ELI Abroad

ELI Abroad

About

ELI is a registered non-profit organization, founded in 2001, that partners with organizations from around the world that make a difference in their communities. We work closely with these groups to ensure ELI volunteers get meaningful experiences at reasonable prices.

ELI's full name, Experiential Learning International, reflects our philosophy. We believe that the most compelling life lessons come through experience, and that international experiences are among the most profound influences on our sense of self and our view of the world.

ELI Abroad provides internship and volunteer programs in locations throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. ELI specializes in quality experiences at affordable prices. Prospective volunteers and interns are encouraged to visit the ELI Abroad website for the latest opportunities available.

Founded
2001
Headquarters

1290 N. Williams St.
Suite 303
Denver, CO 80218
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Katherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The reason that I chose ELI as my internship organizer was because of their emphasis on matching the skills of the intern to the skill-set required for the internship. It's easy enough to find organizations that will put the intern anywhere as long as they pay enough, but it's rare to find an organization that matches the need of the volunteer to the needs of the community, and at such an exceptionally affordable rate. ELI's application process was transparent and moved quickly. As a teacher, I could only volunteer for 6 weeks rather than the suggest 2+ month time commitment, and ELI worked hard to find me a placement regardless. I will definitely be traveling with ELI in the future!

Default avatar
lucia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

First day we arrived to the volunteers house, everything was great. people, staff, and the lovely Didi. Now we are living, after a month, we believe that the house is now our home. Rooms are comfortable and cozy. Food is really nice and served with so much love. the rest of the house is always clean and available for us.

Talking about the medical program, We have chosen this program to see, learn and help as much as possible, and finally we have very useful, or needed.
We think, that maybe, this program should be focus on rural areas where our help may be more needed. Nevertheless, at the hospital people have received us with love.
After two weeks in this situation and due to our feeling of uselessness, we talked with the staff and they changed us to a school program one week and to another hospital the last one.
although the school was not our first option, we enjoyed a lot. On the other hand, the last hospital in Bhaktapur was great. We wish we could have been in this hospital since the first week as the make us feel we were really needed.

To conclude, we have to say that we are very happy with the experience, but we think that it has a very high price related to what we have really done {as we came with high expectations to help )

Alejandra Delgado
Andrea Fernandez

What would you improve about this program?
- As we have advanced level of medical techniques and knowledge, we think that we are much more useful doing than just watching. Maybe a rural area or a medical camp will have better option.
- As we have already said, we believe that if the price was a little bit lower, much more people would come here with no doubt.
Default avatar
Santiago
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The first 2 weeks I was sent to teach in a public school. It was an ok experience but I was disappointed as I had to teach kids of 3 years and I did more babysitting than teaching. However the second 2 weeks went better because we changed to teach students of 12 years and we actually teach a lot. We regret of not having had started in this second programme since the beginning.
Talking about the Eli staff I think they did not do as much as I paid for the programme, I am really disappointed with this fact. I hope this review helps to change their way of working making it more efficient.

What would you improve about this program?
Said it above
Default avatar
Lauren
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a great experience exploring the city, visiting the local temples and stupas, and learning more about the Nepali culture. The staff in Nepal were very welcoming and helpful for anything that were to come up. The students at the school were very lovable, and I enjoyed my time working with them. There were a variety of things to do, including trekking, spas, meditation retreats, paragliding, boating, and animal safari! This experience allowed me to meet new people during my trip, but also enjoy time to myself to explore the city.

Default avatar
Victor
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The experience within the Human Rights field of Nepal was unique, and through this program I felt as if I was able to get a real experience of living and working in Nepal. Everyone within the house was very helpful, and I never ran out of things to do while in Nepal, whether it be travelling, sightseeing, zoga, or going out. Nepal is a country full of rich culture and some of the most kind people in the world, that greatly can enhance your volunteering experience.

What would you improve about this program?
The pre departure information could be more up to date and relevant to current life in Nepal, and communication about placements needs to be worked on so that participants know exactly what they will be doing before they arrive

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Programs

Displaying 19 - 27 of 32

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Veronique Murphy

Veronique Murphy is from Melbourne, Victoria. She is 23 years old. She went to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage in September 2012 for 3 months. She’s currently studying Nursing and Midwifery and has also completed studies in International Development. Her goal is to work in aid work for Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders).
"The kids at the orphanage stole my heart!"

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with ELI Abroad in Nepal?

