Volunteering Abroad for High School Groups
Our high school service learning trips are about bringing students into communities abroad in a deeply immersive manner. Students make a lasting impact by volunteering on grassroots projects. Trips are highly affordable and provide students with world-class support and mentorship.
“The people we met inspired us, welcomed us, and allowed my students to learn and serve in a truly authentic classroom.” – Katie Hluchyj, teacher at Hartford High School in Vermont, UBELONG Laos and Peru Volunteer from the United States – read her interview here.
What high schools serve with UBELONG?
UBELONG started off in 2010 offering service learning trips exclusively to university students. Soon thereafter, the desirability of our trips caught on with high schools. High school teachers, parents and students choose to volunteer with UBELONG for many reasons.
Reasons include our being a social organization dedicated to making lasting change in the communities we support, as well as the affordability of our trips. The support and structure we offer students is also a critical piece of UBELONG’s value added to high school groups. We empower high school groups to travel abroad safely and comfortably, as well as in a position to right away become immersed in the local community and able to make a lasting social impact.
Since 2015 we have welcomed high schools from throughout the world. A sample of these high schools include:
- French American International School in San Fransisco, California, USA
- Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vermont, USA
- Heathwood Hall in Columbia, South Carolina, USA
- SJI International in Singapore
- St. Paul’s Co-Educational College in Hong Kong
Who at my high school organizes trips with UBELONG?
Most high school groups who join us are organized by high school teachers on behalf of their students.
- Spanish teachers have organized service learning trips to our Latin American destinations. The teams volunteered on our projects while engaging in cultural and language immersion.
- Teachers have organized trips with UBELONG around classroom topics like social justice and environmental conservation. The trips offered students a highly engaging combination of service and experiential learning.
We are also glad to work with students and/or parents who organize themselves. Contact us to let us know your exact requirements and we’ll do our best to cater to your specific goals.
How do I organize a service trip with UBELONG?
You have two options:
1. Browse our existing service projects. Pick to go from 1 week to 6 months, and go to Africa, Asia, Latin America or Europe. If you’re looking for a highly affordable trip that is focused largely on service, then this is your best option.
There are over 100+ volunteer projects to pick from in areas like caregiving, education, environment, food security, and more. Depending on the country you pick, you can start any week of the year, or any other week.
To apply, each person on your team should submit their own application. In the “additional information” section of the application each person should let us know they are part of a group so we know you are all together. See our full how to apply section here.
2. Contact us and we’ll work with you to design a custom made trip around your exact budget, schedule, team size, and trip requirements. If budget is less important to you, and you’re looking for a fully customized itinerary designed just for you, then this is your best option. Meet groups for whom we have designed and customized trips.
In customizing a trip with UBELONG, you have lots of flexibility on such logistical items as:
- Your trip’s length of time. For example, with the teachers at Hartford High School in Vermont we organized a 12 day trip to Laos and Thailand focused on exploring Asia’s transformation from a largely agrarian, traditional continent to one rapidly embracing 21st century modernity.
- Your destination. For example, while we do not offer volunteer trips to Peru’s Sacred Valley on an ongoing basis, for another Hartford High School trip we travelled there to learn about indigenous populations.
- Your activities. For example, with Heathwood Hall High School in South Carolina we built a service learning trip around climate change in the Galapagos. The team volunteered on the environmental projects, while also meeting with local environmentalists, snorkeling and going on nature hikes to experientially learn about the Galapagos’ wildlife.
- Meetings with VIPs. For example UBELONG trips in the past have visited the US Embassy in Ecuador; senior officials at the World Food Program in Cuba; the chief of the United Nations mission to Cambodia; the Minister of State and Finance in Portugal; and countless distinguished academic, business and nonprofit leaders.
We can also layer into the itinerary team-building and reflection around such questions as:
- As high school students, how can we be more engaged, socially aware global citizens?
- How can we use our experience serving abroad to create change back home?
