note for parents
“My son appeared to have an experience of a lifetime. The combination of schooling and “work” opportunities, the interactions with people from all over the world, the opportunity to travel to nearby regions, the wonder of experiencing another culture in its varying degrees...
made for a fantastic experience!
In my opinion, this opportunity has shaped his vision for the future. Thank you for offering a safe and successful program for young students who wish to broaden their worldview. I am thankful to have him home, but he is already planning his return to Vietnam!
Margaret, an IPSL parent
Student Safety & Security
IPSL has a 24-hour emergency contact system that can be utilized in case of a student health or safety emergency.
Before departure, students are provided with health information about the program location 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 and mental health facilities and support available.
All programs begin with a period of formal orientation. Students are taught practical skills like telephone, banking and public transportation information; how to remain healthy and safe; how to get health services and how to recognize cultural signs and customs.
Curious about how an IPSL program can impact a student's life?
Hear what this Mom has to say about her child's experience on IPSL's Arusha, Tanzania program.
Our Educational Philosophy
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.
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
Service-Learning vs. 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 volunteer 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 child's work is important, but their individual contributions may not be visible for many years as change takes time. In the meantime, they are 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. Both direct and indirect service are needed to accomplish the goals, and each is valuable. In actuality, because nearly all non-profits experience resource scarcity, IPSL participants do a little bit of everything. Nothing says, "I'm a partner in your community," more than a willingness on the part of a volunteer 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.
Within the description of our undergraduate programs are listed the types of service and a few examples of the service organizations that IPSL participants can expect to encounter. This list is not exhaustive, nor static and may change at any time due to logistics or language barriers and the need to place IPSL students in separate agencies to maintain the immersion environment for which we are known.
Parents provide advice to parents...
You love, provide guidance, education, and financial support for your child. You have tried to instill in them the values that will make their lives satisfying and productive. Now your child 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 unite study abroad with volunteer service and build upon a students' desire to not just 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.
Research shows that study abroad gives participants a broader understanding of career possibilities AND the confidence to pursue these career paths. Many students experience unintended benefits in terms of not only developing skills and shifting attitudes but also of opening career pathways and opportunities that had been either previously unknown or simply unconsidered. Read the study here.
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 child’s adjustment process to their new culture and living situation.
Aside from a quick check-in to let you know that they have arrived safely, it is best to limit communication for the first couple of weeks to help ease homesickness and speed acclimation.
We highly discourage parents (or other) from visiting their child while on the program as it is best to allow your child to have their own, personal experience without parental presence.
Parents (or other) are not allowed to accompany their child on an IPSL excursion, observe courses nor be present or participate in any of the official IPSL program components. In addition, it is not advisable to stay at the student’s homestay.
We understand that parents may go through many changes as well during this process, but remember that this is your child’s experience. We encourage you to help them get the most out of it.
A key component of the IPSL student experience is the homestay. Most of our programs provide this unique opportunity. Living with a host family is part of the immersion experience and gives your child the opportunity to get to know what it’s like to be a 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.
IPSL student with Host Father in Medellín, Colombia
Important: Visas--Scope of Responsibility
It is the participant’s sole responsibility to obtain the correct visa, if one is required for legal entry into the host country.
The guidelines provided below 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 with any questions or concerns you may have.