I studied International Development at university and as part of the course, we needed some practical community development experience. I’d dealt with many agencies offering experiences overseas – so, so many were overpriced, over-hyped, and business focused. ELI wasn’t.

I had a friend recommend them to me after her experience in South America, and as soon as I made contact with ELI I was nothing but satisfied with the way they communicated, the costs involved, the information and support I received. They were flexible, open, honest, and the price was right – unlike programs that tried to charge me (literally) thousands of dollars to volunteer.

My contact with ELI began and continued so smoothly – they were organized and seemed to legitimately care about who you were, the kind of experience you were looking for, and, most importantly, the aid programs they supported.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

I lived in a volunteer share house in Kathmandu, where I was provided with a simple but yummy breakfast and dinner each day. I went to the orphanage Monday-Friday. I’d walk there in the morning, and spend the day – times were flexible – with the children.

I’d teach, play games, and have endless cups of tea provided for me! The children and owners of the orphanage were so welcoming, friendly, appreciative... they had so little but were gave so much, without any hesitation or second thought. What amazing lessons I learnt from their endless curiosity, generosity, and happiness! I’d return back to the volunteer house in the afternoon, and perhaps go up to the shops in Thamel (10 mins walk), or plan my lessons for the next day, hang out with the other volunteers, or talk to family back home.

Weekends were free for any kind of travel – we did lots! We took the bus to other cities, and further afield – 8 hour rocky-mountain-side-wobbly-scary-motion-sickness-hours-delayed-beautifully-scenic-completely-fun bus journeys to the mountains (Anapurna, Everest!), towards the border of india (the birthplace of Buddha!), to beautiful villages far and wide (mountain-peaked sunrises, thousand-step walks, cheap cocktails and momo dinners).

Mountain walks, religious sanctuaries, dinners out, village homestays, national parks, yoga camps, bungee jumping, spiritual havens... our weekends always brought us the unexpected!

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

That is such a difficult question to answer!

I remember walking home for dinner one afternoon and we came across a massive festival in Durbar Square – colours, lights, decorations, dancing... it was huge! There were people everywhere and we just walked straight into a minefield of noise and crowds. And this was Kathmandu, all the time! You’d be wandering along and suddenly you’d come across an area filled with flowers and flags and people.

I think there’s a saying about there being more festivals in Nepal than there are days of the year... there’s always something else to celebrate! It makes for such fun – learning about the cultural significance of each festival, taking part in the celebrations at the orphanage, trying the delicacies and dancing to the music.

That being said... between excursions to the zoo with the orphanage, trekking through the mountains, festival dancing and dinners with the orphanage, shopping in the markets, bus rides to the mountains, cocktails by the lake, herds of goats, baby elephants, soaking in natural hot springs in the mountains... how can I choose just one moment!

Was it difficult to navigate around language barriers?

Yes! Sometimes it really was!

This didn’t hit me quite as much while I was living at the volunteer house – we always had people around to help us with directions, and where to buy certain things, and how to communicate. However, for two weeks we went trekking and stayed in a town called Pokhara (a beautiful lakeside town with views of the mountains) and we realised how hard it could be when we didn’t have our wonderful volunteer-house support crew!

I’d recommend learning about the language and the culture before going to Nepal – not only is it useful, the people appreciate you knowing a few words and taking the effort to have some knowledge. It’s polite, but also interesting and fun!

How has this experience impacted your future?

It’s hard to describe how many ways this experience has impacted my future.

I guess most significantly, my time in Nepal helped me work out my own approach to aid and development. There are so many ways we can help out disadvantaged communities in developing countries – but we can’t expect to be able to interact with everybody, all the time, and assist in every aspect of life.

As someone who wants to work in aid and development, I needed to work out how I could participate to the best of my ability. I’ve decided to study nursing and midwifery – as, I saw so many health issues getting in the way of people leading full lives in Nepal. The rate of morbidity and mortality from preventable disease, unhygienic practice, contaminated water and food sources... it’s simply astronomical in much of the world.

Others may see potential in teaching, or policy development, human rights advocacy, economic development... no field is better than any other! You just need to find where you fit, what you feel passionate about, what you’d love to learn about, and go for it! Once you’ve got skills – any skills at all – you can use them in a positive way.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Clara Shushunov

Job Title
Program Specialist
Clara grew up in Chicago, speaking Russian and some Romanian, then studied International Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fluent in Spanish, she worked in community development in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Bolivia before joining ELI Abroad as program specialist, focusing on placements in Ecuador, México, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina and Peru.
woman eating a coconut

What is your favorite travel memory?

