A Typical Day For A Volunteer
Spend your days teaching, peeking into colorful cathedrals, and falling in love with the culture.
Overall, the experience of being an ILP volunteer is similar in every country, but each location has its own unique aspects and adventures ... the meals volunteers eat in China are going to be lots different than the meals in Ukraine! Things like housing, meals, teaching schedules, group sizes, etc all vary depending on what city or even what country you're volunteering in. These things even change from semester to semester — your experience may not be the same as another volunteer's, even when you're in the same group.
The program is set up with the tools to help you have a successful semester, but you are responsible to make the most of it! Here's a glimpse into what a typical day could look to help you know how to do just that:
Glimpse into what a day might look like for a Ukraine volunteer:
Wake a bit early and FaceTime your family to say "hi" — Ukraine is nine hours ahead of Utah (MST) so you'll catch them after they've had dinner. After you fill them in on you weekend adventures, time for breakfast. You live with a host family, so you join your host mom and dad for a cup of tea and a warm bowl of Ukrainian oatmeal, made with buckwheat, a bit of sugar, and some milk. Living with a host family means a front row seat to the culture, language and a unique glimpse into what life is really like for the locals. They will be cooking for you too, which means lots of authentic Ukrainian foods like potato pancakes served with sour cream, soups, lots of potatoes, borscht, dumplings stuffed with potatoes or chicken and herbs, cabbage and hearty breads.
Typically, English classes in Ukraine are like an after school program, which means you have a bit of free time before you have to get to your lessons. So after breakfast, you have time to work on some assignments for your online class (if you're not taking a break from school), write in your journal about that funny thing your kids did in class yesterday, or research the best hostels for your next weekend trip to the Black Sea.
Since all of the volunteers in your group will be living with their own host families, you send out a group text and see who wants to meet you on a trip downtown. You hop on a local bus and then transfer on the metro to get to your favorite cathedral (you love the one with bright blue walls and tall spires). Before Ukraine, you hadn't ever ridden the metro before, but now you're an old pro.
In one of the nearby streets, you do a bit of shopping before getting a little hungry. Your host family provides lunch but you and your group decide to pull up a list of your favorite restaurants in Kiev and eat in the city — you guys choose Georgian food. You stop by a place called "Cachapuri" and order up a yummy bread filled with cheese and topped with a soft cooked egg (it's delicious).
After lunch you catch the local bus and head back to your host family's house and pack up your backpack — time for teaching!
On your way to the school you teach at (you take the metro) you're stopped on your way by a little babushka grandmother. You can't understand what she's trying to tell you until she reaches over and wraps your scarf over your face to keep yourself warm (cute, right??). You packed up a pad of paper and pen to make the most of your commute and work on lesson plans for the week until you get to your stop. ILP volunteers help children in Ukraine learn English typically in the late afternoons for about four hours each week day.
You're teaching "Gym" this week and your kids (from ages 4 and up to 14) loved running little relays and obstacle courses. You snap a quick pic after the lesson to remember all the laughs — ILP classes are activity-based so students are having fun and are engaging with you all while they learn English naturally (so it's totally fine if you've never taught English before).
Your class is also small so that you know each of "your kids" by name, know their personality, and see how they learn best. When it comes to your class, you'll have cuties like Volodia and little troublemakers who make you laugh. Saying goodbye is going to be tough!
After classes are done, you meet your ILP group at another school in Kiev to learn a little Russian and some Ukrainian from your Local Coordinator (lots of people in Ukraine speak both languages fluently) before blocking out some time to plan your upcoming trip to Odessa; you can't wait to soak up some sun and palm trees on the beaches there. After some planning, you head back home for dinner. Tonight you're having a cabbage and potato soup, served with a thick slice of rye bread — a traditional Ukrainian meal.
Make the experience your own
Like we mentioned, the experience is different for everyone. We give you the tools to live abroad, the free time, and the meaningful purpose of service but then ultimately you're responsible for what you get out of the semester — we can't recommend enough getting out and exploring what Ukraine has to offer.
