephone, do their banking, and use public transportation; how to remain healthy and safe; how to get health services, if needed; and how to recognize cultural signs and customs. They are taken or shown how to get to their service assignments and to the university, and are introduced to the many people who are available to help them: the resident IPSL Program Director, their service agency supervisor, the faculty and university support staff, the housing director and, in most programs, the host family.
In addition to advising them on cultural, academic, health and safety matters, Program Directors also provide mentoring, guidance, support and, when needed, help with any issues the students may face including medical and health. All are professionals, fluent in English, and skilled in dealing with cross-cultural situations. The Program Director, the faculty, the agency supervisor and staff, and the host family for those living in homestays, are all there to help IPSL students adjust, enjoy, and make the most of their experience. Students are instructed to contact the Program Director first in the event of an emergency, then the IPSL staff in the Portland, Oregon office. IPSL will communicate with the onsite Program Director. IPSL follows best practices with respect to sharing student information on need-to-know basis with the site team abroad, the sending institution's study abroad administrators, and parents.
The staff of the IPSL office in Portland, Oregon also provides assistance to students before, during and after the program. Before departing, students are given detailed information to help prepare them for their experience as well as complete contact information, including IPSL emergency contact information. Parents and students are welcome to contact the IPSL office during office hours or in the event of a student health or safety emergency by calling our 24-hour emergency telephone number.
Important: Visas--Limits of IPSL's Responsibility
It is solely the participant’s responsibility to obtain the correct visa, if one is required for legal entry into the host country.
The guidelines provided here are for the sole purpose of giving a basic understanding of the visa application process. Visa issues are complex and frequently change without notification. IPSL cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of these guidelines. It is therefore the responsibility of the student to verify the current visa application process and to complete the application for the issuance of their visa.
- Participants must take the initiative to thoroughly read all materials provided, to follow all procedures outlined therein, to meet all published or announced deadlines and policies, and to ask questions when they fail to understand any aspect of the information provided.
- Participants must take the initiative to inform IPSL staff members of their intended dates of departure from the U.S. and to remind IPSL staff members if their visa and other travel documents have not arrived by two weeks before the date of departure. All IPSL participants are also required to send IPSL a copy of their visa as soon as they receive it.
We encourage you to learn more about IPSL and our programs by exploring this website. Please feel free to call us at (503) 395-4775 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns you may have.