Wow, I have so many amazing memories, and many of them have to do with the times I’ve spent around Granada, Nicaragua, a place I highly recommend. But my most recent favorite was while traveling through Ecuador in January, 2016. I fell in love with the architecture, vibe and the arts in Cuenca, it’s just such a special town. Still, for me, the highlight of Ecuador was Mindo. Hiking through cloud forests and lush green hills, seeing the waterfalls, the amazing wildlife -- it was an unforgettable experience. I’d move to Ecuador in a second, but if I couldn’t live in Mindo, Cuenca would be a close second.

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Ayacucho, in Peru, comes to mind. Not that it is underrated, more like unknown to most international travelers. Peruvian tourists love it, and that’s a good sign.. Most foreign tourists go to Cusco, Lima and of course Machu Picchu, but they miss Ayacucho, which is roughly between Lima and Cusco. And that’s a shame, because Ayacucho has it all: brilliant weather, spectacular churches and cathedrals, amazing religious celebrations, archeological sites, and the natural wonders of the nearby pampas. It’s also a fun, good-sized university town, and ELI has some fabulous programs there. Overrated? Think, tourist trap! Cancun, for example. I advise Mexico travelers avoid it and head to Merida, another place we have volunteer and internship programs.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Two key factors make ELI unique. First, it’s a nonprofit, so automatically, its goals are different and the company is run differently. We’re very small, we keep our overhead very low and we pass our savings to our participants in the form of very low prices. We’re pretty passionate about our programs, and fundraise for some of them, supporting an orphanage in Uganda and earthquake reconstruction efforts in Nepal, for example. Second, our staff may be small, but we’re all super experienced. We’ve traveled to the countries we represent and we know our placements -- which in turn means we can really advise our participants or create an individualized placement to fit their specific goals and skills.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I’ll be honest, I was overwhelmed when I started at ELI. I know a lot about Latin America, but ELI works in 28 countries around the globe, and there was so much to absorb! Our programs run the gamut: from working in women’s empowerment in Peru and a hospital operating room in Uganda, to internships at the National Museum in Ireland, or with an engineering firm in South Africa. So instantly, my focus of the world had to expand. I’ve loved developing personal working relationships with our international in-country coordinators. I’ve heard amazing stories from our participants. There’s no doubt that I have a much broader point of view now, and a deeper understanding of the human experience around the world.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

There’s a wealth of international experience at ELI, and it has extensive connections in the countries it represents. That means we’re uniquely positioned to help prospective interns and volunteers find just the right placement, in just the right country. Whether you’re a college student who’s a novice to international travel, or a seasoned professional who’s been everywhere, ELI can advise you of the options that best fit your needs - or create a custom experience just for you. We like being creative. We once sent a young woman to work for a newspaper in India and then to an elephant camp in Thailand. We’ve sent groups of physical therapy students to Ecuador, nursing students to Vietnam, retired teachers to Poland. I can’t think of anybody we can’t place… well, maybe an agoraphobic.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of your current team.

In April 2015, a huge and deadly earthquake struck Nepal. Luckily, none of the ELI volunteers, coordinators or their families were hurt. Still, we had no choice but to suspend the program, one of ELI’s most popular: with much of Kathmandu in ruins, aftershocks rocking the city, and a severely compromised infrastructure, Nepal was simply too dangerous. The ELI staff revved into action, working nights and weekends to find alternative programs for the dozens of participants slated to travel to Nepal all throughout that summer. We secured new placements and housing for them in Cambodia, India and Thailand. We also began fundraising for the people of Nepal, and organized volunteer rebuilding crews ready to fly into Nepal as soon as it was safe. I can honestly say, our office and our volunteers made a difference in Nepal then, and continue to do so today.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

You can’t help but grin when someone tells you “I’m so glad I took the risk and put myself out there!” or “I met the love of my life at my placement!” (Yup, we’ve heard some good love stories.) We’ve had returning volunteers launch new careers based on their ELI experience. One bought a generator for an orphanage in India where she was volunteering. Another made three separate trips to intern at a hospital in Uganda: when she was a pre-med undergrad, when she was in medical school, and in the last year of her medical residency. Others used their experience to get into grad schools, or got their dream job because of their international background. I can’t say I have a “best story,” but I do have a lot of really good ones.

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