FAQS ABOUT VOLUTEERING ABROAD
The CCS Experience
The earlier - the better! This way, you can start practicing some language skills, reading up on the culture and community, and looking forward to your effective volunteer work. We do suggest reserving your space at least 60 days in advance, however, as many programs do fill quickly. Looking to travel very soon? We've worked with many volunteers with last-minute plans, so we can absolutely provide an incredible experience closer to your program start date, as long as the program still has space available!
We believe that the most successful approach to international volunteering is one that is community-led and driven. That's why our in-country staff is made up entirely of local nationals, who truly understand the needs of their own communities. We work in partnership with sustainable community organizations who are dedicated to creating positive change in communities, and know how to effectively work with international volunteers to meet these goals.
As an international volunteer, we'll work with you to learn about your Skills & Interests and individually match you with a CCS Project where you can engage in meaningful work. And, the full CCS in-country team will be with you every step of the way to support you in making a difference.
Volunteers consistently rave about the food at the CCS Home-Base, with each meal lovingly prepared by a CCS cook. You'll enjoy three meals each day with a variety of healthy and delicious local cuisine. And, the CCS cooks love to share your favorite recipes, so feel free to hop in the kitchen for an impromptu cooking lesson! CCS cooks are also trained in safe food preparation and cooking for a variety of dietary preferences, restrictions, and allergies.
A CCS program is a great way to experience all that volunteering abroad has to offer for a shorter period of time than the Peace Corps, which requires a two-year commitment. Learn more about the similarities and differences in CCS vs. the Peace Corps
If you're looking for firsthand accounts of exactly what it's like to be a CCS volunteer, you'll find exactly what you're looking for in the CCS blog. Are you a first-time traveler? Do you know what it would be like to plan your gap year with CCS? Wondering what our volunteers think of CCS safety? Whatever you need, you can get the inside scoop on the CCS blog!
We'd love to! The CCS in-country staff is there to support and guide you through your full experience, 24/7. Our teams are made up entirely of local nationals, who truly understand the needs of their own communities and who can provide personal and expert guidance and information during your journey. Each team is led by a fantastic Country Director who's an expert in the field of international development and volunteering. You'll meet community leaders like Bela Singh in India, who's founded schools and counseling centers and is passionate about girls & women's empowerment. Or, meet Jose Hernandez in Costa Rica - his extensive experience in international development includes work with the United Nations and the Foreign Service Foundation. You'll also be surrounded by an amazing and supportive team of dedicated professionals, including CCS cooks and drivers, who are each deeply passionate about sharing their experiences and making sure that you are warmly welcomed into a new culture and community. Learn more about our team, or check out the team you'll meet in-country on our destination pages.
Cultural activities are organized by CCS and included in every volunteer experience. They are designed to give you a unique insight into your new community, so whether you're participating in an engaging conversation with a local expert, visiting a cultural landmark, learning a new language, or practicing traditional dance, each cultural activity will offer you a new level of understanding and genuine opportunities for cultural exchange. Read this blog post to find out more about why cultural activities are part of the CCS experience.
All volunteers must have a passport that is valid for six months after they plan on returning to their country of origin. In some CCS countries, a visa is also required to enter the country, which is dependent on your country of citizenship. A visa is permission from the government to enter and exit the country you are visiting, and will be stamped in your passport. Your Program Specialist will provide you with more information on obtaining a visa, if one is required, to your CCS destination.
The CCS Home-Base is your home-away-from-home, a place to relax and reflect right in the local community where you'll engage with your second family of fellow volunteers and our expert CCS in-country staff. The Home-Base is comfortable, with common areas to share experiences, comfortable shared bedrooms, and plenty of space as you're re-charging for your next incredible day of volunteer adventures. We know that your comfort is key to giving all you can as an international volunteer, and the CCS Home-Base is just one of the many unique ways that the CCS experience changes everything. Check out what a CCS Home-Base experience is like at Your Home-Base.
Our team of Program Specialists, who are all past CCS volunteers themselves, are on hand to answer any questions you might have, and to guide you as you select and prepare for your CCS program. Reach out to us, 7 days a week, by calling 1-914-632-0022, chatting with us, or sending an email to email@example.com. We love to talk about how our CCS experiences changed everything, and can't wait to hear from you!
To enroll in a CCS program, choose your destination, start date, and length of stay - from 1 to 12 weeks. Then, just click Enroll on our website and with a $350 deposit toward your program fee, you can be on your way!
Once you've committed to making a meaningful difference abroad, your Program Specialist will reach out to you to welcome you on your experience. You'll have access to myCCS - our exclusive volunteer portal - to start learning all about effective volunteer work, meeting the in-country team, and learning all that your new home-away-from-home has to offer. Your Program Specialist will be on hand, 7 days a week, to answer any questions you might have and to continue providing information and updates as you prepare for the experience of a lifetime. We're excited to start working with you!
CCS volunteers include students, working professionals, 50+ volunteers, families, and groups from around the world! For our Volunteer Abroad, Gap Year Abroad, and Intern Abroad programs, volunteers must be 18 to participate independently. Children and teens can participate in our Volunteer Abroad programs if traveling with a parent or guardian (or as part of a chaperoned group). We typically recommend that children be at least 8 years of age to participate, but please contact us to discuss your specific needs for families with younger children. We also offer High School Volunteer Abroad for high school students who wish to make a difference on programs designed just for teens!
