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Service learning

Overview

Service learning is a unique combination of study abroad and community-based volunteer work where participants get to immerse yourself into the local community while developing professional and personal skills. 

At its core, service learning focuses on the local community and their needs. Thus, service learning programs are adaptable to the local community’s settings as well as participants’ backgrounds. 

What makes Service Learning different from Volunteer? It’s the “learning” part. Upon working locally and reflecting from experiences in a structured format, participants gain an understanding of the local community, the social issues faced and approaches to resolve these issues.

Why Service learning with ABROADER

  • Local community as program co-designer. As local ourselves, ABROADER works with local organizations to make sure the programs fit their needs and cultures

  • Immerse in local community to understand context and solve problems

  • Gain hands-on experiences and new skills

  • Grow personally and professionally through structured coaching and reflection sessions

Service Learning: What can I do? 

2 key factors to determine your ideal service learning programs are:

  • Local community’s needs - For example: employment for people with disabilities, education for disadvantaged kids, healthcare for immigrant workers. Ideally you should work for a local community whose needs resonate with your interests.

  • Your skills and backgrounds

At ABROADER, we match students’ interests and skills together with local community’s needs to design the most suitable program. The result is a service learning program where participants contribute real benefits to the local community, leveraging their capacities and interests. 

Interested to be part of a service learning program? Get in touch here.

Service Learning: What it means for Educators?

Service learning offers a unique opportunity to provide your students with a structured environment whereby they can apply classroom knowledge in the real world in a meaningful way. The preparation and reflection proponents facilitate students’ learning and guide their work at the local community. Common goals achieved through service learning programs include: a deeper grasp of the course/ curricular content, a nuanced understanding of the local communities and social issues and an enhanced sense of self-identity and civic responsibility.

ABROADER works closely with educators during the entire process, including:

  • Preparation: Brainstorming the program from course materials, designing program agenda to achieve learning objectives, identifying local community’s needs and key stakeholders

  • During program: Facilitating student’s work and planning process, conducting on-going evaluation of students’ work, facilitating on-going reflections

  • After program: Facilitating assessment of local community, students and teaching objectives, Conducting final evaluation of students’ work

Interested to design a program for your students? Contact us here at apply@abroader.org.

Past projects:

Here is a collection of some of our past service learning projects:

  1. Vun Art


In partnership with Northwestern University’s Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), ABROADER brought together 3 students to work at a social enterprise named Vun Art. “Vun” means “scrap” in Vietnamese, and true to its name, Vun Art turns silk scraps into beautiful silk paintings and provides employment for people with disabilities. Nested inside Van Phuc Silk Village  - Vietnam’s 1,200-year-old silk making legacy, Vun Art is working closely with the villagers to bring sustainability and economic empowerment to the locals through recycling and sustainable tourisms. 

In its early stage, Vun Art lacks the human resources to develop business and marketing plans. ABROADER brought together 3 Northwestern students and 2 Vietnamese local buddies. Together with backgrounds in Economics, English and Journalism, the team devised a complete business plan for year 2019 and revamped Vun’s website to make it more user-friendly to international customers.

  1. Dream Seed Center

Dream Seed Center (also known as “Nghi Luc Song”) is a social center with the mission of supporting and assisting people with disabilities integrate better into society through a variety of trainings and activities. The center wanted to open a public library to serve its students and the public in the neighborhood. In summer 2019, more than 20,000 books were donated, however, there was a lack of human power and expertise on how to set up a library.

During the program, a group of 3 Northwestern students and 2 ABROADER’s local buddies set up an online, bi-lingual library management system. Over the course of 2 months, they sorted and inputted more than 10,300 books into the system. To ensure its sustainability, the team also created a detailed bi-lingual guide to manage the system and trained 2 volunteers that would later manage the physical library at the center.

  1. iSEE

The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) is an NGO that promotes the rights of minority groups in Vietnam. Under the theme of Gender Justice and in response to recent incidents in Vietnam, iSEE ran a project focused on the topic of Gender-based violence victims. 

In summer 2019, a group of 3 Northwestern students and 1 ABROADER’s local buddy joined the project at iSEE at its early stage. The team soon learned that the topic was little researched or even written about due to social taboos and lack of data. With a background in sociology and passion for human rights, they came up with the idea of creating a guidebook that documents case study and includes steps that Gender-based violence victims and confidants can take when going through such trauma. The guidebook is the first of its kind to be written on this topic and published in Vietnam.