You could head to this local market and buy a new outfit rather than sitting home and watching Netflix. Feel free to join your host family when they invite you to their favorite local spot you didn't even know existed, or grab your group and find these classic Eastern European souvenirs. We know you need your down time, but you'll come home with a better semester if you're adventurous.
Some volunteers choose to attend an LDS church on Sundays, which is right next to the LDS temple in Kiev. Some dive further into the culture by reading these 5 books set in Europe.
Travel and Vacations
Go check out different parts of Ukraine + all over Europe
ILP volunteers have scheduled vacation time throughout their semester as well as every weekend off. This gives you plenty of time to go travel to all those European countries you're dying to see, plus really explore what Ukraine has to offer. You'll have your travel plans approved by an ILP director to help ensure you're traveling to safe areas, but otherwise it's really up to you and your group where you'd like to go.
Start dreaming up your ideal bucket list for your semester in Ukraine!
Our favorite European vacation ideas:
- Top Baltic cities
- Cinque Terre
- Germany's most famous castle
- The Almafi Coast
- Hallstatt, Austria
- Krakow, Poland
- Croatia's coastline
- Ziplining in the Swiss Alps
- The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Places to check out in Ukraine
- Relax on the sands of the Black Sea in gorgeous Odessa
- Run around this castle — Kamianets-Podilskyi
- Take the coolest Instagram pics in Ukraine's Tunnel of Love
- See all 7 of Ukraine's World Wonders
- Explore abandoned Chernobyl
- Visit the resort town of L'viv
- Get a glimpse of Ukraine's folk culture in Pyrohiv
A few travel tips
Most countries in Europe don't require a visa to visit, which means you can jump from country to country without applying for extra paperwork or paying fees (score). The biggest exceptions are Russia and Belarus (which border Ukraine to the north and the east). Those two countries require a visa to travel to (even if you're just traveling through on your way to another country like Lithuania), so volunteers in Ukraine just don't visit these countries because getting a visa there is tricky and expensive.
Travel in Europe can be a bit expensive in general (it's actually our most expensive location to travel in), but if you're on a budget there are lots of things you can do to keep costs down and still see those classic sites that you've been dreaming about. One nice thing about living in Kiev (the country's capital), is that it's a huge transportation hub where quite a few budget airlines fly from. You can often find really great deals on flights as well as frequent bus routes and train routes to other countries throughout Europe! You can also stick to countries that are just cheaper in general for travelers if you're sticking to a budget.
We know you've already got your bucket list for places like Paris and Rome, but check out these lesser known areas that are just as beautiful without the crazy crowds.
Experiences You Can't Miss
We're not even a little embarrassed to admit that a large portion of our favorite experiences have to do with chocolate and cathedrals!
There is so, so, so much to see in Ukraine, and the best part about living abroad for an entire semester there (instead of a quick two week service trip) is really experiencing the culture.
We started our ultimate Ukrainian bucketlist guide with all of our top picks for you!
You'll be familiar with the best parts of your city — the best bus routes, your favorite cafes, the prettiest streets, etc) and you get the chance to meet some awesome local friends. . Rather than a place that you've traveled to, it starts to feel more like home!
Here are some ideas to help make sure you get the true Ukrainian experience.
Your Ukraine Bucket List:
- Master the Kiev metro (and find your favorite stops)
- Spend a day with Big Mama! (AKA the Rodina Mat)
- Have a cathedral photoshoot in front of your favorites
- Get gelato at Ocean Plaza Mall
- Window shop on Khreshchatyk Street
- Plan your ILP lessons (and vacations) at an internet cafe
- Explore this Alice In Wonderland Park
- Cross off all 10 of these things to do in Kiev
- Celebrate a holiday or birthday with your host family
- Get a pic in front of the "I (Heart) Kiev Sign"
- Eat all the European Chocolate and find your favorite one
- Order up lunch in Russian (without making this language mistake!)
