A Typical Day For A Volunteer
The overall experience of being an ILP volunteer is similar in every country, but each location has its own unique aspects and adventures. For example, your meals in the Dominican Republic will obviously be different than your meals in Russia! Things like your housing, meals, teaching times, group sizes, ages you teach etc are all different depending on where you volunteer (and they can change a bit from semester to semester). Your experience may not be the same as another volunteer's ... even when you're in the same group.
We'll set you up with the tools to have a successful semester, but you are responsible to make the most of it! Here's an example of what a typical day could look like though to get an idea ...
A glimpse at what a day as a DR volunteer might look like:
Wake up bright and early in time for breakfast with your group; you guys all eat together which is fun. If you sleep in, you're opting out of the communal breakfast so you're quick to wake up when your alarm goes off. A few teachers go shopping for groceries at the beginning of the week to get your favorite breakfast foods — Today you sit with a few of your friends and chow down on yogurt and granola, plus some fresh bananas delivered right to your door. You fill up your water bottle from the filtered water provided in the house, and slip out while everyone is eating so you can FaceTime your family.
You are only two hours ahead of your family in Utah (MST), so you catch them after they've eaten breakfast and are getting ready for the day. The WiFi is cutting out because that's life in the DR (also, that storm last night doesn't help your connection), but it's fine — you bought a cheap data plan that gets you by and you can fill your family in on this weekend's adventures. Video calls don't really happen here, but audio calls let you tell your family about the shortcut you guys found that gets you to the beach a bit quicker.
The rest of your group is officially done with breakfast so you run downstairs to help clean up before you guys regroup and spend some time with the local kids in the neighborhood. The cutest kids hang out in the street outside your house, hoping to spend some time with you and you just can't resist. You just have a couple hours before you teach so you pull out your polaroid camera and take some pictures of the neighborhood kids to keep — some of these kids have never seen a picture of themselves before!
It's 11:30 which means it's time to teach — your group teaches at a few different schools so some of your friends get picked up by a driver, but you join the group that walks to school ... which happens to pass right by your favorite empanada stand. You grab a hot one (despite the humid weather) and walk to your school ... you can already hear your kids running around and shouting. Students like Jessorn, Roxailyn, and Mayelin are pretty excited for English class today.
You teach for a couple of hours before breaking for lunch: your school's cook makes up a dish of rice and beans, and fried plantains, a local classic. After you eat, you sit by the fan in your classroom (there's not air conditioning, which is pretty normal in the Dominican Republic) before your afternoon kids arrive for class. You're teaching the same set of lessons you taught before lunch — arts and crafts — but when you looked away to help another student, one of your cute troublemakers hijacks the roll of tape, so Arts and Crafts lesson erupted into a pile of giggling students with tape on their noses. Little knuckleheads.
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.
After waving goodbye to your afternoon students, you walk home and have free time the rest of the day. You finish up today's journal entry and do a bit of lesson planning for next week until dinner, at 6:00 PM. You can pretty much plan on rice and beans being the mainstays of your diet in the DR, but tonight your cute cook Tamaris cooked up some fried chicken and mashed eggplant to go along with those classic staples.
After dinner, your group spends some time hanging out all together. The WiFi doesn't work great, so you can't really rely on Netflix but a few people pull up a movie they downloaded on their laptop before coming to the DR, while another group plays cards. You decide it's time to organize your pictures and look into some hostels for your upcoming vacation. Then, you and a few other volunteers head to the nearby country club where you snagged a super great deal on a membership — you love the facilities here where you can work out, use the pool, and get a nice warm shower afterwards.
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.
Be adventurous with your free time! There is always the beach; volunteers take a 15 minute walk to one of the prettiest beaches around. You might check out some of the service projects other volunteers have started on their own to help fill your time (like helping fundraise to build a house for Tamaris!) — talk about going above and beyond. Even something as simple as buying someone a movie ticket can make a difference and be a fun activity. Other volunteers connect with the locals by attending an LDS church on Sundays (you can even go visit the temple in Santo Domingo on vacation). We can't recommend enough going out and exploring to help you make the most of your semester.
Travel and Vacations
Explore the coast, hunt for waterfalls and adventure in other parts of the Caribbean!