  1. Myoko

Myoko is a group of kindergartens for children with autism in Vietnam. One of the few special education centers in Hanoi, Myoko has been helping hundreds of children with special needs learn and gain confidence every year. 

As part of the service learning program, 3 American students were placed at Myoko. They supported the teachers during classes as they built their own knowledge of working with Vietnamese children with autism. After that, they identified areas that can be improved and came up with 3 different initiatives using their backgrounds. One student majoring in Engineering suggested a better sound-proof material for the classes and later helped the center install them. Another issue identified is that a few of the kids were having trouble relaxing during lunch break and knowing when they need to go to the bathroom. Using her medical knowledge, the public health students researched on practices to teach autistic kids in the West and suggested a few solutions that Myoko’s teachers can apply. The other students used her writing and social media skills to help promote the center’s fund-rasing flea market. 

In general, I am satisfied with the Internship Service provided by ABROADER before I came to Vietnam. My host family placement exceeded my expectations. My host mother and father were all very friendly and helpful; they really made me feel at home. My local buddy Linh, even though she lived 2 hours away, she still made efforts in taking me on day-trips that catered to my interest in Vietnamese Cuisine. I contacted ABROADER for the Culinary Internship in Vietnam on my own and and given the amount of money and time I will be investing, it was extremely important for me to feel that I can trust ABROADER Vietnam. My host for the internship was Ngon Villa Restaurant. The host company staffs were very friendly and welcoming, one chef at the restaurant was in charge of my internship. However, due to perhaps unforeseeable needs in the company, my supervisor was not able to spend more than a day with me. ABROADER Vietnam found an excellent opportunity for internship in Vietnam for me; however, the host company was not able to fully deliver the experience I was looking for.

Jinhua Zhang

Culinary Internship ,City College of San Francisco, USA

Vietnam, from my experience, is a very work-oriented and relationship-oriented country. You must come prepared to work a lot, learn a lot, and you absolutely must not try to apply the logic or expectation that you would have in the West. This will do little to nothing to help you and will hinder your ability to learn. Come here with the mindset of a student, not an authoritative figure. There is much to learn in Vietnam that will be very valuable to you wherever you work or live, and it is important that you come to Vietnam with an open and unexpecting mind, so that when you go home you will have been able to learn, enjoy and apply your experiences to your future in a positive way. Come to Vietnam with the ability to motivate and add value to people’s lives. Set an example for people, and remember that you are at all times representing you country, university and culture, so make an impression that will stand out as a positive one. Make friends as much as possible and when you can try to study the language as much as possible, even if it is just the language that relates to your job. Doing these two basic things will make living and working here quite enjoyable.

Jack Sherpa

Hospitality & Tourism Internship ,University of Oregon, USA

This internship in Vietnam with SEND offers me just that and I am grateful for the experience to teach, make friends and be in Vietnam. I’ve always wanted to become an educator but I often feel like the teachers in Japan lack the international and cultural experience to make lessons more interactive. I try to allow myself the chance of going to another country, experience another culture and become a better-equipped teacher.

So Sadamoto

Education Internship ,Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan

I feel pretty satisfied with my internship journey as it increased my self confidence and my ability to cope with unfamiliar situations. It also further developed my interpersonal communication skills when working with co-colleagues. I did my internship in Chemizol/Culligan Water Vietnam under the supervision and guidance of Chris, who is a very nice person and always cares about me. Besides that, my internship in Vietnam has expanded my curiosity of the world and at the same time gained a greater understanding of my home cultural identity. I wish I could have more time to go to different factories so that I could contact customers and analyze samples. Overall, my 6-week internship is so great!

Bin Zhou (Ryan)

International Technical Business Development Internship ,University of Queensland, Australia

The study tour was a fantastic program full of cultural and fun experiences in both Vietnam and Singapore. Before the trip both of these places had been on my travel list, so when the opportunity for this trip came up I couldn't say no and I'm so glad that I did it. The buddies, the people I travelled with and the organisers made the trip even better. Industries in both countries were super helpful and our visits to these factories was one of the highlights. Networking with these companies, the food, cultural exposure, the people and the organisers made it a beautiful way to study our university course!! The most unfamiliar food that I tried was definitely chicken feet! Sugar cane drinks were also unusual but they tasted awesome! Thank you!!!!

