Updated: Apr 4
International volunteering or study abroad programs are an exciting and valuable way to combine career development with adventure and discovery!
This guide will help you understand and access funding opportunities, optimise an application plus a useful list of grants and funding currently available.
Why does funding for international placements exist?
International volunteer programs or study abroad placement allow volunteers, students or researchers to benefit from many different skills and experiences they would otherwise be unable to access, It is also a great way to promote international cooperation.
For this reason, there are a variety of different travel grants and initiatives that exist to help and support with funding.
From government-backed policy, university funded study abroad placements to charities or even banks. These grants exist and recognise the importance of the skill exchange international volunteer placements, study programs or research initiatives provide.
How to fund a volunteer abroad program or study placement
Finding funding for a volunteer abroad placement, study placement, internship, research opportunity or even gap year program depends on various considerations. Are you applying for a travel grant from the UK, US, Europe or elsewhere in the world? How old are you? Are you in full-time education? What's your financial income? Do you have sector or industry experience? What sort of projects are you wanting to work on?
A full-time business student from Costa Rica compared to a part-time teacher in Canada would have different travel grants available to fund a placement. Search and research around your circumstance and the sort of placement you're hoping to access.
Have a look at the top grants currently available to get your search started!
Be mindful of the eligibility requirements with each potential grant or funding opportunity. The more effort you put into understanding what's available, the better chance you'll have of finding one that suits you.
Applying for a travel grant and funding for a volunteer, research or a university study placement
You've found a grant or funding that suits your situation and conditions. It's an opportunity you know is a good fit, you meet its eligibility requirements, understand its goal or purpose and know you'll contribute well towards it... It's a match, congratulations!
Now you need to apply for the grant.
What is a grant? A grant is ultimately a sum of money that you are asking to receive from "someone": government, business, organisations, individuals or otherwise.
Although these "someones" have stated they are willing to provide the right person funding their budget isn't infinite so will want to make sure thats you. Most have an application process to ensure they are giving funds appropriately, when applying you'll likely have to give evidence and justification you should be considered for a grant.
Evidence and justification
Let's use Hamba Africa's grants and scholarships as an example grant.
You're hoping to receive the grant to take part in our Long-Term Wildlife Volunteer placement. This grant is available for those wanting to gain experience related to ecology, environmental sciences or conservation as part of their career ambitions or studies.
This grant is also available to support those from a low-income background.
Evidence: This grant's application needs proof an individual has "career ambitions or is studying in this area". An applicant could use documentation showing enrolment in an educational course or degree, an email or reference from someone in an official capacity advocating the applicant's position, or a copy of a contract from an existing or historic role of employment (or volunteer position) showcasing involvement in the sector this grant relates to.
Evidence needs to show beyond a reasonable doubt "the applicant's claims are truthful".
Justification: Give a clear justification explaining why you are eligible based on the application criteria and what and how you hope to gain and contribute.
The more descriptive and communicative you are, the more likely the individual reviewing your application will understand your request and ultimately mean a greater chance of approval. Showcase your history, skills or experience and how they will relate to project goals or placement conditions.
Writing an application letter or statement
Let's use Hamba Africa's grants and scholarships as an example again, we're also going to create an imaginary student to serve as a hypothetical situation.
Maria is a female university student from the UK, she's studying geography and is in her first year. She's hoping to receive a grant to take part in our placement to gain skills relevant to her study curriculum.
As part of her grant application she has to explain what she hopes to gain from the opportunity, here's what she said:
"I'm a first year studying geography at university level, as part of my first year I'm required to complete 5 weeks of practical experience. The projects included in your wildlife volunteer placements would be an ideal learning opportunity for me, particularly the ecological surveying of vegetation and animal populations.
As part of my university course, I've completed various modules on surveying and am familiar with different methodologies and principles. I am confident I would be able to perform the work as required and would really benefit from being able to apply my theoretical knowledge in a practical setting."
Maria has clearly explained:
- Her current position, studying related to the environment (so meeting grant criteria).
- An understanding of project goals and how her current ability supports them.
- How the grant would support and benefit her making it a worthwhile investment.
When writing any statement or application request, be clear and relevant to the grant criteria and eligibility!
The best funded travel grants, study abroad and research placements
Here's a list of examples of grants and funding available, some are for volunteer placements and travel abroad programs as well as study abroad and research initiatives:
UK funding for travel grants, volunteer or study abroad placements
Turing Scheme - This UK based funding for travel and study abroad placements. Open to university students helping cover the cost of study abroad placement, international internships or volunteer projects between 4 weeks to 12 months. Turing Scheme grants are typically applied for via universities themselves, you'll need to talk to your university departments who will advise you on the application process.
Hamba Africa's placements receive volunteers and university students who join us through a funded Turing scheme placement. If you're unsure if your university has Turing schemes available or need advice on how to apply, contact our team for support.
The British Council - The British council provides a variety of grants focused on specific sectors or goals including film and videography to research and lab work. Available grants and grant goals change with time so keep an eye out here!
Santander - Santander is a banking institution that works with over 70 universities in the UK to provide additional funding to students looking to travel internationally as part of their studies. Find out more and which universities they work with here: Santander
The Churchill Fellowship - A charity focused on issues that benefit British society, offering funding for international placements and research that support this goal.
The Charles Wallace Trust - A charity and trust that provides support for those wishing to study in the UK from India, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Backed by the UK government, council and universities. View it here.
UK Research and Innovation - Focused on engineering and physical research, grants allowing international research exchange, equipment and project development.
Arts Hub - A multitude of art and creative grants and awards allowing people to gain access into international theatrical industry, music, art and other creative sectors.
British Ecological Society - Grants and funding available for graduates and research associates allowing you to access new training or develop research projects.
European funding for travel grants, volunteer or study abroad placements
Schwarzkopf Foundation - Yearly travel grants for EU citizens focusing on political and social issues within Europe, view their site to see their newest announced grants.
Cultural Services French Embassy & United states - French international study abroad grants, travel grants and internships with the united states support a variety of different funded opportunities to gain skills and experience.
IMRO Travel Grants - Irish travel grants giving funded travel and financial support to musicians in Ireland to support their career or training.
Amsterdam University Fund - Travel grants and funding for a study abroad placement or internship in Holland at the University of Amsterdam. Open to undergraduate and graduate students.
US funding for travel grants, volunteer or study abroad placements
University based grants - Similar to the UK and EU, US universities and colleges offer a variety of grants and support for students looking to take part in placements related to their studies. From the University of Washington to Columbia Climate School. If you're enrolled at a US-based university, talk to your faculty to determine what opportunities are open to you.
Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) - Providing American based citizens studying at university or college to access international travel placements through funded scholarships. Sponsored by the US Department of State, if you are studying or looking to pursue a career in languages, see how you could gain a placement internationally.
Templeton Foundation - This organisation provides funding and grants for research in a variety of fields. With billions of dollars given to date, to request funding you will have to present an application into the area of research you want to pursue along with a proposal. Ideal for graduates in the STEM field looking to pursue a societally beneficial research.
Boren Awards - With various grants at various lengths available, you can apply for a grant for shorter-term placements known as a scholarship relevant to your field of study or for long-term grants as a Boren fellowship to pursue research and language based focused work.
Hamba Africa scholarships and grants
To support Hamba Africa's goals of educating and training the next generation of conservationists, we provide funding and support to international travel through our grants.
As mentioned above, our grants are open to anyone looking to pursue a career in conservation or from a low income household and would be unable to join us.
Visit our scholarship page here to find out more and apply.