Independent Path

The Independent Path - 5 steps

Professional Development is an important component of the undergraduate experience. There is a wide array of independent opportunities and programs that can help you find the work, internship, or service experience that you are looking for abroad outside of an official UNH program. In the International Experience Opportunities section, you can find lists, links and descriptions.

Below are suggestions and advice for going about your search, decision-making and preparation process.

Step 1.  Decide on the type of international experience you want by considering these issues*:

  1. Timing – When can you go and for what length of time? Some programs operate year-round, others only during very specific periods. Duration can range from a few weeks to a summer or semester or even year. 
  2. Location – Consider developed vs. less developed regions, cost of living, health and safety issues. 
  3. Type – Each category of international experiences (internship, volunteering, teaching, paid jobs, research) has its own distinctive focus and a greater or lesser degree of structure.
  4. Eligibility requirements – Some programs require specific skills (e.g. engineering or foreign language competence or teaching English certificate), while others are open to generalists.  Some programs are restricted to U.S. citizens.  Read the fine print to make sure you could be considered for the program.
  5. Costs – With very few exceptions there will be expenses for which you will be responsible.  Even paid positions will usually have program fees or at least start-up expenses.  The only programs that cover all of one’s expenses tend to be government-sponsored (either U.S or foreign) and for a longer period of time, such as a year or two.   
  1. Standards - Refer to the full IVPA Standards List, which establishes best Principles and Practices in the development and operation of volunteer programs abroad.
  2.  Program History - Is the program well established?  For how long have they been operating? Who are their founders/staff and do they extensive experience?
  3.  Program Contact - Can you easily reach a live person who is responsive and helpful?
  4.  References - Get references about the program from reliable sources, if possible. Ask for participant references and follow up with detailed questions.
  5. Health and Safety – See the Department of State’s Travel Advisories and consular information reports for assessments of these factors for every country. 
  6.  Program Offering - What is the program offering you?  Can they follow through with what they are promising?  Always ask for contacts and identify who their staff are and how they will support you.
  7. Fine Print - What are your rights if you participate on the program?  Always read carefully the fine print in the liability waivers and terms and conditions before signing any documentation.
  8. Program fee/costs - What is included in the program fee and is it what you expected. Understand how the fees are broken down, what is not included, and for what you will be responsible for paying extra.

Step 3.  Research Funding opportunities - pay attention to eligibility requirements:

Step 4.  Prepare for departure:

  • Documents - Make sure you know what documents are required and that they are up-to-date (passport, visa, plane ticket, confirmation of vaccination, prescriptions, power of attorney).
  • Insurance - Purchase international insurance.
  • Up-to-date Country Information - Review country information and recommendations on the State department website and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
  • Health and Safety -
    • If you have any pre-existing conditions--mental or physical--communicate these with the program and your doctors to develop a plan.  You will also need a strategy for traveling with medications and having sufficient medications for your entire stay.
    • Register with the US Embassy via The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
    • Develop a personal emergency action plan.
  • Logistics - Prepare how you will manage and access money abroad, communicate on-site and with home, and pay bills.
  • Resources - has a helpful study abroad handbook online that will include helpful and important pre-departure information that is relevant to any experience abroad.

Step 5.  Coming Home:

  • Customs - Understand duties and customs declarations for traveling with goods and money. Know what you can bring out of your host country and bring in to your home country.
  • Culture Shock - It is quite common that people returning from an extended period abroad experience reverse culture shock, in which your home seems unfamiliar and difficult to adjust to and you miss your friends, life style and culture from abroad. There is additional information in the handbook referenced above.
  • Resume Building - Meet with a career counselor to discuss how best to integrate your international experience into your resume and discuss it in an interview.

* Adapted from information on the University of Michigan website.