Jared Haysman

Electrical Engineering and Computing Study Tour ,University of Newcastle, Australia

Overall the people have exceeded my expectations, and they are really what’s going to help make my experience in Vietnam a great one. I’ve always loved leaving my country (the US) and having new experience, so I wanted to do an internship abroad. Having already spent a semester in Europe, I wanted something really different. My mom was born in Saigon and lived there before coming to the United States with her family. So I felt like a good way to get in touch with my culture and my roots would be to spend three months living and working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In my internship in Vietnam, I have helped with various marketing efforts by giving ideas or designing things. I have learned that, of course, there is a different way of doing business here compared to the United States. Things are run differently, there’s a different office culture, there are just always many cultural differences to keep in mind when doing business in a different country, and Vietnam has not been an exception. The people ABROADER have set me up with have been beyond wonderful. Coming to Vietnam on my own seemed very daunting and intimidating, but ABROADER has helped make the transition smooth and seamless. They helped take care of everything I would need during my time here and have gone above and beyond to assure that things continue to go smoothly. I am very appreciative of their support, and it makes the whole thing a little less scary. My local buddies have been so helpful for everything, and I really feel like they are becoming genuine friends. I am generally pretty shy, so it was nice to have friends before even arriving to help introduce me to more people and get me out there. Overall the people have exceeded my expectations, and they are really what’s going to help make my experience in Vietnam a great one.

Natasha Nguyen Mohney

Marketing Internship ,Indiana University, Bloomington, USA

The experience of doing an internship in Vietnam certainly was not easy for me but I have no doubt that it was tremendouly valuable. At first, I actually had a lot of culture shocks, for example, sometimes it was hard to communicate with Vietnamese people because not a lot of people speak English and some had very strong accent. However, Vietnamese people were very kind to me and took well care of me especially the host family and program coordinator. I realized that it’s difficult to understand another culture but it’s also really necessary to accept other culture, their life and their way of thinking. At the hotel where I did my internship, I could learn a lot of things. For example, I learnt how to communicate politely with customers, how to make them satisfied and how to manage the hotel. Everyone from the supervisor to my co-workers was helpful and accommodating, I was included in all the daily meetings and the supervisor was very open to share her knowledge about hotel management which was really helpful to my future work. I really had a good experience in Vietnam. I appreciate the people I’ve met and the experience I’ve had. This is going to be very useful in the future. Thank you ABROADER Vietnam so much for the valuable opportunity to learn about my field of work in your beautiful country!

Kaoru Mori

Hospitality Internship ,Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, Japan

For the past 5 months, ABROADER has helped ensure that everything is smooth-sailing for the duration of my internship. From landing in Vietnam till my return trip to Singapore. My transport pick-up from the airport and accommodation were already well-planned and I settled down comfortably. However, a problem I encountered was language barrier. Only a small portion of Vietnamese is able to converse in English or Chinese. Fortunately, basic Vietnamese lessons were provided to us by ABROADERs before we ventured alone. Beside the above mentioned, a booklet filled with contacts, places to go and common Viet phrases were also provided. The agents were really passionate and tried their best to meet my needs and hear my concerns. I would like to specially mention Mia and Kasia for going the extra miles.

Eurry Ning

Scrum Master Internship ,Republic Polytechnic, Singapore

I would say that it is best for people who are trying to learn outside of their own country. I had a wonderful time spending time by learning their culture, exploring places that you have been before. Getting to know well how to be responsible once in a while. Learning the language was a little tough but was able to understand with the help of the local buddies. The working environment in Vietnam is actually pretty good. The food was quite interesting to me as most of the people like seafood instead of poultry. Overall, I would say people need to visit these places to understand more about the world where their own country is not only a place to gain opportunities. In your life, this might be a chance to give it a shot if you get this opportunity.

Sunil Bharat

Aeroplan Engineering Internship ,Republic Polytechnic, Singapore

I am thankful to God that my daughter had an opportunity to be in Vietnam for 3 months through ABROADER. She stayed with a host family for a month and half and was able to learn a lot about the culture and the food. She loved her host family and misses them. Then she had traveled to Hanoi and worked with ABROADER. The staff was very friendly, caring, and hospitable. After 3 months in Vietnam, I had noticed the changes in my daughter about her outlook of life. She is no longer as much of a picky eater and her compassion and understanding of the Vietnamese people, the culture, and the food has greatly increased. I believe that this experience has helped her grow fast in her journey of life. Thanks ABROADER!!

Maryann Mohney

Marketing Internship ,Natasha Mohney’s mother