The diversity of CCS volunteers is one of the elements that makes a CCS experience amazing! Sharing your experience with volunteers from many backgrounds and perspectives - who quickly become lifelong friends - only deepens the impacts of your work. Hear from some of our volunteers of all ages.
We believe that all volunteers have something amazing to contribute! Our projects are designed to accommodate all levels of skills and experience.
A basic knowledge of English is necessary to follow the instructions provided by CCS staff. Speaking the local language is not required. In fact, read this blog post for a firsthand account of how impactful a CCS experience can be, even when you don't speak the language.
Actually, most of our volunteers enroll on their own for the international adventure of a lifetime. You can rest assured that our programs are the safest around, and that you've always got an incredible team of in-country staff to rely on. The beautiful thing about volunteering internationally with CCS is that even if your fellow volunteers aren't your old friends, you're never really going it alone. In fact, chances are, you're about to meet some brand new, soon to be "old friends." Whether you find that special connection with your fellow-volunteers, the in-country staff, or new local friends, the moment you arrive in your destination of choice, you become a part of the family! Read this story about a solo female traveler and learn about the connections that you'll make on your volunteer experience of a lifetime.
Yes! Cross-Cultural Solutions is committed to making the international volunteer experience a possibility for everyone. We understand that the accessibility of a CCS program site is defined by your unique needs and we are happy to provide comprehensive information about our program locations to help you determine which destination is best for you. We take great pride in making our programs accessible to all, and through the years, we've worked with many volunteers with disabilities in order to ensure accessibility and comfort. We partner with Mobility International USA (MIUSA) to make sure that we are maintaining an inclusive environment for people with disabilities at each of our program locations. For questions about the accessibility of our specific program sites, please don't hesitate to reach out to a Program Advisor.
Health & Safety
It sure does! All volunteers are provided with comprehensive travel medical insurance and emergency evacuation insurance, which is included in the CCS program contribution. This insurance is provided through Starr Indemnity and Liability Company and covers each volunteer for up to $50,000 of in-country medical insurance as well as medical transportation insurance and up to $1 million of Medivac insurance. If you want to upgrade or extend your travel medical insurance policy, you can upgrade or extend on the Core Travel Insurance Website. If you need to cancel due to a covered illness or injury before your program start date, a $1000 cancellation insurance policy is also included. Please note that your program contribution must be paid in full for the cancellation insurance policy to take effect.
A lot of our safety procedures have been put in place to help protect against illness in-country—like traveler-safe food and bottled drinking water. But, in the case of an illness, we are ready to ensure that the volunteer receives appropriate and professional care. Whether it means a warm bowl of soup and a comforting hand, or an appointment with a local doctor or hospital, our experienced staff is trained and ready to handle any situation. It starts with our comprehensive travel medical and emergency evacuation insurance, which provides the peace of mind that your needs will be covered in the event of a medical issue. We've also developed relationships with nearby doctors and hospitals so that any concerns can be handled immediately. And, our in-country staff will be there every step of the way—and we are confident that a dedicated and caring professional who is there 24/7 is often the best comfort of all when your teen is overseas.
Absolutely! We have tons of experience with food allergies and dietary restrictions, having supported over 35,000 international volunteers. Whether you’re vegetarian, Kosher, gluten-free, have peanut allergies, or anything else, just let us know beforehand and we’ll make sure you’re covered. Our in-country cooks, who prepare delicious home-cooked meals, have specific training in food restrictions and allergies, food safety standards, and are experienced in preparing meals for a variety of preferences.
We recommend that all volunteers visit their travel doctor before any experience abroad to review your healthcare requirements before traveling abroad. Recommended or required vaccinations for international travel can also be found at the Centers for Disease Control or UK Department of Health websites.
We're passionate about the safety of our volunteers, and it's core to everything we do - from selecting a program location to looking at every little detail of the Home-Base and the program design. Our in-country staff are on-site 24/7 and the CCS Home-Base is designed to provide a safe and relaxing retreat after a day of volunteering, exploring, and learning. We look at every little detail of your experience to make sure it's impactful, amazing, and safe. We've thought of everything from daily vehicle inspections to carbon monoxide and fire detectors throughout the Home-Base - even grip tape in slippery areas! Learn more about our detailed commitment to your safety at Safety, Our #1 Priority.
We want you to remain healthy on our programs, so we advise all CCSers to think about any medications they’re taking or might need during an international volunteer program, under the advice of your medical practitioner. Keep in mind that not all medications may be available in your destination, so we’ve included some tips to ensure you’re well-stocked for your CCS experience:
• Ensure that you have sufficient medication to cover your entire trip. If you need documentation from CCS about your trip length for your doctor or insurance provider to obtain the appropriate amount of medication, please let us know. Remember, in some locations, you cannot send medications through the mail – so please take special care to plan for your health needs while abroad.
• Medication should be brought in your carry-on luggage, in original packaging with original labels. It’s just too important to trust to your checked bags!
