Volunteerism & Community Service

Why Are Volunteerism & Community Service Important in the U.S.?

Volunteerism and community service (used synonymously) are a cultural cornerstone in the United States. Our shared desire to come together to accomplish personal and community goals can be traced back to the founding of the U.S. Civic duty and community contribution are central to the idea of American democracy.

Nearly every church, school, or local community center offers opportunities to get involved. When you dedicate your time and energy to a cause that’s close to your (or your host family’s) heart, you’re not only helping others and giving back to the community that’s hosting you, but you also have opportunities to meet people in your neighborhood and build a stronger sense of belonging.

What is required AND WHAT COUNTS?

Full-year students are required to complete and submit 5 hours per semester, or 10 hours total. One-semester students must complete and submit 5 volunteer hours.

Your hours must meet two requirements:

    Requirement 1:

    The activity is not considered a typical part of being an exchange student in a host family.

    For example, watching a younger host sibling while their parent is at the store does NOT count, but raking a neighbor’s yard DOES count.

    Requirement 2:

    The student may NOT receive payment/compensation for the activity.

    For example, babysitting or mowing lawns for cash does not count as a community service/volunteer activity.

    If you participate in a community service event and receive a meal or a token of appreciation, the activity counts toward the requirement, as long as the token of appreciation does not have monetary value (e.g. an Amazon gift card).

    Check my hours

    12 + 9 =

    How do I submit my hours?

    Submitting your hours is easy! You have 2 options:

    Option 1: Printed form

    Step 1: Print and fill out the top portion of this form and have a supervising adult sign it. Make sure to include the organization name, date(s) you volunteered, and number of hours that you served.

    Step 2: Take a clear photo of your form and email it to usa@ie-usa.org.

     

    Participating in an event as a group of exchange students? Use this form instead.

    Option 2: Digital form

    Step 1: Fill out the top portion of our online Volunteer Verification Form.

    Step 2: Have a supervising adult at the event sign and submit it. You will receive an email confirmation right away that your form has been submitted successfully.

    You will receive a confirmation email from us once your hours have been confirmed and logged. Usually, you should receive this notification within 2 days of submitting your hours. If you do not receive a confirmation from an iE staff member, please resubmit the form.

    A few ideas to get you started

    (see more ideas in the FAQ section)

    Ask a neighbor if they need help in their yard or home (i.e. painting a fence, gardening, dropping off your favorite meal from your home country, etc.)

    Ask your school about opportunities to mentor younger students through language tutoring or reading help.

    Help your LC with an iE-sponsored event.

    If you’re part of a sport or extracurricular, see if they have built-in fundraising or community service opportunities throughout the year that you can take part in.

    Community Service Challenge Award

    All students are required to submit their hours by the last day of school in order to remain in Good Standing with our program. But those who submit hours early are automatically entered to win a weekend trip with their host parent(s) to an iconic U.S. city like Chicago, New York City, or Seattle.

    Click through to see our Volunteering Challenge winners from the 2023-24 school year, who were true examples of community service for all of us:

    Spring semester winner 2023-24: Elena

    Elena from Spain completed more than double the required volunteering hours during her first semester in the U.S. She impacted her hosting community in many ways by volunteering for local churches, a local preschool, and schools in her area.

    Her host mom said Elena worked really hard to volunteer and give back, and was elated her exchange student won the challenge. The prize — a weekend trip to New York — ended up happening sooner than anticipated, because Elena’s host parents really wanted to surprise Elena and their own daughters with a New York trip during the holiday season, something Elena had dreamed of.

    Fall semester winner 2023-24: Marta

    Marta from Spain gave back to her community throughout her stay in the U.S. in a number of different ways, including by volunteering at her school, at the local nursing home, and at her host family’s church.

    “I am very proud to be an ambassador of my country and to be able to enjoy your culture through this magnificent experience,” Marta said.

    As her prize, Marta got to visit Chicago in mid-May with her host family to celebrate her major accomplishment.

    Examples from previous years

    Marius in Tennessee

    Marius volunteered at a local food bank in his Tennessee host community, preparing meal bags for students who might not have enough food to make it through the weekend.

