Ohio State Navbar

The Ohio State UniversityOffice of International Affairs

give a donation

Service-Learning or Volunteering Abroad

Service-learning and volunteering is a dynamic way for Ohio State students to go abroad and engage local communities and develop leadership skills. Service-learning is a form of experiential education characterized by student participation in an organized service activity that is connected to specific learning outcomes; meets identified community needs; and provides structured time for student reflection and connection of the service experience to learning. Volunteering can also meet identified community needs, but may involve programming that is not tied to specific academic credit.

If you are a leader or member of a student organization considering a group service or volunteer program, please see the information regarding Student Organization Travel

Ohio State approved service-learning or volunteer opportunities

The Office of International Affairs offers a number of Ohio State approved study abroad programs with a substantial service-learning component. Whether you select an Ohio State faculty-led or approved third party provider programs, most will allow you to gain academic credit and retain access to Ohio State grants and scholarships as well as federal financial aid. All students will be automatically enrolled in Ohio State's required supplemental travel insurance for international travel.

Ohio State managed service-learning or volunteer opportunities

Buck-I-SERV is a non-credit program planned through the Office of Student Life and supported in part by the Student Activity Fee, which provides students with an opportunity to lead and learn through direct service experiences. Buck-I-SERV also collaborates with the Adventure Recreation Center, Sorority and Fraternity Life and other units in Student Life to create additional service opportunities.

While Buck-I-SERV programs are not eligible for financial aid, participant costs are partially subsidized by the Student Activity Fee. In addition, all students participating in these programs will be automatically enrolled in Ohio State's required supplemental travel insurance for international travel.

For more information on service-learning, including a list of S-designated courses and local opportunities, please see the Office of Service-Learning.

External service-learning or volunteer opportunities

There is no shortage of programs that offer service or volunteer activities for university students to travel abroad. Each semester several organizations not affiliated with Ohio State come to our campuses to recruit students for their programs. Simply because a program has promoted itself on an Ohio State campus does not mean that the program has been vetted, endorsed or sponsored by Ohio State.

Should you be interested in pursuing an option that is not offered by Ohio State, we encourage you to use the resources of the International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) to determine if the program is the right fit for you. Recommended sections include:

  • Principles and Practices – a more in depth measure of how to identify a reliable program that offers worthwhile program experiences.

IVPA also has a membership directory of organizations that meet the principles and practices outlined in the links above.

For non-credit service or volunteer programs there are generally no forms of Ohio State or federal financial aid generally that apply. The Office of International Affairs encourages you not to make immediate payment if an organization on campus asks for money to reserve a placement or secure a spot.  

If the program is offering university credit for the experience, it is not guaranteed that the credit will transfer to Ohio State. If you are seeking transfer (K) credit, you will need to arrange to have the credit evaluated by Departmental Transfer Credit Coordinator for the department in which you are seeking credit.

When applying, you may be required to submit:

  • Education Abroad Advisor Form (contact Jenny Kraft in OIA to complete this form. )
  • Course Selection Form (If an advisor's signature is required, please see your academic advisor)

Ohio State Travel Policies

All Ohio State students pursuing service-learning or volunteer experiences abroad that are related to their Ohio State academic or co-curricular objectives (regardless of its affiliation with the university) are required to adhere to the policies and guidelines set forth by the University’s International Travel Policy Committee.

  • Be sure to check the status of your prospective host country with the list of Ohio State Risk Designated Countries. If your host country is currently listed as a Risk Designate Country, you must submit a petition to the International Travel Policy Committee.
  • Students traveling to international locations for academic or co-curricular purposes are required to enroll in the university's supplemental travel insurance. Visit supplemental travel insurance for detailed steps on how to apply for the supplemental insurance online.

Self-report Form and Pre-departure Checklist

Once you have been accepted to your program, be sure to complete the online independent education abroad self-report form and review the pre-departure checklist.