• Consult with a medical professional before your trip about your medication schedule in a new time zone and any drug interactions with travel immunizations or medications that you might be taking. And, of course, don’t change dosage or stop taking your regular medications without the consultation and supervision of an appropriate medical professional!
Volunteers over the age of 18 are responsible for responsibly dispensing and holding their own prescription medications. For any volunteers participating in our High School Volunteer Abroad program, or for any volunteers under the age of 18 participating independently in a CCS program, all prescription medications will be held by the CCS in-country staff.
Program fees and fundraising
Travelocity has selected CCS as a partner for their Travel for Good℠ program and is offering grants of up to $5,000 for individuals or groups to volunteer abroad.
Additionally, quite a few universities and colleges have identified scholarships and grants specifically intended for international volunteerism. If you're a student, additional funding may be available through your university.
With CCS, you don’t pay to volunteer. You pay for the assurance of living in a safe and comfortable Home-Base; an opportunity to be completely immersed in a warm and welcoming community, and to find the family that you never knew you had.
Your program contribution enables us to create an incredible breadth of Cultural Activities, from language and cooking lessons, to exclusive lectures on local culture and history. Your contribution will help to create long-term sustainable jobs paying living wages for local people, like the CCS directors, drivers, cooks, and house guards, and to make sure that they’re all expertly trained. You’ll pay so that the ingredients necessary for the CCS cook to prepare authentic, healthy cuisine are purchased locally, and to ensure that the trusty passenger van safely transporting you to and from your volunteer project each day is ready for the job. Your program contribution is an investment in your international experience, and in the local economy in a community that you’ll soon call home.
The CCS program contribution is comprehensive, covering all your needs once you arrive in-country, from accommodations in the CCS Home-Base to the full support of the CCS in-country staff to all meals and Cultural & Learning Activities. Read the full list here. Volunteers are responsible for their own flight costs, as well as free time activities (except for CCS High School Volunteer Abroad programs, which includes these staff-led excursions!)
Why yes, we do! And we'd be happy to set one up for you. Just contact a member of our team and we'll create a payment plan that works for you.
Did you know that you can fund your trip by utilizing payment plans, fundraising, and more? Check out our Fund Your Trip page complete with tips on how to save, stories of volunteers who made it happen, and a handy Budget Wizard to help you calculate your total out-of-pocket cost. Once you take advantage of the CCS Fund Your Trip tool, you'll be amazed at how low the CCS out-of-pocket program fee can be!
Of course we do! Check out this two part blog post with tips on how to snag great airfare all of the CCS volunteer destinations. And if you've got a tip of your own, be sure to share the knowledge by leaving a comment on the blog.
CCS volunteers work in promoting global health and child development in all of our locations, with the exception of Greece, where we also work to distribute hygiene supplies, water, milk, and clothing to residents.
In your work as a healthcare volunteer, you can choose a project to join a vision, dental, or WASH project, or become involved in teaching basic sanitation practices in schools. CCS volunteers also see a big impact in childhood development. Through the CCS Early Childhood Education curriculum, volunteers implement important childhood education practices in under-resourced daycares, and assist teachers in schools with individual attention to students.
Free time is just another amazing part of your full experience with CCS. On some afternoons, most evenings, and all weekends, you can spend your time relaxing in the Home-Base, getting to know the community better, or embarking on some pretty incredible adventures in your chosen region or throughout the country! You may also choose to travel before or after the program, but this may affect the tax-deductibility of your airfare. Learn more about what's included in the CCS experience, and for some great ideas of what you can do during your free time abroad.
Read more about what CCS volunteers choose to do during free time on the CCS blog.
Forever! Just kidding. We offer a variety of program lengths so that we can meet the needs of every kind of volunteer. Only have a week to spare? We've got plenty of week-long programs that offer an excellent introduction to your destination of choice through volunteering, cultural immersion, cultural activities, and free time. And the best part is, one week is plenty of time to make a real impact.
Our volunteers love their CCS experience, but here's one thing we hear over and over: "I wish I stayed longer!" Try a longer duration of stay and reduce the cost per week of your experience. So if you've got more time to spare -- three weeks, seven, twelve (you get the point) -- enroll to volunteer in any destination for up to 12 weeks. And if after that, you're ready for even more, we've got some great options for pairing programs so that you can volunteer in multiple destinations, one after another.
Absolutely! When you volunteer with CCS, the experience you get is not only life-changing, but also educational. Many of our past volunteers have received academic credit that they were able to apply to service learning programs, internships, and/or independent study requirements. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to assess your eligibility for academic credit.
Read our blog to learn more about how students just like you were able to get academic credit for their CCS experience.
You can tell us the volunteer project you’re interested in, and you’ll be matched with an incredible community organization that needs your assistance to meet community goals. Your specific volunteer assignment is driven by ever-changing community needs, so that your project will be high impact, sustainable, immersive, and incredibly fulfilling!
We've got tons of stories from CCS alums who were a bit hesitant about our uniquely community-driven volunteer assignment process, only to later fall in love with this approach. Our volunteer project assignment process has introduced countless volunteers to a completely new way in which they can make a real difference in the world. In fact, lots of our alumni have worked in impact areas that were completely new to them, only return home and change career or academic paths in order to continue to pursue their newfound interest. Want to connect with one of our satisfied alums? Just contact us and we'll connect you with someone in your area.
