Ethiopia is a country rich with culture and different languages, as it is home to 80 ethnolinguistic groups that speak over 90 languages. It is also the only country in Africa that has never been colonized, giving students who visit even more of a unique experience, unlike anywhere else in Africa.
Students can dive into the country's natural landscapes of jungles, rivers, and mountains with opportunities to volunteer in the local community, immerse themselves in the main language Amharic, or apply their skills to an internship.Photo credit: Rod Waddington.
In Ethiopia, high schoolers will be mainly looking at volunteering and service learning projects, but also have the option to work on an internship project.
Volunteering / Service Learning
Students can get involved in a couple types of volunteer programs in Ethiopia. These programs range from a few weeks to one or two months long. High school volunteers will likely be working with locals in the community with the chance to learn about conservation, assist in teaching English, or working with children.
In some cases, high schoolers can sign up for internships or research projects. Potential research areas include conservation, community development, and healthcare. Students may have the opportunity to shadow doctors, work in journalism, or give care to community members, though these placements can vary in availability.
Where to Go
As Ethiopia's capital and the largest city in the country, Addis Ababa is a common destination for programs to take place. Visit the variety of museums available or marvel in this city of contradictions, where city and countryside merge into one.
Also worth visiting are the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Aksum and Harar.
If on a volunteer project, most high schoolers will be located in rural areas.
A visa is required to enter Ethiopia. US citizens are able to get a single entry tourist visa upon arrival. Be sure to bring $50 USD (cash) and two recent passport-sized photographs. However, students may want to apply for a visa beforehand through the nearest embassy or consulate. Find more information on the Ethiopia visa website.
Ethiopia is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to living and traveling within the U.S. and European countries.
Flights from the U.S. to Ethiopia can start at around $600, depending on where you’re flying from and what time of the year.
You’ll be spending roughly $3 a meal when eating out at restaurants. Local transportation can cost as little as 25 cents. Do note, though, that Ethiopia has a "ferengi" (foreigner) price for just about everything -- from juice to hotels to meals out -- so don't be surprised if you're paying a few birr more than your neighbor.
Plan to budget around $20-30 a week, though this may vary based on your project and needs.
Ethiopia has a relatively varied climate throughout the country. You could easily face 90-degree heat near Harar but freeze your butt off in the Simien Mountains. When packing, be prepared for heat and cold.
As high schoolers will likely travel in the summer months, be prepared for heavy rainfall -- as this is Ethiopia's rainy season. We recommend packing:
- Waterproof or fast drying, breathable clothing
- Rain jacket
- Sturdy walking shoes
- Long pants
- Warm jacket
- Headlamp / flashlight
- Any medications you'll need while there
- Bugspray and sunscreen
- Electrical adaptor/converter
Make sure you’re up to date on any routine vaccinations before you leave for Ethiopia. Talk to your health care provider to see what’s best for you. Vaccines like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, tetanus, and several others are strongly recommended when traveling.
Travelers should also be up to date on their Polio vaccination before entering Ethiopia. Vaccinations against cholera should also be obtained for visitors who visited a cholera infected country six days prior to visiting Ethiopia.
The medical facilities in Ethiopia are not up to Western standards. Pack any necessary medication beforehand, and purchasing travel insurance is highly recommended in case of an emergency.
As in any country, never walk around alone at night and never carry around any important valuables with you, especially in a crowded city. Be careful when taking public transportation, and always watch out for your belongings to avoid theft.
There are several areas in Ethiopia that travelers are recommended to avoid. These areas include the borders of the following countries: Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and South Sudan.
Avoid public demonstrations, which can quickly spiral out of control, and stay in any major cities. As always, check your government's website for the most recent safety considerations beforehand. Exercise caution when visiting Ethiopia, and enjoy the country's beautiful landscape and friendly people.