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Experiential Learning Programs

Beyond studying abroad, students have opportunities to do experiential programs, like internships, service-learning, and research abroad.

Experiential programs offer you the opportunity to engage more closely with the local community and learn more about business and organization norms of that culture. Additionally, since an internship or service-learning experience can enhance your résumé, it may better prepare you for success after graduation. 


Some international programs are designed to combine traditional study abroad and an experiential learning component. For example, some semester abroad students take both classes and participate in an internship while abroad. Internships have separate applications, prerequisites, and GPA requirements from the university you are applying to abroad. In most cases, the internships are set up by the affiliate partner, and include an in-country interview to establish the exact internship placement on-site.

Students also have the option of going abroad and only doing an experiential learning program. For example, some summer students just intern at a company or organization for 6 to 12 weeks, and many programs are designed where you can earn college credit for doing so. It’s important to note that international summer internships are nearly always unpaid, due to the type of visa you receive before departure (students are not given a work visa through these programs).  

An international internship is a great way to build your résumé and show employers that you can work in a diverse and challenging environment. Other benefits and skills that can be enhanced while interning abroad include:

  • Improved communication skills 
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to handle ambiguity 
  • Respect and understanding for different world views 
  • Improved problem-solving skills 
  • Enhanced language skills 
  • Increased self-confidence and independence 
  • Network with professionals in your field around the world 

Additionally, students who are doing a LEAD Concentration at Drake can complete an international internship as part of the LEAD 190 course requirements. 


Global Service-Learning is a form of experiential education that combines immersion in a global context, service, academic learning, and ongoing reflection while meeting a relevant community-identified need. You can further grow your intercultural competence while interacting with the local community during a transformational and dynamic global experience. Global Service-Learning opportunities are available through both short-term or semester-long study abroad programs.

Past travel seminar destinations with a service-learning component include: 


International Environmental Seminar: Sustainable Development, Poverty, and Conservation in Belize

This seminar in Belize will enable students to gain an appreciation of the ecological and social aspects of sustainable development through an intense immersion experience in a southern Belize. Students will explore aspects of sustainable development and environmental justice, while engaging in a series of service learning projects and excursions that vary from year to year.

Service-learning projects have included:

  • Reforestation—planting trees
  • Researching perceptions of lionfish, which includes creating a questionnaire, interviewing locals and tourists, analyzing results, and designing awareness materials
  • Beach clean up 

"Over the entire experience in Belize, I found myself learning at every moment. From the information shared with us to my own observations, it is easy for me to understand why Belizeans want to conserve and protect their land." —Devon Jacobs, course participant

New York

Explorations of Urban Poverty

The class spends one week serving with Youth Service Opportunity Project (YSOP) and explores issues of urban poverty in the five different New York City boroughs. Students serve at organizations that provide cooked meals to the homeless, food pantries, and an organization that provides services such as day care for mothers who are or were incarcerated.

Some quotes from students who have gone on the trip:

“When I got home, people asked me about my trip but I did not describe the class.  I did not describe the service I did or the activities we did as a class.  I described how it has changed my life and view point on the homeless”

“This service trip was not about the minor impact we made on a few organizations or the less fortunate we helped for a few hours.  It was about humbling ourselves and interacting with these people, whom we soon realized were very much like us”

“By making eye contact, I can tell a person who may feel invisible that they are seen, even when language acts as a barrier…I learned today that your body language is often heard as clear as spoken language and sometimes your tone is more important than your words”

“This trip made me want to further my involvement in the community and to continue my learning about these issues in our community.  This class has opened my eyes to not what I can do as an active citizen as in my community but all the factors that are cause poverty”

“Today’s service was a great teaching moment for me and gave me a minor epiphany.  I realized that service [organizations] that fed or clothed people weren’t going to solve poverty.  They are just a band-aid on a much larger issue.  What these organizations can strive towards is bringing a little happiness, hope, and dignity to the people they are serving.  They can do this by simply treating them as fellow human beings, by looking them in the eye and acknowledging their humanity.”


Sustainable Development in Africa

This travel seminar is designed to introduce students to the challenges faced by African countries as they become increasingly integrated into a global world.  Students attending Makerere University Business School (MUBS) join Drake University students for three weeks in Uganda.  Students will critically assess the challenges faced by the citizens in Uganda while the country attempts to achieve sustainable economic development. The course includes a significant service-learning component and students have the opportunity to work with faculty to design a tailored experience based upon their area of interest.

Service-learning projects have included:

  • Working with a health center, providing health information and interviewing community members on services they use and need for future planning
  • Visiting water catchment projects to develop grant proposals for water distribution systems at each location
  • Developing curriculum for a program at a secondary school that is focused on empowering more young girls in Uganda
  • Through a partnership with the Iowa chapter of Days for Girls, providing girls with reusable feminine hygiene products and looking to partner with the local community to produce and sell the kits in Uganda
  • Job shadowing at a local hospital
  • Fundraising for a braille printer for a local organization and developing a business model to help the organization use the printer as a revenue source to cover maintenance and materials after the printer has been acquired