- How does our trip bring to life what we have learned in the classroom?
- How can we better communicate across cultures?
- How can we develop more international relationships?
Finally, we can incorporate engaging touristic activities into the itinerary. For example past teams hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru; snorkeled in the Galapagos; and toured Bangkok.
When, where and for how long can you go?
All of our volunteer trips are open to high school groups. You can volunteer with UBELONG from 1 week to 6 months and pick from our volunteer projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. You can start any week of the year, we are flexible.
Can’t decide what you want to do? Contact us, we’ll be glad to set up a phone or Skype call with you and talk through your options.
How do you apply?
Each person volunteering with UBELONG should submit their own application. In the “additional information” section of the application each person should let us know they are part of a group so we know you are all together.
A few of our locations at a glance
While all our volunteer locations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe are open to high school groups, here are four of our most popular locations for high schools:
Volunteer in Cusco, Peru
There’s simply no place in the world like Cusco. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, and the jumping off point to Machu Picchu, Cusco has a special energy. Cusco is a small city, yet it offers many rich cultural experiences, as well as excellent outdoor activities like hiking and rafting, which many high school groups build into their itinerary.
However, beyond the glitter of its many tourists, Cusco faces serious social and environmental challenges. High school groups volunteering in Cusco with UBELONG have the opportunity to create lasting change. Pick from projects in caregiving, education and more.
High school groups can live in a wonderful Volunteer House located in the heart of the city, or they can spread out across host families.
“Deciding to join a UBELONG volunteer trip was something that came naturally to me. It has always been a goal of mine to help other people, and I knew that with this group, I could accomplish just that.” – Bethany Perkins, student at Hartford High School in Vermont, UBELONG Peru Volunteer from the United States – read her interview here.
Volunteer in Merida, Mexico
Especially for Canadian and American groups, Merida is a popular location because it is so easily accessible for them. Merida is a beautiful, safe and manageable city, and the nearby beaches and Mayan ruins are a big draw for high school groups.
The caregiving, education, environment, health and NGO support projects in Mexico are hands on, dynamic and perfect for groups looking to make lasting change.
The Volunteer House is perfectly situated in the historical center of Merida, and volunteers love its laid back vibe, excellent decor and easy, walkable access to the heart of Merida. Learn more about volunteering in Mexico with UBELONG.
Volunteer in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is a very popular location for high school groups. Hanoi is Vietnam’s bustling capital city, yet it still maintains a traditional and more mellow vibe compared to other Asian cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City.
Volunteers in Hanoi have many opportunities to serve on a grassroots level tackling challenges related to children’s education and urban poverty. They can live in the Volunteer House, which is located in the center of town, or in a more upscale hotel.
Hanoi has all the amenities of a big city and offers an incredible array of activities, including art shows, great restaurants, museums and countless opportunities to walk around and experience Vietnamese culture at its finest. Learn more about volunteering in Vietnam with UBELONG.
Volunteer in Galapagos, Ecuador
The Galapagos are a great fit for high schools looking for a very physical experience in a beautiful setting.
The environmental projects there are outside and very hands-on. There are also a wide range of outdoor activities, including hikes, snorkeling, boating and scuba diving.
Company groups live in a rustic environmental reserve on San Cristobal Island – it can be a big step outside of peoples’ comfort zones, but also an incredible opportunity to experience something totally different.
What we do not do: “voluntourism” and “factory volunteering”
We do not do “voluntourism” and “factory volunteering,” which are unfortunate ways of travelling that have been perpetuated in recent years by money-driven tourism companies. Some of these are even owned by investment companies.
While these companies spend millions of dollars on slick advertisements and websites, we believe these companies have little interest in actually making a positive social impact. We believe their goal is to pump as many people as possible into local communities and, in our opinion, they do not properly mentor and support the people who travel with them.
Whether you travel with UBELONG or not, please do your research as you look into providers. We believe that as a responsible traveller you have the duty to only support organizations that are socially minded.