Service-Learning Program Overview

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

Our ISA Service-Learning team guides 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 Orientation

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 Orientation 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.

Please visit ISA's website for more information about Health & Safety while on-site.

On-Site Office

Most program locations are 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 insurance information visit the ISA page.

Visa Support

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.

Airport Reception

Transportation is provided from the airport for participants who arrive during the designated pick-up times.

Service-Learning Portfolio

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 through Carroll College for an additional fee. Visit the Academic Credit page for more details.

Project Materials

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.

Cell Phone

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.

Cultural Activities

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.

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 to and from your host organization
  • Optional excursions

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

Choosing a program:

ISA Service-Learning requires flexibility. We always take participants’ preferences, experiences, and program goals into consideration; however, there are many variables to placing a participant with a community partner organization such as language level and host organization availability. When choosing a program location, it’s important to have at least three types of organizations or community sectors where you would be comfortable serving. 

Application and placement process:

Submit an online application when you have decided on a program location. Once your application is approved, you will gain access to your ISA Student Portal to submit your remaining application items. You will also choose your top three placement preferences at this time.

After acceptance, you will be contacted by our Placement Coordinator to schedule your Interview and Advising Session. Participants going to a Spanish-speaking location will also have a 5-10 minute oral language assessment. During this phone call, you will share your program goals and expectations, discuss your placement preferences, and learn about service-learning concepts.  

Our Placement Coordinator will then work with our on-site Service-Learning Coordinator to place participants at available host organizations. Placements are typically confirmed about 4 weeks prior to departure.

Our Academic Coordinator will work with you and your home university to determine if you can seek academic credit for the service-learning program. Learn more about academics here

Preparing for departure:

You will gain access to your Online Orientation on your Final Forms & Payment deadline. Service-Learners will have additional information about the social, political and economic environment in their host country. 

A few weeks before departure, you will receive an invitation to an online Pre-Departure Orientation Webinar. During the webinar you will have the opportunity to meet other participants on your program and discuss both the service and academic components of the program.  

About 2-4 weeks before departure, you will gain access to the ISA Service-Learning Portfolio online course where you will complete your pre-departure assignments. Keep in mind that all Service-Learning participants are expected to complete the Service-Learning Portfolio regardless of whether they are seeking credit for the program. This is what puts the “learning” in service-learning!

Click here for a PDF of the ISA Service-Learning pre-departure timeline.

Read first-hand service-learning experiences on the ISA Student Blog for a student perspective of what to expect.

Once You Arrive

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 at your host organization, the On-Site Coordinator will guide you on your commute, introduce you to your host organization supervisor, and help you establish your schedule. Throughout your program, your On-Site Service-Learning Coordinator will facilitate group discussions and be available to give you support and feedback when you need it.

Working with Your Host Organization

Your host organization has agreed to accept you into their workplace based on your past experiences and future goals. The ISA on-site Coordinator will check in with your host organization supervisor periodically to ensure that everything is going well. The host organization 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 proactive, flexible, open-minded, punctual, respectful, responsible, patient and communicative. Remember that you are an ambassador for ISA Service-Learning and your country.  

Working with ISA Service-Learning in Austin

When you begin serving at your host organization, your ISA Service-Learning Academic Coordinator will follow-up with you to ensure that you are staying on track with your required Service-Learning Portfolio requirements and logs of hours. 

When You Return

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 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. Your ISA Service-Learning Portfolio will be available via Schoology 6-8 weeks after your program.  

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, Reflective Journals, 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 Academic Coordinator 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.

Reflective Journals

Journal entries provide an opportunity for guided self-reflection. Journal prompts will explore your personal experience with your host community, cultural differences you encounter, the challenges and benefits of international service, and concepts of poverty.


These reflections will assist you in applying academic concepts to your service-learning experience. Essay questions will encourage you to think critically about your time abroad. By using cultural and organizational theories, as well as independent research, essays help you to understand your experience within a richer context.

Shared Reflection Posts

ISA Service-Learning has participants all around the world who are navigating a new culture, understanding what global service-learning is, facing challenges, and developing skills to find solutions. Using guided prompts, you will respond to and comment on fellow service learners' reflections on our online platform, Schoology. The shared reflection posts are a way to discuss your experience with fellow service learners around the world and consider different perspectives of a similar experience abroad.

Group Discussions

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.

Supervisor Evaluation

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.

Service-Learning Program Eligibility

ISA Service-Learning programs are available to anyone who meets the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must have graduated high school by the start date of the service-learning program
  • Must be at least 18 years old by the start date of the service-learning program
  • When applicable, participants must meet the minimum language requirement

Eligibility for specific placements is determined by host organization availability as well as the participants' resume, cover letter, and interview.

For programs with language requirements, eligibility is determined through an oral language interview conducted by phone upon receipt of your completed application.

Visa Requirements

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 University of South Florida

ISA Service-Learning has partnered with University of South Florida (USF) to offer a U.S. transcript for all ISA Service-Learning programs. A USF transcript will be sent to the student's home institution 2-3 months after the program's end date. Credit awarded will be based on the number of contact hours accrued at the host organization, the completion of written reflection assignments, and a supervisor evaluation.

45 service hours = 1 credit hour

 Credit and transcript fees (beginning Fall 2022):

  • 4-week program: 2 credits, $275 (90 contact hours)
  • 6-week program: 3 credits, $275 (135 contact hours)
  • 8-week program: 4 credits, $375 (180 contact hours)
  • Summer + Service-learning program: 2 credits, $275 (90 contact hours)
  • Semester + Service-Learning program: 1 or 2* credits, $275 (45 or 90 contact hours)

*Service-Learning portion of program must be at least 10 weeks to receive 2 credits.

ISA Service-Learning strongly recommends that students receive confirmation from their home institution that credit transfer will be accepted.

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 and dates vary depending on program location and duration. For more detailed prices and dates information, please click here.


An additional fee of up to $250 may apply to customize the start date of your program. Please contact ISA Service-Learning if you plan to customzie your program dates.

ISA Service-Learning has created a list of various resources to help your fund your program. Please take a look here for more information.


Community Engagement Scholarship
The Community Engagement 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 will be memorialized through the recipients of this scholarship.

In memory of Kalyn, ISA Service-Learning will award two $1,000 scholarships to summer program participants. All ISA Service-Learning or Study + Service-Learning combo participants 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. The ISA scholarship application deadline for summer programs is February 28th.

It is the participant's responsibility to discuss the scholarship with their 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.

ISA Scholarships
View the full details of the other scholarships offered to our students for all ISA programs.

Boren Scholarships
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.

UNCF is the nation's largest private scholarship provider to minority group members. Each program has its own eligibility criteria, open/close dates and required documentation.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund 
HCF (Hispanic Scholarship Fund) provides scholarships to Latinx students including the Gates Millennium Scholarship and HSF General College Scholarships.

Rotary International
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 (IIE)
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.

NAFSA: Work, Intern, Volunteer & Research Abroad: Funding Resources for Students

The Education Abroad Knowledge Community’s (EA KC) Subcommittee on Work, Internships, Volunteer and Research Abroad (WIVRA) compiled a list of scholarships and awards for students seeking experiential learning programs abroad.


Scholarship Searches
Features an online questionnaire that matches information with specific scholarship opportunities.

Provides details on more than 600,000 scholarships.
Contains a scholarship search and insights on a variety of related topics.

Study Abroad Loans*
*Please note that we are in no way affiliated or partnered with this lender.