Volunteer in Playa del Carmen

Live an eco-friendly experience in the French countryside with a team of volunteers as you assist with wildlife rescue, natural preservation, and biodiversity projects.


Our volunteer program is aimed at students seeking to learn Spanish, as well as make a social impact. Our volunteer programs give you a global perspective, and the ability to contribute to environmental and ecological conservation by participating at the SOS El Arca Animal Shelter. The first 4 weeks of the program will consist of Spanish classes at the local school, while the last 2 weeks of the program will consist of students volunteering at the SOS El Arca Animal Shelter.

This volunteering opportunity in Playa del Carmen gives students the chance to partake in a program focused on taking care of dogs and cats as they are prepared for adoption. Volunteers are also given the responsibility of handling the cleaning and maintenance of the shelter facilities.

Related: Volunteer in Guanajuato. Learn more here.

About Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The Caribbean is best known for its beautiful beaches, but when you study Spanish in Playa del Carmen, your experience will go far beyond watching the crystalline blue-green sea wash away your footprints in the soft white sand. When you’re not practicing your Spanish with friendly locals in the shade of a palm tree, you can jump into freshwater cenotes, geologic wonders so beautiful you’ll instantly understand why the ancient Maya regarded them as holy places.

When you learn Spanish in Playa del Carmen, a small but lively modern city on the Riviera Maya, you’ll have an infinite world of Mexican wonders to explore.

Mexico - Playa del Carmen Placeholder
Mexico - Playa del Carmen

About the School

Our Spanish school in Playa del Carmen makes the most of the year-round good weather. We have several semi-outdoor classrooms and our enormous tropical garden is a welcoming communal space where students from all over the world can meet, mingle, and practice their Spanish. Hop on the sand volleyball court for an impromptu game between classes, or relax in a colorful hammock. Our outdoor café is perfect for informal study sessions. Plus, the school’s central location puts you just a short walk from downtown and the beach.

School Facilities

  • 16 classrooms, 10 in typical palapas (cabins with thatched roofs) in a tropical garden
  • Library
  • Multimedia center
  • Computers for student use
  • Study tables for laptops
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Kitchen and on-campus café
  • Patio, garden, lounge area with hammocks
  • Outdoor volleyball court
  • 5-10 min. walk to 5 Avenida, Parque Fundadores Beach, 3D Museum of Wonders

About SOS El Arca Animal Shelter

SOS El Arca is an animal shelter and rehabilitation facility. Their mission is to help and save as many dogs as possible from abuse, abandonment, hunger, etc. By rehabilitating and taking care of them as long as necessary until we find them a loving permanent home.

Program Dates & Lengths

The program in Mexico is offered all year round, with the ability to join classes on any Monday. You’ll work with one of our Travel & Study Abroad experts to set your specific dates and duration.

Program Costs

2 weeks

4 weeks

6 weeks

8 weeks

10 weeks

12 weeks








What's Included

Included in the Program Cost:
  • 20 Spanish lessons per week (first 4 weeks of program)
  • Volunteer Program at SOS El Arco Animal Shelter (last 2 weeks of program)
  • 24/7 emergency support
  • Personal program representative
  • Host Family accommodation with half board (breakfast & dinner)
  • Transportation to and from the airport
  • Local assistance
  • Medical insurance
Not included in the Program Cost:
  • Airfare
  • Local transportation
  • Personal expenses
  • Passport fees


Eligible Program Participants Must:
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Volunteer for at least 10 days at SOS El Arco
  • Have a basic knowledge of Spanish
  • No prior experience of taking care of animals is necessary
  • Be in good physical health and motivated
  • Have an interest in learning Spanish, helping animals and immersing yourself in the culture

What to Expect

As a participant of this program, you can expect the following:

  • 20 Spanish language classes per week (approx. 55 minutes each)
  • Placed in classes of no more than 10 students, with the average size being 6 students
  • Free time to explore the city and culture
  • Volunteer for a minimum of 2 weeks at SOS El Arco

Schedule for SOS El Arco Animal Shelter

Volunteers will lend a hand at the SOS El Arca animal shelter for dogs and cats by participating in a variety of activities from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each morning begins with cleaning the dog kennels from 7 to 11 a.m. Volunteers should be aware that they will get dirty and the facilities will have a strong smell from the animals and their waste products. Feeding is organized around midday, and animals are taken on walks in the afternoon.

