Schreyer Honors College (SHC)at Penn State

International Service Learning

Scholars building structures in Honduras

After formal study programs, one of the more popular forms of “education abroad” is service learning. Every year dozens of Schreyer Scholars go abroad to help communities, organizations, or the natural environment. These experiences are sometimes sponsored by Penn State academic units or student organizations, and sometimes they are self-designed, but most often they are offered by specialized service-learning providers not affiliated with Penn State.


Fall Semester

  • Begin thinking about which countries or regions are of interest.
  • Check the web for service opportunities and research programs that interest you.
  • Apply for a passport if you don't already have one — initial passport applications can take up to six months.

Early Spring Semester (January - March)

  • Narrow down your options.
  • Research airfares before choosing a program and confirm available funding from the Schreyer Ambassador Travel Grant program.
  • Book space in the program of choice — note that different programs, even from the same program provider, may have different deadlines.
  • If a visa is necessary to enter your chosen country, you should get it well in advance, following the instructions of your program provider. Depending on the country and the program, you may get a tourist via (usually the easiest/cheapest) or a more specialized visa requiring a more extensive application.

Things You'll Need


The Schreyer Honors College staff will provide assistance in making your plans come true, but you need to take the initiative in finding the right program, thoroughly researching the country you will travel to, completing your applications, and arranging for everything else on this list.

Peace of Mind

If countries (or regions or communities within countries) were wealthy and problem-free, they wouldn’t be suitable locations for service learning! Before making any plans, make sure to check the website of the State Department for travel warnings and advisories. Be sure that you are comfortable with the situation of your chosen country before putting your deposit down. The SHC can not provide funding for travel to any country (or region within a country) currently under a State Department travel warning.


  • Check with your doctor to find out what shots are required for entry into specific countries.
  • Countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America require more shots than Europe.
  • Tropical countries often have malaria problems, requiring medication before, during, and after your trip. Consult with your doctor before committing to a destination that calls for malaria medication.

International Insurance

Since you will not be abroad via Penn State (except if you choose one of the few Penn State-affiliated service programs abroad), you will need to be sure of your international insurance coverage. If your existing coverage is not adequate, you can purchase short-term international insurance — consult with your service provider about what’s best for your situation.

International Service Programs

Note: Because these programs have no Penn State affiliation, we cannot officially endorse any of them, nor does this list cover all viable options for students interested in service abroad. These are all multi-country providers, but if you have a particular country in mind you may find other providers focusing on that country — or you may even be able to make your own service placement.

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