    He also was a student panelist on iE-USA’s exchange student panel.

    Ella in Colorado

    Ella gave back to her Colorado host community by mentoring local youth for an incredible 85 hours, which she dedicated to helping chaperone and guide a group of middle-schoolers during a ski trip in the Rocky Mountains.

    Tanatda and Maja in Texas

    Community service is great for building fellowship with other volunteers!

    Maja and Tanatdea, two exchange students in Texas, volunteered their time together collecting and organizing toys for less fortunate children during the holiday season.

    Annina in Georgia

    Annina received a Student Recognition Award from International Experience in 2023-24 for going above and beyond her program service hour requirement.

    “She had all of her community service hours completed within the first 3 months,” Local Coordinator Shelbey said. “She continuously wanted to help in the concession stands or at church. I’m very proud of her!”

    Ruben in Indiana

    Ruben also received a Student Recognition Award for his volunteerism in the 2023-24 school year.

    He volunteered his time for various causes, including American Forests and Earthforce Indy, a senior citizen community in his area, and selling concessions at swim meets for a local school.

    Marta in Tennessee

    Volunteering can be a great way to build new relationships, too. Through Marta’s time volunteering at a local nursing home, she not only got a unique opportunity to share her culture while learning more about her host community, but she also built friendships that impacted the lives of everyone involved.

    Exchange students for "Feed My Starving Children"

    Student exchange is all about strengthening global connections – a group of iE exchange students, including Beatriz, Carla, Jana, Valentina, Lara, Jolie, Maya, Iokasti, Emely, and Hanna, spent a few of their community service hours packing meals for communities in need at Feed My Starving Children. 

    FAQ’s & Helpful info

    Ask a question:

    3 + 13 =

    I'm not sure how to find opportunities in my area. What should I do?

    There are a few different things you can try:

    • Ask people in your local community for help: chat with your host family, your LC, a guidance counselor, teachers, coaches, and your friends. Most of the time, they can provide some ideas, or know who you might ask.
    • Google and Google maps is your friend: Look for organizations in your local community (for example, animal shelters, senior or assisted living facilities, sports clubs, libraries, parks service…) and reach out to them. You may also be able to find virtual opportunities.
    • Show initiative and start your own effort (for example, food or supply donations, holiday gift collection or letter-writing, a local clean-up).
    • Email us at usa@ie-usa.org for more help.
    I'm not sure how many hours I have completed. How can I check?

    To check how many hours have been logged for you, ask your LC, or send us a quick “check my status” request at the top of this page.

    I did not receive a confirmation of my submission... OR The hours listed for me are incorrect...

    If you do not receive a confirmation email from an iE staff member within a week of submitting your hours, please resend your form to usa@ie-usa.org.

    If you submitted a digital form and did not receive the automatic confirmation email of successful submission right away, please resubmit the form.

    Is there a deadline to complete my hours?

    You have to complete the requirement by the last day of school but we recommend completing the requirement early on during your exchange. It will give you the opportunity to get involved in your community and make friends right away, you will automatically be entered to win the Iconic City Trip each semester, and you do not risk a negative impact on your Good Standing status with iE-USA.

    Deadlines to enter to win the semester trips: Fall term: November 15 | Spring term: March 15

     

    Tell me more about the Iconic U.S. City Trip I can win.

    If you complete your community service hours early (5 hours per semester), you are automatically entered to win a 3-day weekend trip to an iconic U.S. city (like New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Seattle…) with 2 host family members. To be eligible to win, you have to complete and submit your hours by November 15 for the Fall semester, and by March 15 for Spring semester.

    The trip includes travel and accommodations for you and 2 host family members (for example 2 host parents, or 1 host parent + 1 host sibling), and a stipend for meals and sightseeing.

    What happens if I don't complete my hours?

    The community service requirement is a program requirement for participation with iE-USA. Not completing the requirement may impact your Good Standing status with iE-USA.

    Good Standing is taken into consideration for travel requests (including Belo trips), or requests to stay for a few extra days at the end of your program.