Application Process

  1. Explore our programs, options and countries to find your best match. 
  2. Complete our interest form and, if applicable, let us know who referred you to us.
  3. Schedule a meeting with one of our Travel & Study Abroad experts.
  4. Submit your application and a $200 application fee. This non-refundable fee will be applied to your overall program costs.
  5. Upon acceptance, you will be required to pay a deposit of 50% of the total program costs, up to $1500. The final payment is due several weeks before your departure. 

Parent FAQs

Moving away from your support network and into a new and unfamiliar environment can be difficult even for the most well-adjusted students. Students with pre-existing mental health conditions may find this adjustment particularly challenging, which could worsen any issues they were previously facing. 

We conduct a thorough screening of all applicants to ensure they are in the right mindset to participate. While the majority of students are eligible to participate, we may not be able to accept students who have recently struggled with mental illness and/or are reliant on medication to treat mental illness in order to protect the student’s well-being. 

Pre-existing mental health conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

For students prepared to take on the challenge, absolutely. It is, however, important to consider a student’s level of maturity prior to the program because it directly impacts their success. 

Ideally, our programs will push students beyond their comfort zone and into what is referred to as their stretch zone. It’s in the stretch zone that learning, growth, and development - along with challenges and risk - occur. 

If a student is not ready and/or willing to move beyond their comfort zone, plunging into a new and unfamiliar environment could actually have an adverse effect and place them in what is referred to as the panic zoneParents should make an honest assessment of their child’s maturity level and understand that study abroad will not fundamentally change their child’s personality or behavior when considering the program.

study abroad stretch zone

While abroad, your child will be fully supported. First, they will receive a personal Program Manager to assist with everything from the initial request to your child’s departure. Then, they will be supported abroad by a dedicated Local Coordinator who will frequently check in on the student and provide monthly progress reports. Your child will have the contact information of their Local Coordinator and can contact them at any time. There is also a 24/7 emergency line managed out of ISE headquarters.

No. Visits of any kind are not allowed during our programs. If you plan to visit your child, you should plan to do so after the program has ended.  

Gap Year FAQs

For students who are unable to travel during the academic year, ISE offers short-term summer programs in select countries. Visit our Summer Program page for more details.

Participants in our summer program options will experience a mix of language classes, cultural immersion, and local excursions.

Our summer program options run from 1-8 weeks. See our Summer Program page for specific dates.

Yes. It’s important to budget for things like cell phone service, excursions, eating out, personal shopping, etc. A fair estimate would be between $300-$400 per month, but it’s a good idea to research where you’d like to go/what you’d like to buy prior to your departure.

General FAQs

ISE’s Travel & Study Abroad Program will take your academic, career, and life opportunities to new levels! College admissions and employers love compelling personal growth stories, and Travel & Study Abroad will supply you with those stories. 

Some of the many benefits of participating in our programs include:

Academic & Career Benefits

  • Stand out during the college admissions process
  • Develop new language skills in an immersive environment
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Identify interests to better select academic & career paths
  • Establish cross-cultural skills
  • Improve academic scores

Personal Benefits

  • Improve personal organization and time management skills
  • Develop a sense of adaptability, independence, and self-reliance
  • Boost self-confidence
  • Learn about new lifestyles
  • Experience new cuisines
  • Make lifelong friends
  • Gain life experience

Since 1982, our nonprofit organization has remained committed to educating future leaders and making a positive, long-lasting impact in communities.

To make cross-cultural experiences accessible to more people, we offer the best pricing available to our participants...and we do so without compromising the quality of the experience or level of support offered

We assign each participant a personal Program Manager, so you’ll receive assistance throughout your entire program experience by someone you know by name. We also provide 24/7 support from our dedicated Student Services Team.