We believe that each part of your international volunteering experience works to complement the whole. That's why we offer a full and balanced international volunteer experience with time built in for guided cultural activities, solo adventures, cultural exchange, and personal reflection. Whether you're engaging in guided discussions on relevant local issues, or find yourself elbow deep in rice flour and learning how to cook an authentic dish, every organized Cultural Activity will offer you a deeper understanding of the community and all of its beautiful complexities.
Free time is available on some afternoons, most evenings, and every weekend. So whether you choose to go it alone or set out exploring with a crew of your fellow volunteers, every CCS destination offers plenty of time and tons of options for some off-the-charts excursions.
CCS volunteers have a curiosity about the world, and a desire to make their mark. We are students, working professionals, families, retirees, and many others, from all around the world, looking to make meaningful connections in shared service. We are passionate about global issues, and have a thirst for learning about the world around us. We are adventurous, open-minded, and have a desire to explore. We want to go off the traditional tourist path, and immerse ourselves in a community in a real way, sharing unique experiences and interacting with communities and cultures in a way that few tourists are able.
Sound like you? We’d love for you to join us!
CCS destinations are amazing places, all supported by incredible in-country staff members with incredible CCS projects so you can make a positive difference in the lives of others. We know that finding that perfect destination is a hard choice (so why not go to all of our locations!), but we’re here to help you figure out what works best for you! Check out our destinations to see what part of the world most speaks to you, or call a Program Specialist – who’s also a CCS alumni – to find a location that meets your needs.
We offer start dates throughout the year – almost 200 in total – so you have the maximum flexibility in selecting the location and dates that work well for you! Once you’ve found your date, select a length of stay from 1 to 12 weeks. Not seeing something that works for you? Just give us a call or chat with us online!
As a CCS volunteer, you’ll find yourself having a new adventure every day! You’ll start your day at the CCS Home-Base, with a delicious home-cooked breakfast. After breakfast, you’ll take off with your fellow volunteers to give back at your CCS Project. Right before lunch, we’ll be there to pick you up and take you back to the CCS Home-Base for a delicious lunch. Then, we’re off again on an exciting Cultural & Learning Adventure. Some days, you might be learning about the education systems or family structures from an expert guest speaker. On others, you might find yourself in a coffee plantation, participating in a Mayan wedding ceremony, or visiting a local family. After a delicious dinner prepared by the CCS cooks, the evenings are your time, to relax and reflect, explore your community, and get ready for your next exciting day of volunteering. And on weekends, some of our volunteers stay in the Home-Base to forge even deeper community connections, while others are off exploring the region and country through some exciting weekend trips!
Your CCS experience starts from the moment you enroll in your program. Your CCS Program Specialist will reach out to welcome you, and get you started on your journey. Through our exclusive myCCS portal, you’ll be able to learn about your experience and the history and culture of your new community through videos, podcasts, and tons of information – all at your own pace. And of course, your Program Specialist will be with you every step of the way for that expert guidance and support.
From the moment you arrive in the airport in-country, the in-country staff will be there to guide, inspire, share, and support you in every way. Led by an experienced and incredible Country Director, each team is there for you 24/7, and will quickly become your second family. Our Country Directors are incredible – with a deep passion for their communities, and the experience and knowledge to lead an immersive and incredible experience. And, all CCS in-country staff are local nationals, so they truly know and understand the needs of their own communities.
Once you’ve selected your destination, start date, and length of stay, you can enroll right online with a $350 deposit that’s applied toward your program fee. Within seconds, you’ll receive your confirmation and access to your myCCS account to start learning more and preparing for your experience. And, your Program Specialist is there for you, 7 days a week, to welcome you, encourage you, and answer any questions that you might have. Let’s get started!
As the workplace is becoming increasingly global, companies are demanding international experience, cultural competency, and real skills in a global environment. As a CCS intern, you’ll immerse yourself in a deep and rewarding experience to explore the world in a new way while learning about your intern area through real-life, hands-on experiences. With your community mentor, you’ll gain an understanding of the structures and systems that impact your internship on a global scale, in an international community, and at your individual work assignment. You’ll understand new perspectives in healthcare, education, international development, or your specific intern area. And, you’ll become part of a community to understand the social issues impacting many populations, and how amazing community leaders are working to create positive, sustainable change.
We believe that the perspectives, skills, and knowledge gained through an internship abroad is essential for every career path. Through learning and giving back, you’ll set yourself apart as an experienced and internationally-minded professional when you engage in meaningful experiences abroad.
As a CCS intern, you’ll be working at a dynamic community-based organization in your field of interest. Your specific work is custom-designed based on your Skills & Interests and your internship area, while also meeting the community goals and needs. Check out our International Internships to learn more about what we offer!
We believe that the Intern Abroad experience is most impactful when your work is combined with meaningful and immersive Cultural & Learning Activities, guided reflection, and independent exploration and adventure. You’ll join your work assignment for 4-5 hours each morning to immerse yourself in your chosen field of study. In the afternoons, join an amazing Cultural & Learning Activity. And, during your evening and on most weekends, you’ll have free time to explore the community, and the country, to deepen your international perspectives and have fun!
