Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does volunteering cost money?

Volunteer period in a foreign culture is a challenging experience. In order to make the whole experience rewarding for everybody involved, the volunteers, volunteers’ work places and host families are trained before and during the volunteer period. For Finnish volunteers, Maailmanvaihto will organize an orientation training before leaving and a meeting for the returned volunteers after the volunteer work period. An on-arrival training, mid-term evaluation and final evaluation will be organized in the destination country by the local ICYE. The volunteers will also receive help with practical issues, cultural adaptation and possible problem situations during the whole experience. Upkeeping the office will cause expenses. In addition, there will also be expenses from volunteers’ training, application process, communications, insurances and commuting from home to work. In order to ensure the safety of the volunteer programs, ICYE has an international office and board who develop and supervise the ICYE programs and offices around the world. A small amount of the participation fee will be used for the international administration, though the amount from the fees does not cover all the expenses. Maailmanvaihto receives grants, for example, from the Finnish Ministry of Education, which allows Maailmanvaihto to keep the participation fees as minimal as possible. A great deal of ICYE’s activities are carried out by volunteers, who in turn enable the high quality standards with minimal resources.

2. What kinds of grants and scholarships I can get?

Maailmanvaihto grants the Finnish participants scholarships, which are at maximum 500 EUR per participant. The scholarships are granted on the base of the applicant’s economic situation. Some schools grant their students scholarships for volunteering, and it is possible to apply for a grant from several foundations. For Finnish foundations, please see In addition, many newspapers are often interested in well-written articles from the destination countries.

3. Can you become a volunteer if you are over 30 years old?

Most of the African and Asian countries are glad to receive volunteers who are over 30 years of age, and a lot of volunteer work places deeply appreciate the presence of older volunteers. The amount of over 30-year-old volunteers is rising in the ICYE network, though the large majority of volunteers are younger. Every country will receive volunteers from several countries.The volunteers will participate in orientation training, mid-term evaluation and final evaluation, and the people taking part in them are usually under 25 years of age.
Volunteers will work with tasks which per se don’t require any special skills or educational background. In some cases, it is possible to arrange for an adult who already has a lot of experience from working life a task that matches with their occupational skills, if the participant can easily adapt to a foreign cultural environment. However, the tasks will be complementary in the beginning of the volunteer period, especially it the participant doesn’t know the local language fluently. In many countries, especially in South America, the volunteers usually live with a host family.

4. Why should I go for 6 to 12 months instead of a shorter period?

Maailmanvaihto focuses on intercultural learning, which is a lengthy process – that is why all of the volunteer periods last at least 6 months. We encourage all of our participants in choosing the 12-month program, because one year in a foreign culture allows the volunteer to get familiar with the local culture more deeply and gives the receiving community more time to get to know the volunteer. If the volunteering period is less than 6 months, the benefits of the program will remain superficial.

5. Why is it not possible to start in an ICYE program at any time of the year?

The on-arrival training in the destination countries is organized only once or twice a year. The training is a very important part of the experience, as a great deal of information concerning the volunteer’s work and everyday life will be handled in the training. In addition, a language course will be organized together with the training. The volunteer will also meet volunteers from other countries and the local ICYE employees.

6. Why are most of the volunteer work places in social and educational field?

According to our own experience, work in social or educational field is the best way for the volunteer to learn about the local culture and language. Volunteers are most appreciated with children, elderly and disabled, as they can cheer up their everyday life.

7. If I apply for the ICYE program, when do I have to commit to participating?

Everybody who has sent an application will receive an invitation to an interview. If the applicant is accepted in the program, they will receive a confirmation letter after two weeks at the latest. The confirmation letter will contain the participation contract with terms and conditions.

8. When should I pay the participation fee?

When the participant confirms their participation in the program, they are to pay a retainer of 350 EUR. The participant will be sent a payment contract from which the participant can choose whether they want to pay the fee in total or in smaller amounts. The whole participation fee must be paid before the beginning of the volunteer period.

9. Is it possible to volunteer with a friend or a partner?

Yes, in some countries. Maailmanvaihto has sent couples before to India and Nepal. However, Maailmanvaihto has to confirm from the local ICYE office if they can receive a couple.

10. How are the volunteers assigned to their volunteer work places?

The applicant will apply to a certain country. If the applicant is chosen, they will receive the English application papers, in which the participant can state their preferences about what kind of work they would like to do. The receiving ICYE office will complete the final placement on the basis of the participant’s accommodation and work preferences.

11. Is it possible to volunteer in a certain field of work?

If the participant prefers to, it is possible to ask the receiving ICYE for a confirmation of a certain work assignment. In many cases, volunteers have been placed in e.g. social, educational or environmental assignments according to their preferences.

12. What kind of criteria does Maailmanvaihto have for their volunteers?

Maailmanvaihto chooses the participants on the basis of the applicant’s personal suitability. Maailmanvaihto focuses on e.g. openness towards new experiences, resilience, adaptability and motivation. The applicant should have a moderate perception about the nature of volunteer work and the living conditions in the destination. The only formal requirement is a moderate working proficiency in English. It is not required to know the local language, though studying the language spoken in the destination beforehand is encouraged.

13. How many of the applicants usually get accepted in the program?

Often most of the applicants meet the criteria, and usually every participant gets chosen in the program if they apply during the first round (before 11th of November). However, some countries have more applicants than there are volunteer work places. Quite often these countries are South American countries, which is the reason why there usually are few to none South American options available during the second application round in the beginning of the year.