- Find the "tapestry" wall around town
- Make some local friends like this volunteer
- Grab your ILP Group and see a ballet at the local Opera theater
- Shop for souvenirs at the outdoor pop-up markets
- Zipline to this beachy hangout in Kiev
- Cheer for your team at a local soccer match
- Have dessert at the L'viv Chocolate Factory
- Complete this European Scavenger Hunt
- Buy some "Box Donuts" for breakfast
- Spot some cool street art on your way to your school
- Hunt for the coolest version of those classic nesting dolls (like the characters from Star Wars or your favorite celebrity)
Know The Basics
Quick facts about an ILP semester in Ukraine:
Qualifications - who can volunteer?
ILP volunteers are young adults/college-aged - typically age 18-24 (yes, you must be at least 18), from the US and Canada, and speak English as their first language. There is no experience necessary! It's totally fine (and normal) if you only speak English and/or have never taught before.
We are accepting male volunteers, female volunteers and married couples for this location (due to some housing limitations, spots are limited for married couples so apply soon if you're interested).
There are usually 8-10 volunteers per group each semester..
We currently have two groups in Ukraine, both in the capital city of Kiev. During the summer semester part of your experience will be in a town just outside of Kiev, where we have summer camps.
There are 3 semesters that you can participate in: Spring, Summer, and Fall
The exact dates vary from year to year, but in general ...
- Spring semester is January - early June (with a few spots available to return early in late April).
- Summer semester is generally mid March/mid April - mid July.
- Fall is end of August (or early September) - middle of December
The program fee to participate as a volunteer in the Exchange program in Ukraine is $2,520. This includes your roundtrip international airfare to Ukraine, housing, meals, visa, and training and support for the entire semester.
We also recommend budgeting around $1,500-$2,000+ for any traveling and purchases you make while you live abroad as well as things you may need that the program fee doesn't cover (like a passport, health insurance, airline baggage fees, etc).
Psst! Is budget one your concerns? We have a guide with ways to make a semester abroad affordable - check it out! It's especially helpful for college students.
Volunteers will be living with host families; you might even be living with the family of one of the students you teach. There's typically one volunteer per family.
The weather here is beautiful! Seriously, it's not frozen all the time like you might assume. It does get cold in Ukraine but you'll experience the 4 seasons similar to how you would in Utah with the warmest months in the summer and the coldest in the winter. There's plenty to see and do no matter which semester you choose (even in the winter).
Wondering whether to buy your warm clothes here or in Ukraine? We've got you covered.
How to apply
You can start your application online right here. It's easy to get started and there's no commitment at this point! We start accepting applications about 1.5 years prior to the start of the semester and there are no deadlines (we fill spots on a first-come-first-serve basis).
We recommend applying as soon as you know you're interested in volunteering because the spots in Ukraine are limited and do start to fill up. Also, as soon as you apply you'll be assigned an ILP representative who can answer all of your questions, give you tips, and just be your go-to person when you need help.
Don't forget to check out ILP's other locations to see which European country is right for you.
Advice From Past Volunteers
It's really helpful to use past volunteers as a resource!
So how can you get in touch?
Check out the ILP blog
Follow us on Instagram
@ilpadventure is frequently posting about all of our locations, giving updates, and more so make sure to follow us there.
Follow #ilpukraine to discover volunteer's personal accounts and follow them.
We even have an Instagram account called @ilptakeovers where we ask volunteers who are in-country right now to take over and post some stories about what they're doing and put a post on the feed. Volunteers are usually featuring what a typical day looks like, what the meals are like, info about vacations they are taking, things to pack (and not to pack), what their host family's place looks like — you know, all the things you want to know from their perspective.
You can see what they're doing from day to day and also DM them with questions! Most volunteers are so happy to help you out because they also had tons of questions before they signed up.
Talk to an ILP Representative
The representatives who work in the ILP office have volunteered on our program before and love to talk about their experience and answer your questions. Check out the form below where you can leave your contact information and we'll have a rep reach out and text you.