We understand there’s a lot to choose from when you’re deciding on the best international internship for your needs. So, we’re here to help – just call a Program Specialist at 800-380-4777 or chat with us online for expert guidance, from a CCS alumni – on destinations, internship areas, and start dates that work for your schedule.
No time to talk? No problem! Our website is filled with details about your Intern Abroad program. Determine the international internship focus that works best for you, and check out the destination that best matches your interests. Then, choose from start dates available year-round. You can enroll right online – just send us an email or give us a call right after to start preparing for your Intern Abroad experience!
We offer some incredible internship opportunities, but you might have other skills or interests that you’re looking to explore. So give us a call at 800-380-4777 or chat with us right online. Our dedicated team of Program Specialists, all CCS alumni, can talk to you about a custom internship that’s right for you. We have opportunities in performing arts, yoga, world religions, and many more, so let’s explore what’s right for you!
First and foremost, a passion for learning, a thirst for exploring the world, and a desire to make a difference. But, yes, we do have some more specific requirements, depending on your internship area and destination.
All interns in Costa Rica and Peru must speak intermediate Spanish. In Morocco, conversational French or Moroccan Arabic is required.
There’s also a minimum length of stay, which varies by destination and internship. Most often, this requires 4-6 weeks in-country, but we do have internships for as little as one week.
If you’re engaging in a medical or nursing internship program, we’ll also need proof of enrollment in a university that shows that you’re taking courses related to this field.
And, you need to enroll soon! At least 2 months advance registration is required for all international internships.
Don’t meet these requirements? Check out our Volunteer Abroad opportunities, where you can immerse yourself in a CCS Project to learn about and give back to a social issue in your community. Or – reach out to us to talk about your needs and interests!
CCS interns are passionate about global issues and are deeply interested in exploring their major or career path. While most of our interns are university students, we also welcome many interns who are supplementing their career experiences or exploring a new career path through an internship abroad.
In your CCS experience, you’ll be joined by volunteers and interns from many different backgrounds and age groups with a shared interest in exploring the world in a more meaningful way. CCS volunteers come from around the world – and our diverse and passionate volunteers and interns is just part of what makes this experience so incredible!
The CCS Volunteer Abroad program is all about giving back through meaningful, hands-on service in a CCS Project that you choose. Volunteers will be immersed in hands-on work in the community directly working with project beneficiaries each day, while learning about social issues in each community.
The CCS Intern Abroad program is designed for students looking for more of an academic focus related to a major or a career path. Like the Volunteer Abroad program, you will be working with an incredible community organization tackling important social issues in the community. However, your time at your work assignment will be balanced between volunteer service and education about your CCS internship area, as guided by a community mentor. While some of your time is spent in hands-on work with project beneficiaries, much of your day also involves learning from community members and your mentor about the systems and structures that impact your internship focus in the community.
On both experiences, you’ll be fully supported by the amazing CCS in-country staff, living in the comfortable CCS Home-Base, and you’ll be involved in unique Cultural & Learning Activities with opportunities for free time, independent exploration, and reflection.
With CCS, you’ll be supported every step of the way, starting from the moment you enroll in your program and start to work with your Program Specialist. Once in-country, you’ll be guided by an incredible expert in-country staff who are passionate about international service and cultural experiences. Each team is led by a Country Director who boasts significant experience in international development, and will be there to guide and facilitate your experience.
At your work assignment, you’ll be paired with a community mentor, who’s an expert in your chosen intern area. With your community mentor, you’ll explore the structures and systems that contribute to your internship, and have opportunities to contribute to the community organization in a meaningful way.
CCS works with many universities across the country, and around the world, to fulfill academic requirements for internships and practicums. As each university is different, please present this option to your university to find out if any additional requirements are needed. We provide a Certificate of Completion, expert supervision, and guided reflection as a part of every CCS Intern Abroad experience. Reach out to a Program Specialist or join a CCS Intern Abroad webinar to learn more about how this experience fits into your academic needs.
Many students each year receive academic credit for their Intern Abroad experience with CCS, but as each university has different requirements, it’s best to reach out to a faculty or staff member at your university to see if the CCS Intern Abroad program is available for credit. Need help or want CCS to join in on this discussion? Just give a Program Specialist a call to talk about your individual needs!
Congratulations! You’re about to take the first step in an amazing journey, filled with adventure, lifelong friendships, and of course incredible opportunities to learn and give back in a truly meaningful way! To enroll in a CCS international internship, select your intern area, your destination, and your start date and length of stay. Armed with those details, you can give us a call or enroll right online. Your Program Specialist will be in touch within one day to welcome you to the program, so be sure to respond letting us know about your internship focus area!
