International Student Volunteers (ISV)

ISV offers a unique combination of volunteer projects and action-packed adventure travel in a fun, safe, educational and well-organized environment. 

About ISV

ISV's mission is to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing student volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

ISV works in close collaboration with grassroots organizations, local communities and researchers to offer the highest quality projects that are safe, meaningful, sustainable and achievable. ISV also strives to ensure that projects are fun and educational so you have a great time and learn from your experience. All of our projects are developed around the specific goals and priorities of our partners and host communities.

ISV participants make a significant difference in the world by annually contributing over 250,000 hours of volunteer work abroad in the fields of conservation and community development. Last year, over 140 universities granted academic credit to their students for their participation in the ISV Volunteer Program.

Destinations

ISV Programs run across six continents, taking place in the following host countries:

  • Australia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Thailand

Programs

ISV offers hundreds of projects spread out across the globe that include:

  • Children's Education Projects
  • Sea Turtle and Dolphin Conservation
  • Community Development and Support
  • Home and School Building Projects
  • Scientific Research Projects
  • Indigenous Community Projects
  • Habitat Restoration and Forest Regeneration
  • Wild Animal Rescue

Projects run between May and September and between November and February each year. You can contribute to sustainable development through carefully selected and managed volunteer programs that focus on local environmental and community development initiatives. You will be volunteering with a group of like-minded participants from all over the world. 

Exciting Adventure Travel

After your life-changing volunteer experience, you can explore your host country on an action-packed, educational and cultural Adventure Tour with a group of 20-50 like-minded participants from around the world. This tour is designed to show you the best of your host country and may include activities such as: white water rafting, glacier climbing, snorkeling and scuba diving, nature hiking, canyoning and rappelling, horseback riding, cultural and city exploration, yacht cruises and island hopping, wildlife safari tours and so much more!

Join Us Now

All ISV Programs are open to anyone who desires to make a difference by volunteering, is looking for enlightening encounters with other like-minded individuals, and thrives on exciting outdoor adventure activities!

  • ISV Four-Week Program: (most popular) The Standard ISV Program is four weeks in length and consists of a two-week Volunteer Project and a two-week Adventure Tour in a single host country.
  • Customized ISV Program: In addition to the Standard ISV four-week Program, you may add additional two-week Volunteer Projects or Adventure Tours (May to September Program only) in up to three different countries.
  • Two-Week Volunteer Project Only: You may also choose to participate in a two-week Volunteer Project without an Adventure Tour.
  • Additional tours and excursions: ISV offers great additional excursions before and after your trip such as – one week of Spanish Language and Latin Dance Classes (with family home-stays), five-day trips to Fiji, the Galapagos Islands and an incredible Machu Picchu Inca hike in Peru (May-Sept Program only).

Make a difference by volunteering with ISV!

Contact / Enquiry

Enquiry


International Student Volunteers (ISV) Reviews

Be more than a tourist; become an active global citizen by contributing your energy on projects that truly make a difference

The ISV Thailand Program consists of two halves – two weeks spent volunteering, and two weeks travelling the country. The difference between the two elements of the trip was quite striking. As the last group of students to travel to Thailand with ISV in 2015, our experience was slightly unusual, in that the adventure portion took place before we volunteered, as opposed to all other groups. This situation was not ideal, as it meant after two weeks of incredible adventures, the nitty gritty of volunteering was inevitably a bit more sedate. Regardless, time spent absorbing Thailand is never something to be sniffed at. If you travel on any other departure date, the adventure tour will be the incomparable reward for your charitable deeds, but either way you’d jump at the chance to stay longer on this unforgettable tour.

After meeting tour guides in Bangkok, we took a short flight to Chiang Mai for the start of the travelling half of the tour. Chiang Mai is a vibrant, lively and beautiful city surrounded by jungle. The Night Market is not to be missed – being in the resource rich north, prices here are as cheap as you will find anywhere in the country. Yet even the thrill of finding yet another pair of enduringly chic harem pants for 100 baht ($2.80, £2) can’t compare to a visit to Elephant Nature Park, a refuge for formerly abused elephants. Here you can get up close and cosy with the gentle giants to wash and feed them, knowing that they are being ethically treated to the extent that you are practically their servant.

From Chiang Mai you hop on an overnight bus to Hua Hin, a coastal resort with a ridiculously long beach and stunning hilltop temple. What could be better on your free day than an easy hike up the hill to watch monks meditating or monkeys causing mischief?

Onwards now to Khao Sok National Park for an idyllic lake swim surrounded by islands and the most photogenic lunch you’ll ever eat on a floating restaurant. No, that backdrop isn’t a green screen, and yes, you actually are in a different world here. Staying in cottages in the jungle, it may be difficult to believe that your day really happened. Beware though – the monkeys are real and will try to steal anything they take a fancy to.

After another day spent on water, this time on a sea kayaking tour at Koh Yao Noi, you head to the last stop on the adventure tour – Railay Beach. A peninsula near the city of Krabi accessible only by boat, Railay Beach is another too-good-to-be-true destination. With two stunning beaches and a hiking trail which rewards the climber with jaw dropping views, you may never want to leave. If that isn’t enough for you greedy so-and-sos, there is also a risqué shrine to male fertility and a few bars clustered on the short strip.

If you’re not on the last trip of the year, then you will have volunteered before setting off on the adventure tour, and this will be the point where you reluctantly head home with a head full of memories and a belly full of Pad Thai. For those who are on the final departure, like I was, then it is likely that you will now head to your volunteer project.

