Add a Volunteer Program to Your Semester Abroad

July 27, 2018
Volunteer in Galapagos with turtle

Are you interested in diversifying your experience abroad? Experiencing Latin America alongside locals?

API offers participants in Latin America the opportunity to extend their time abroad by adding on a volunteer program before or after their semester program. Studying abroad is a fantastic way to experience education in another culture. Not only are you learning in another language, the classroom experience can be quite different from what students may used to in the United States.

Volunteering abroad allows students to experience their host country in a new way. Instead of studying language, history, or literature, volunteering allows you to collaborate with locals on social initiatives while focusing on current issues of the community.

Jump out of the group experience and jump into the local community!

Where can I volunteer?

Argentina (Buenos Aires)
Brazil (Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, Florianópolis)
Chile (Santiago)
Costa Rica (San José and San Joaquín de Flores)
Ecuador (Quito, Amazon, Galapagos)
Guatemala (Antigua)

API Volunteer Add-On program locations.

I want to experience a different city from where I studied. Can I switch locations after my program ends?

Definitely! If you’re already in Latin America, why not get to know another country through volunteering.

How does the program work?

Volunteer placements are customized based on the volunteer’s interests and the needs of the local community. It’s important to us that placements to be mutually beneficial. During the application process, we work together to ensure we’re finding a placement that’s best suited to your skills and placement interests.

Shelby Willburn, volunteer in Santiago, Chile, with her class.

I’ve never volunteered abroad before… Is that okay?

While having experience volunteering in your home community is appreciated, your volunteer placement will be based on what skills best serve the community. Your skills could be classroom experience, projects, hobbies, passions, etc.

What if I don’t speak Spanish?

This is an important question to ask yourself first. The level of involvement with the community and interaction depends on your language abilities and also if the organization accepts English-only speakers. We might need to get creative! For this reason, we ask you to be flexible as there can often be many barriers out of our control.

Volunteer in the Galapagos, Rebecca Hunderfund, making friends with the locals.

How can I know if I’m eligible?

All participants must be 18 years old or older. In certain locations, the minimum age requirement is 21. Each location has a program requirement. All requirements are listed on the country profiles here. For select placements, a participant may need to meet a minimum level of language proficiency.

This sounds amazing. How can I apply?

To apply for an API volunteer program, you can simply submit the online application found here. Shortly after submitting your application, your Experiential Program Coordinator will email you with next steps!

Now you still may be asking yourself, “Why should I do this?” Well, take it from Michelle Stepan, volunteer add-on participant in Buenos Aires.

“Study abroad is uncomfortable, hard-work, and at times, downright frightening. Despite all of this, without these struggles and challenges, I would never have experienced the highs of pushing my limits and capabilities. Throughout my study abroad experience, I have learned things about myself and the world around me that I never could have discovered back in the US, and for that I am truly grateful.”

Michelle will complete five weeks of volunteering with three local organizations in Buenos Aires. Her weeks of learning and practicing Spanish will take her Spanish out of the classroom and into the workforce, diving deeper into the community.

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