High School Volunteer Abroad
As a High School Volunteer Abroad participant, your days are action-packed. Each weekday morning following a delicious breakfast, you’ll join other teens to complete meaningful service work directly with local community members. Return to the Home-Base for lunch with our full, local staff before beginning the afternoon Cultural Activities, which include excursions to local points of interest, language lessons, cooking classes, guest speakers, team building and leadership exercises, and much more to fully immerse and educate you about the culture and country. Of course, a family-style dinner of healthy, local cuisine is always provided, and structured activities are also included on evenings and weekends. Whether you’re playing soccer with our in-country staff, enjoying a game night, or on a weekend trip to a nearby destination, you’ll enjoy that perfect balance of unique activities with time to reflect on your experience and develop lifelong friendships with the exceptional global teens on your program—all from the comfort and safety of a Home-Base.
Each schedule is created to address current needs of the local community and for interesting cultural events and celebrations, but check out a sample high school schedule to learn a bit more about all the exciting activities we have planned!
CCS partners with sustainable community organizations to participate in community-driven volunteer work. This ensures that the work that you are doing is truly needed and requested by the community. As a CCS international volunteer, your work will be focused on education & literacy and child development with incredible community organizations. You might find yourself teaching English at a Mayan school in Tecpan, Guatemala, planting mango trees with a school in Hohoe, Ghana, or painting a mural with local children in Orosi, Costa Rica. In all of your volunteer work, you can be assured that you’re engaging in social issues alongside the local community to make a meaningful difference.
The CCS Home-Base, your in-country home away from home, is part of what makes each of our programs so unique. You’ll live in a house in the local community dedicated exclusively to teens, with the full 24-hour support of our local, in-country staff. Each CCS Home-Base features comfortable accommodations, with 4 - 6 teens per room (separated by gender), and common areas to interact with new friends, learn about the local culture, and enjoy meals. This gives you the perfect balance to relax in a comfortable environment while still living in a local neighborhood as a member of the community, and is just one example of what we do to ensure our stringent safety and security standards.
Learn more about the Home-Base on the CCS blog.
Cross-Cultural Solutions participants are exceptional teens with an interest in service and international issues, all of whom have been individually selected through our application and interview process, and have been trained before arriving in-country. These teens include a mix of young men and women from around the world. In fact, CCS alumni represent over 100 countries in total, adding a unique blend of cultures and perspectives to your cultural experience.
CCS programs are unique because of our dedicated full-time, in-country staff. Each program is led by a Country Director, who is an expert with at least 10 years of experience in international volunteering and international development. The Country Director also leads a full team of professional staff who truly love the work we do. Our team includes cooks, drivers, guards, and Program Officers. Cross-Cultural Solutions has a full training program in place for our worldwide staff that runs continuously throughout the year, making sure that our high quality and safety standards are consistent worldwide. We think you’ll be impressed too once you get a chance to learn about the experience of our dynamic and inspiring team!
We take supervision on the High School Volunteer Program very seriously, and provide 24-hour supervision to all teens with one male and one female highly-trained and experienced CCS staff member present at all times. You can be assured of a minimum 6 to 1 volunteer to staff ratio at all times, ensuring that the High School Volunteer Abroad experience is safe and well-structured.
We know the importance of preparation and information before you begin your program, and our team of alumni is there to guide you every step of the way. Starting when you are considering your program, you can reach out to a Program Advisor to help determine the best location and start dates for you. Once you enroll, you’ll be guided through a training process by your dedicated Program Site Specialist, all of whom are proud CCS alums. Parents and teens alike will have opportunities to participate in individual calls and conference calls with other volunteers and parents of volunteers, complete with a wealth of program information to ensure that your every question is answered and you can be effective and prepared for your program. And, once you arrive in-country, you’ll have a full-day orientation, including a tour of your new community, an introduction to cultural norms, and effective international volunteering. Finally, once you return, you are part of the CCS global family, where we offer tools and guidance on how to leverage your experience, continue your impact, and remain engaged in global issues.
We've created our program contribution specifically so it’s inclusive for all of your in-country expenses. What does that mean? Accommodations in the Home-Base within the local community, delicious meals prepared by local cooks, unlimited bottled drinking water, all of your activities including Cultural Activities and language lessons, and of course the full support and guidance of our in-country staff of local nationals. We also provide transportation to and from the airport and your volunteer project, and comprehensive travel medical insurance. And most importantly, we arrange and support you throughout a meaningful volunteer assignment that is based on the needs of the community. All in all, you get 20 years of experience from the leading organization in the field. We virtually invented this kind of volunteering. You get an unmatched safety record that includes 24-hour security and supervision, and the peace of mind to know that our experience informs safety measures in areas that you’d never think to ask about. And, you get our track record on providing quality programs. Overwhelmingly, we hear that “volunteering with CCS changed my life.”
So the only expenses that you need to think about are airfare to and from your home country to the country where you’ll be volunteering, any visa fees or airport exit fees (if required), and any funds for personal expenses on the program, such as long-distance phone calls or souvenirs.
CCS volunteers come from around the world, so we allow you the flexibility in determining the flight that works best for you. Once you arrive in-country, you’ll be greeted at the airport by a CCS staff member—right at the arrivals gate—who’ll transport you in a CCS vehicle to the Home-Base. Since volunteers arrive on the same start date, you’ll often be on a flight with other volunteers, and we connect you with those volunteers and their parents well in advance of the program, so that you can plan to fly together, if you wish. Though many teens opt to arrive independently, we also offer a flight option for teens from a US-based gateway city where you can meet up and board the flight together to arrive in-country as a group.
