Beyond study abroad
Work, volunteer, and intern opportunities around the world
This March, 21 students spent their spring break learning about sustainability through experiential learning, cultural activities, and volunteer work in Costa Rica.
Activities included volunteering in a reforestation nursery, at an organic farm, and at a local school.
The trip was a one-credit-hour course under the Work, Intern, and Volunteer Abroad (WIVA) umbrella in UI International Programs’ Study Abroad unit.
“We’ve been seeing an increase in the number of students interested in nonacademic possibilities abroad, as well as the more traditional academic possibilities,” says study abroad WIVA advisor Leslie McNeilus. “Working, interning, or volunteering abroad gives students opportunities to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn from a new and different perspective.”
McNeilus has compiled a list of WIVA opportunities offered by a variety of organizations, including other universities and volunteer organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Peace Corps. There also are long-standing programs offered by the University of Iowa, including a service-learning course that incorporates a spring break trip to Mexico and an internship program offered through the Tippie College of Business.
The list, McNeilus says, is growing steadily, and includes opportunities in every discipline. Some programs are open to recent graduates.
“These types of experiences have the potential to set a student apart from the pack when they are searching for a job after graduation,” McNeilus says. “They can broaden a student’s horizons, help them determine what they’re looking for in a career, or even springboard them into their first full-time job.”
Kelly Diggins spent the summer of 2011 as an intern at a public relations agency in London. Diggins, who graduated in August 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication, says interning abroad is a different experience than just studying abroad.
“You’re completely immersed in this different culture by being in the work environment,” she says. “I loved walking to the office every day and feeling like a local Londoner.”
Learn more about study abroad programs online at
UI alumna Susan Meyer contributed to this story.