ILP volunteers have scheduled vacation time throughout their semester as well as every weekend off. There are plenty of beautiful tropical areas in the Dominican Republic to explore, but volunteers also can take trips outside of their country to some neighboring Caribbean islands if they'd like. It can get a little expensive to take a cruise or fly, so most volunteers usually stick to the DR, trying to decide between the dozens of pretty beaches or rainforest adventures in their own country (tough, I know).
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.
Our favorite Caribbean vacation ideas:
- Book your stay in a tree house in Samana
- Hop over to Catalina Island
- Zipline into turquoise waters at the Dudu Lagoon
- Get a starfish-filled photoshoot on Saona Island
- Head to one of the best snorkeling spots around.
- Wander colonial Spanish streets in Santo Domingo
- Have a beach day at any of our favorite Dominican beaches
- Adventure in Jarabacoa
- Make new friends at the Monkey Jungle
- Swim through 27 Waterfalls in Puerto Plata
Experiences You Can't Miss
Living in the Dominican Republic for a few months gives you the time you need to really experience all the things you're looking for. We feel like the best part about this country are the locals and the friendships you make — don't miss out on the chance to really immerse yourself in the culture and make new friends.
Here's a list of some big things that you just can't miss out on:
Dominican Republic Bucket List
- Take a Cable Car up the mountains in Puerto Plata
- Plan a beach day at Costambar with your kids
- Get a custom leather bag made at JD Leather
- Hop in a Gua-Gua
- Walk over to the local country club for some pool time
- String up some hammocks and hang out on your balcony
- Visit the Los Tres Ojos National Park
- Beach hop and visit Pueblito, Playa Alicia and couple of others on a weekend
- Try some new fruits (like sugar apples) and other Dominican foods
- Ride into town and feed the pigeons in the town square
- See a $3 move at Pop Cinema in town
- Cheer for one of your students at their baseball (or soccer) game
- Take a boat over to Lo Poquilto
- Borrow a microphone and speaker from your Head Teacher and have a karaoke night
- Run out and dance in the rain with the neighborhood kids
- Buy some fresh sugar cane to munch on
- Capture the prettiest sunsets right outside your balcony
- Head the rooftops to soak in the sites of El Javillar
- Snap a photo of the roosters walking in front of your house
- Get some help from some local friends and knock down coconuts from the trees for the perfect thirst-quencher
Know The Basics
Quick facts about an ILP semester in the Dominican Republic:
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.
Single females, single males, and married couples can apply to volunteer in the Dominican Republic.
Hang out with a group of 30 or so volunteers — our biggest ILP group is in the DR.
Volunteers will be living in a neighborhood called Javier which makes up a section of the city, Puerto Plata. Puerto Plata's found on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and is a popular tourist destination.
There are three semesters that you can participate in: Spring, Summer and Fall
The exact dates vary from year to year, but in general ...
- Spring is early January to late April
- Summer is April to August
- Fall is August to mid December (home for Christmas!)
The program fee to participate as a volunteer in the Humanitarian program in the Dominican Republic is $3,720. This includes your roundtrip international airfare to the Dominican Republic, housing, meals, training, and support for the entire semester.
You might notice that the cost here is a bit higher than some of our other volunteer locations. That is because the DR is a Humanitarian Program and your service is entirely gifted - the children you serve are receiving a free education which they would not have otherwise been able to afford. Their families and the host school are not helping to subsidize your costs like they are in our Exchange program. You can compare the 2 programs here.
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 live in a big house, in a small local neighborhood. You'll be living with your other group members, usually sharing a room with a few other volunteers. Inside the house, there are a few levels full of bedrooms, a kitchen and dining hall where you'll have some of your meals, plus a balcony which give you a good look at the sites in your city.
Your house is gated off, but you'll still get to know your neighbors pretty well, even if they aren't the kids you will be teaching. Jose Luis is a little boy in the neighborhood you'll probably end up wanting to bring home!
Here's a picture of your balcony — we think you'll love all the lush greenery right outside your window!
Hot and humid - pretty much all the time! You'll see lots of sun as well as tropical storms.
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 when you know you're interested in volunteering.
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.
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
We're posting tips from volunteers on our blog frequently. We even have interview style posts from volunteers who just got back from the DR and want to talk about what their favorite part of their semester was.
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 #ilpdr 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 house 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.