We realize it’s important to stay in touch during your program, and for parents of High School Volunteer Abroad participants to have a way to reach Cross-Cultural Solutions day and night. At every Home-Base, there is a volunteer phone that accepts international calls, and that number will be provided to parents of participants. In addition, internet access is either available in the Home-Base so that you can stay in touch via email, social media, and Skype. Finally, to add to your peace of mind, a 24-hour hotline is available for emergency questions where you or your parents can always reach a CCS staff member at CCS HQ. Of course, your Program Specialist will continue to be available throughout (and after) the program to address any concerns and answer all questions, and they are in regular contact with our in-country staff.
To ensure the safety of the Home-Base environment, we only allow High School Volunteer Abroad participants and our in-country staff members to stay or visit the Home-Base. However, we do encourage parents to join their teens before and/or after the program to explore the country together, through independent travel.
Absolutely! Our volunteers are eager to share their stories and experiences, and with tens of thousands of happy alums, we've got quite a long list of folks—volunteers and parents of volunteers—who are happy to talk you to about their CCS volunteer program. Just contact Julie, our Alumni Engagement Specialist, at 800-380-4777 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and she'll put you in touch with an alumni family in your area.
Read firsthand accounts of the CCS High School Volunteer Abroad experience on our blog.
The safety of our volunteers is our #1 priority and, with 20 years of experience and more than 35,000 international volunteers, we’ve learned what is important to keep volunteers safe. It starts with the initial selection of our program sites—every location is chosen with safety in mind, and we are continuously monitoring the country and community so that we are aware of local events. We think about the big things that you might already have in mind, like building relationships with local doctors and hospitals and providing bottled drinking water safe for travelers. We’re also thinking about those small details that you might not have in mind, like comprehensive daily vehicle inspections and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within each Home-Base. Our experience and our commitment to safety make us the safest international volunteer program out there, and we invite you to ask us more about our detailed safety standards. We’re sure you’ll be impressed.
And you can learn more about CCS safety by visiting our blog!
We are equipped to work with teens who are taking mood altering medications and prescription painkillers, and have developed standards to ensure the proper use and distribution of these medications. After enrollment, you will indicate any medications on our Health and Emergency Contact form, and we will collect these from you once you arrive in-country for safe keeping in a secure environment for the protection of all participants. We are equipped to handle refrigeration needs, and our in-country staff, who is always available, will distribute the correct dosage.
CCS High School Volunteer Abroad programs are located in 5 amazing destinations: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, India, and Ghana. You choose where you'd like to volunteer, and how long (between 1 and 4 weeks) you'd like to stay. Check out our High School Volunteer Abroad dates & fees to find the program that works best for you!
Gap Year Abroad
A gap year is an opportunity to take a structured break from formal education to explore, grow, and learn. We think formal educational experiences are incredibly important (and over 90% of students who take a gap year return to college within a year!), but we also believe that developing leadership, self-confidence, independence, maturity, and self-reliance are crucial to your success in whatever you choose to pursue! And, a gap year gives you the perfect opportunity to reflect on your career aspirations and goals, have meaningful experiences in exciting locations and new cultures around the world, and to contribute to your world by working with some incredible organizations in-country in shared service.
The statistics about gap years speak for themselves. For most students, gap experiences have an impact on their choice of major and career (Karl Haigler & Rae Nelson, The Gap Year Advantage). Researchers have found that gap years not only translate to a positive impact on student motivation, but also better performance at university (http://www.heraldsun.com.au).
So why wouldn’t you take a gap year? This is your time to learn what it means to be a global citizen; explore the world; and have an amazing, incredible, life-changing experience where you’ll meet new friends from around the world and have the unique opportunity to explore and give back around the world!
CCS gap year programs are based in service. As experts in effective and impactful international volunteering, we understand that the right approach to international volunteering is to work in sustainable partnership with local community organizations, meeting the community needs. Together with our dedicated expert team of in-country staff members, all local nationals, you’ll explore important social issues impacting each community while making a meaningful difference. CCS volunteers are passionate global game changers, and we believe that giving back to others is the best way to deepen your gap year experience.
Gap years are traditionally taken by students between high school and their junior year of college, whether it’s for a full year, a semester, or even as a smaller break. You’ll find that CCS gap year participants are curious about the world, are compassionate and dedicated to helping others, and are truly interested and engaged in global issues. CCS gappers include first-time travelers and experienced globe-trotters from all walks of life and from all around the world. And, CCS gap year participants are pretty incredible individuals who continue to do amazing things throughout their lives – often drawing from this significant life experience!
Please note that students must meet all Essential Eligibility Criteria to participate in a CCS program.
You’ll be joined by international volunteers from around the world. Traveling with you along your gap year will be other gap year students who will join you on your full CCS gap adventure, complimented by international volunteers who are joining CCS programs for 1 to 12 weeks. This diverse group of volunteers adds to your experience – allowing you to share perspectives and experiences with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a range of life experiences, including fellow students, working professionals, families, and retired volunteers.