Where you go, and to do what, will depend both on the need for volunteers in each project and on the wishes of the volunteers. Two weeks can be spent working at an elephant rescue organisation, feeding and washing the elephants, doing repair work to the facilities and generally helping to run the centre. Alternatively, you can work with children in disadvantaged communities in schools and helping to improve community infrastructure. My group did the latter, and while the fortnight was another fascinating peer into another society, we were a little disappointed with what we were able to accomplish.

In a small island community that was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, we were set to work repainting a classroom in the local primary school. Following the wishes of the community who run their own project, we worked hard to scrape off the previous paint job and start again. However the walls were riddled with holes and when we asked to be able to buy some wall filler to smooth them out we were repeatedly told to ignore them. I understand that the community can and should decide what volunteers should work on, but it did seem a little short-sighted by ISV. Unsatisfied with the unavoidably short-term work we would have to do, we nevertheless completed the paint job.

Additionally, we attempted to teach the pupils some English, to mixed success. With none of the volunteers speaking any Thai, it was difficult to help, and we all came away feeling like our well-meaning efforts would have limited positive impact – a problem, though, that I feel is hard to overcome with most unskilled volunteers.

In retrospect, I believe we did help the community at least a little – in spending money in the village we helped them economically and some of our pupils did seem to learn some words in English. It is difficult to know, not having returned to the village to judge any long term impact of our efforts.

During our time in the village, we lived in home stays with Thai families. This can generate some culture shock – with neither groups speaking the others’ language, confusion is assured. This is part of the point of going somewhere so far removed from your home – to challenge you and to see life from another perspective. The warmness with which we were received overcame linguistic barriers and it was a lovely experience. Squat toilets can take some getting used to, but having a friendly lizard living in the kitchen more than made up for it.

Many reviews will tell you this is a once in a lifetime trip, and it truly was unforgettable, even with those few but lingering disappointments. The key lessons gleamed from a month spent in Thailand are these - monkeys are not to be trusted, always carry hand soap and toilet paper, and don’t be surprised to be treated warmly by strangers. Thailand isn’t called the land of smiles for nothing.

By: Louise Wylie
Nationality: Scottish
Age: 19

If you're considering volunteering abroad I highly recommend ISV

I went to volunteer with International Student Volunteers in Australia back in the summer of 2013. I had always dreamed about going to Australia since I was little and when a representative from ISV came and give a speech at my college communications classes I was very keen to join.

Before applying I did a lot of research including checking ISV reviews and everything looked amazing so I put together my application. I spent 4 weeks volunteering in Australia and creating an incredible bond with other participants who are still my friends today. We shared absolutely amazing experiences.

My trip to volunteer in Australia was hands-down one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. Would I recommend ISV programs to others? Absolutely, 100%.

By: Dani
Nationality: United States
Age: 24

Absolutely amazing!!!

I recommend my trip South Africa to absolutely everyone! The guides were friendly and happy to help, the experience was life changing and you actually get to make a small difference! South Africa was incredible!

By: Grace
Nationality: Australian
Age: 22

Fantastic experience

I volunteered with ISV back in 2012 when I went to South Africa. The program was really well set up, I did the community project and we got to meet some villagers and build a vegetable garden for them to grow their own food and earn some money from selling the extras. The 2 weeks volunteering was really rewarding and then you get another 2 weeks to explore the country! The whole experience felt more like a holiday but you get to feel good about contributing back to the community. We had a great group as well and formed some fantastic friendships. ISV really looks after you through the whole process as well, making sure you're prepared before you go, safe while you're there, and satisfied when you return.

By: Rachel
Nationality: Australia
Age: 24

The trip that started the rest of my life.

Six years ago in the summer after my freshman year of university, I volunteered with ISV's New Zealand Conservation program and it was one of the greatest decisions of my life. This trip was a lot of firsts for me, including my first time leaving the North American continent, my first experience meeting people from other countries and cultures, my first time doing adventure sports of any kind, and my first time doing any kind of environmental work. After touring the Innovative Waste Center in Kaikoura, I was inspired to pursue zero waste solutions and waste management practices here in the states and I now work with an environmental nonprofit to do those very things!

I so highly recommend ISV as an organization and the New Zealand conservation trip especially, it's hard to put into words how invaluable my entire experience was. The ISV experience is truly unique and they create a program that is both educational and exciting. From pulling invasive weeds and restoring rain forest habitat in Kaikoura, to sharing a meal in a Maori home, to bungee jumping in Queenstown, to hiking in the crevasses of Franz Joseph Glacier, to blackwater rafting in Waitomo, to zorbing in Rotorua.. the month I spent in New Zealand was jam-packed with adventure and amazing, eye-opening experiences.

I also highly recommend adding on the extension trip, if possible. I was lucky enough to join the 6-day trip to Fiji and had perhaps an even more eye-opening experience there as we played with native school children, bought seashells and crafts from local tribeswomen, felt the numbing and heartening effects of a cava tea ceremony, swam in the crystal clear waters day in and day out, and lived on Fiji time.

I made lifelong friendships with inspiring people in my group, and found the process simple enough of finding a sponsor for all my costs and fees. If you're considering a summer volunteer trip of a lifetime, look no further -- ISV is the way to go!

By: Madisen Gittlin
Nationality: American
Age: 25

ISV- South Africa

ISV South Africa was literally one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. From meeting new people, to volunteering for a great cause, and making life long friends who I still keep in touch with to this day has had such an impact on my life. I’ve always wanted to volunteer and the thought of traveling to another country along scared me. I’m so glad I made the decision to travel to South Africa because it taught me so much about another country’s culture as well as who I am as a person! My heart still resides in South Africa and I cant wait till I am able to travel back with the people I volunteered with and visit the beautiful country!

By: Sabrina Olivia
Nationality: Cuban
Age: 21

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