Latest Program Reviews

Over 300 Programs and more than 3,000 Reviews

AFS

While I recommend AFS, I do so with reservations, as I would for any study abroad program. Did the year I spent in Germany in 1981-82 change my life? Absolutely, and I would never trade the experience despite all the problems I experienced, some of which were of my own making.

First: If you go for an entire year, do not expect to be treated the way foreign exchange students are treated here in the US. At my high school in California, foreign exchange students were put on the homecoming court, encouraged to try out for sports teams, allowed to go through graduation, and generally were given as many opportunities to experience being a teenager in America. When we took in a foreign exchange student for the summer when I was young, we took them on vacation to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, San Francisco, and the California coast. We took them to Disneyland and Hollywood, San Diego and (only because they wanted to see it) Death Valley. In Germany in 1981, the school could care less that I was there and many of the students saw me as a stereotypical American - as if I represented Ronald Reagan himself (Germans saw Reagan's rhetoric as dangerous). Even my German parents were anti-American to a large extent. No matter how hard I tried to immerse myself into German culture and the language, I was rarely accepted as a young 17 year-old that just wanted to learn about a new culture and improve my German. Of course, American and British troops ran war exercises nearby running tanks through the streets, and American nuclear missiles dotted the countryside, so looking back you can understand what made many Germans upset. As a young America, I was clueless to all of this. The breaking point came one night when my German parents found out I was a Christian Scientist and then proceeded to trash my religion and my parents for raising me to believe in it (they were Lutheran, but didn't go to church, not unlike many Germans). To their credit, the local AFS people found another family that were much more caring and understanding as their own daughter was in the US with AFS in Ohio, getting all the experiences that expected when I went to Germany. While this was an awful experience, I learned to expect that people often see the worst in you, often based only on your nationality. I know this applies to Americans as well, I had just never experienced it as a child as my parents had raised me to be accepting and open to everyone. Still, I must say that at that time Germans were mistrustful of Americans and foreigners in general. They were much more willing to send their students to the US (over 250) than they were to take in Americans and other foreigners (only 80). This may be very different today.

Second: Rememeber, it's a study abroad program. You live with a family and go to school for a year in a completely different school and social setting. I say this because a few students that had to go home during the year failed to see this point. They expected the kind of freedom that most American teenagers get in the US, including choosing your own classes or being allowed to go out at night with friends; this was not how things worked in Germany. If you want to party in Europe, go on a vacation.
Like many students, I had graduated from high school so taking a full slate of classes was a shock because my German was not very good when I first arrived. I asked the school if I could take an intermediate German class instead of Latin, but the school and my parents said no. I found out later it was because the program was mainly for Turkish immigrants, and my German parents openly hated the Turks (my second

Third: It is expensive, so be aware of what you are spending your money on. AFS isn't perfect, but some of the negative comments suggest that parents or their children expect everyone to bend to their idea of what the experience should be. AFS cannot guarantee the perfect experience. In hindsight I probably would have had a much better experience going abroad in college when I had a few more years of life-experience and the ability to travel on my own or with friends on holidays. I was not mature enough to understand this at the time. And if you sign a contract, read the fine print!

In short, I would only recommend you to do a foreign exchange program if you are mature for your age (I was not), almost fluent in the language (I only had 2 years of German, not enough), and have not led a sheltered life. If not, wait until college.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Germany
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Overall:
7
Support:
5
Value:
6

Frontier

I had an incredible time as a two month forest volunteer in Madagascar and was able to gain valuable experience in field data collection and other scientific methods used during the project. As well as bringing their specialist knowledge to the project, the staff are extremely helpful and enthusiastic. Assisting with problems of any magnitude and going the extra mile in ensuring volunteers arrivals and departure from the island goes smoothly as well as arranging outings on our days off. Walks into the forest take place several times a day and are abundant with fascinating wildlife.

The camp atmosphere is extremely welcoming and relaxed and though it is considered to be a basic lifestyle, conditions are extremely good. There is a reliable supply of running water for washing and cooking. This is also chlorinated for a communal supply of drinking water. There is a choice of two shared volunteer huts each being pleasant and roomy. There is a large sheltered communal area as well as a couple of more solitary places around camp which can be visited at will. The camp food was much more varied than expected. Beans, rice, vegetables and seasoning make up the majority of meals but extras such as omlette night, fresh fruit breakfasts and pancakes are often made. Additionally, if you choose to chip in a small amount there are regular steak nights for meat eaters, with other options for vegetarians. For those missing the use of electricity and internet, it is possible to travel to town on saturdays and visit cafes with wifi and power.

I highly recommend volunteering with Frontier Madagascar. It will be undoubtedly amazing experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Madagascar
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
9

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

I truly enjoyed my experience in India volunteering for IVHQ.

The Orientation week was a great way to help me to settle gently into Indian life, with language lessons and tours in a group of wonderful people.

The Volunteer Coordinators were extremely helpful and always available to offer support, answer questions or book taxis for us. They visited the projects often to ensure everything was going smoothly and that there were no problems.

The family I stayed with during my homestay were very welcoming and made me feel comfortable and at home. When I became unwell, my "mum" was the one who took me to the hospital and helped me speak to the doctor. Her cooking was amazing as well :)

I made such amazing friends both on the orientation week and during my volunteering stint, whom I am still in contact with today and will be for a long time to come. It was a truly life-changing experience, and I would do it again in an instant.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

IVHQ India is a fantastic program, I would recommend it to everyone. I have just completed my first week of slum teaching and am already starting to plan another volunteer trip with IVHQ! From the drivers, to the coordinators, to my host family, to the placement staff, everyone had been unbelievably welcoming and supportive
I am by no means an experienced traveller, so going to a 3rd world country by myself for 8 weeks was pretty daunting. However, from the time I arrived at the airport I have receive 24/7 support and have alway been kept very comfortable. I opted for the additional orientation week and the coordinators and local staff went above and beyond to help me adjust to any culture shock I was experiencing, as well as make sure I was having a great time. Once at my placement they have continued to make sure I remained just as happy comfortable, and safe.
Overall I have been having an amazing experience with IVHQ, I couldn't be happier! They provide a safe and comfortable way in which you can really make a difference in less fortunate people's lives. It is also the most affordable volunteer organization I've found, with the coordinators insisting on making sure I knew where my money was going. It's a very legitimate organization, free from any kind of exploitation.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

I highly recommend IVHQ India. I have opted for four weeks of volunteering in Delhi, with an extra week at the beginning for induction.

The induction week is a great way to get introduced to India before the challanges of volunteering, and the local staff make it very clear that they are here to help and support us 24/7. Airport pickup is very convenient and stress free. Combined with extensive pre-departure information, we have been well prepared for our experience in India.

Having completed my first week of volunteer teaching in the slums, I am very pleased with my experience. It really feels like we are doing worthwhile work, and my host family makes me feel very well cared for. Combined with frequent visits from IVHQ staff, I feel supported while also making a difference.

Overall, the experience is a very safe way to come and make a difference for people who live hard lives. The programe is both affordable and legitimate. It can be daunting to travel around the world to a new country and volunteer in tough areas, and it's hard to know which companies you can trust, but IVHQ make it accessable and enjoyable without exploiting anyone.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: India
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Pages