Your gap experience is a full and well-rounded immersive adventure to explore new cultures and countries in a deep and unique way. As CCS gap years are rooted in service, the core of your experience will be centered on your volunteer work. As a gap year participant, you can choose your volunteer opportunity for each of your destinations, so you know you’ll be immersed in a project that is both meaningful and impactful to the community and fits your skills and interests.
Of course, your gap year should also be filled with adventure and incredible experiences, and we’ve got plenty of those! Most afternoons, you’ll participate in CCS Cultural & Learning Activities, which are unique ways to get to know about a culture and its people. Whether you’re learning to make tortillas at the base of a volcano in Guatemala, exploring religion and belief systems in India with local experts, or practicing your batik-making skills in Tanzania, your gap experience will be filled with one-of-a-kind opportunities. Interested in learning a new language? We also provide language lessons in each of our locations, as well as reflection sessions so you can process your experience every step of the way with the guidance of our expert in-country staff.
And, there’s amazing opportunities for free time to learn and grow independently. Many volunteers choose to spend their free time at the Home-Base, getting to know the local community better and developing local friendships. Or, join your group for an amazing weekend excursion, where you might find yourself in a desert oasis in Peru, on Cape Coast in Ghana, or navigating the winding medinas of Fes in Morocco.
No matter which experience you select, you can be sure that your gap year will be filled with incredible adventures and meaningful experiences that are off the beaten tourist path!
We’ve created some dynamite experiences through our CCS Gap Programs. Designed for a semester at a time, we find that many volunteers choose to combine 2 unique gap year programs to create a full year or go on for the second semester to pursue a CCS internship through our Intern Abroad program. With CCS, you can choose what experience feels right for your personal goals and interests, and we can work with you to customize your experience to make your gap year even more impactful.
Absolutely! We work with each participant individually to meet your interests and goals, and we’re happy to create a customized gap year experience for you. If you’re selecting from our CCS Gap Programs, you’ll always be able to choose your specific volunteer opportunity for each country so you can focus on a needed community issue that meets your interests.
Looking to create-your-own gap program? With start dates throughout the year, we can absolutely arrange for a personalized experience just for you, with destinations and start dates that work best for your schedule.
Just give any of our expert alumni Program Specialists a call to create a gap experience just for you!
A gap year doesn’t need to be a full year. Many CCS participants take a semester for a CCS program, or combine 2 programs for a full year. Or, you might want to make your gap year a 2-month adventure. Your gap year is all about YOU, and we’ll work with you to make it incredible with the time that you’d like to give, learn, and explore the world.
We can’t wait to show off the CCS Home-Base, our one-of-a-kind home-away-from-home where you’ll be living with fellow gappers and volunteers, right in the local community. What makes the CCS Home-Base unique? You’re living within a local community, but in a safe and comfortable home where you can relax and unwind. And, you’re surrounded by the CCS in-country staff, who are always eager to show you how to make your favorite dish, engage in a discussion about their community and culture, and guide you through every step of your gap year adventure.
The CCS in-country teams are incredible, working tirelessly around the globe to make your experience incredibly impactful, and to ensure that your work is making a real and meaningful difference in the community. Our teams are made up entirely of local nationals, who understand the needs of their home communities best. Led by an experienced Country Director, you’ll be surrounded by a passionate team that includes Program Officers, cooks, drivers, and many more – all there for you 24/7 for anything you might need, with a participant to staff ratio of 6 to 1!
On our CCS Gap Programs, we’ve created our itineraries to make it as easy as possible to travel between locations. Our gap year programs feature suggested flights, so you can travel together with other CCS gap year participants to your next destination, or you can work with your Program Specialist to create your own itinerary. Creating a custom gap year experience? We’ll work with you to give you tools and tips to find the best flight paths for you, and we have some great relationships with flight pros to help you figure it all out!
Absolutely. We believe that independent travel is an amazing way to reflect, deepen your experiences in a country, and of course have those incredible adventures that all travel experiences bring! Every weekend, you’ll have free time, where you can either stay in the CCS Home-Base and get to know your new community better, or where you can travel to another exciting destination within your new country. In your fellow volunteers, you’ll find a group of like-minded travelers seeking new experiences and adventures who will quickly become your new travel companions, and the CCS in-country staff is there every step of the way to guide your experiences and help you find those off-the-beaten-path adventures.
We’ve found that many colleges and universities are not only supportive of a gap year experience, but encouraging, as they understand the value of taking meaningful time from your formal education experience for growth and self-exploration. In fact, top universities like Harvard even encourage every incoming freshman to consider taking a gap before starting coursework. As each university has different policies for deferral of admissions, we recommend that you check with your university admissions department about their specific requirements. You can also find a list of deferral policies for universities across the U.S. at http://www.americangap.org/fav-colleges.php.
We’re glad that you’re ready to join us on an incredible once-in-a-lifetime gap year experience! To start, select your CCS gap program from our incredible options, or give us a call to create your own! Enrolling is simple – you can enroll right online with your deposit, or contact a Program Specialist so we can enroll you in your custom experience. And, once you’re enrolled, we’ll reach out within 24 hours to get you started on your journey, including preparation through your exclusive myCCS online portal to start learning about the culture, language, and your volunteer work, as well as expert guidance from your Gap Year Specialist!