Lastly, the trusted international organizations we partner with have been trained and certified over the course of many years working to provide study abroad programs

The summer abroad experience does lend itself to some very important essays that students write.” Deputy director of admissions for the University of Texas 

A lot of schools, including ours, are looking for a diverse perspective, and international experiences lend themselves to that.” - Admissions Advisor, University of California

Anything that makes your application stand out is a good thing.” - Admissions officer, University of Chicago

Not only does studying outside the United States help build necessary language fluency for all college-bound students, it shows those headed to elite institutions will go outside their comfort zone and expand to meet the challenge. Nothing speaks to the ethics of those institutions quite like a commitment to that kind of excellence and personal achievement.” - Admissions Advisor, New York University

First and foremost, program candidates should be mature, open-minded, and adaptable. Wondering if our Travel & Study Abroad Program is right for you? Check out our article Should You Study Abroad? 8 Signs You’d Make a Great Exchange Student to find out!

During the Academic Year (Visit Our High School Programs Page for Specific Dates)

  • Short Term Option (1-2 months)
  • Trimester and Semester Options
  • Full Year Options

During the Summer (Visit Our Summer Program Page for Specific Dates)

  • Program options from 1-8 weeks

Post-High School Gap Year (Visit Our Gap Year Page for Specific Dates)

  • 12-month program option

For the majority of our programs, you’ll be living with a host family. 

A few of our programs offer boarding schools. In those cases, you will be living with other students in a dormitory.

We offer placements in big cities, medium-sized suburbs, and small towns. For select programs, you can choose the specific location you’d like to stay in for an added fee.  

We don’t include airfare in our pricing because we know that allowing people to shop around for the most competitive rates and convenient airport locations is best. Not to mention you might have frequent flyer miles that you could use towards the purchase of a ticket, why take that opportunity away?

You may see other programs that include flights, but it should be noted that often these flights will cost more than what participants could find on their own and/or depart from less convenient locations.

Yes, pick up and drop-off at the airport is included in all of our programs.

Yes, a travel medical insurance policy is included in the program price for all participants.

To attend a high school you must be sufficiently proficient in the native language of the country you would like to visit, but you don’t have to be fluent. Your language skills will improve quickly once you are culturally immersed! 

Don’t speak another language? Don’t worry - we offer several programs in English-speaking countries.

We try to make the application process as simple as possible. Here are the steps you should follow if you’d like to apply:

  1. Explore our programs, options, and countries to find your best match.
  2. Complete our interest form and, if applicable, let us know who referred you to us.
  3. Schedule a meeting with one of our Travel & Study Abroad experts.
  4. Submit your application and a $200 application fee. This non-refundable fee will be applied to your overall program costs.
  5. Upon acceptance, you will be required to pay a deposit of 50% of the total program cost, up to $1500. The final payment is due several weeks before your departure.

All program fees must be received before departure, usually 6-8 weeks before.    The usual payment schedule is: $200 student application fee, $1500 deposit before your application is forwarded to our partner in the country of choice and a remainder 6-8 weeks before departure.    Personalized installment plans are also available, where a minimum payment is set at $500.    We understand that financing a study abroad program might be challenging for some, therefore we want you to know that we are here to help as much as we can. Please visit our Scholarship and Fundraising pages for additional financing hints.

Minors are not permitted to travel alone or with other minors. You may travel with your host family, local representative, or with a school. Students above 18 years old, must coordinate with their host family and local representative before making any travel plans.

Making the best decision on how to prepare for a trip to another country where different currency is used takes a bit of planning. Besides US dollar banknotes, that you can exchange anywhere in the world, most debit and credit cards are also accepted worldwide. Before leaving the US you should speak to your bank to make sure that you won’t be charged exorbitant international fees. Many banks in the US offer cards with no international or ATM fees. Also, consider inquiring about prepaid cards. Another option might be traveler’s checks that are an alternative to cash and cards. It is not very common that you will be able to open a local bank account to which you could transfer money to. However, since we live in an ever-changing world, you should never disregard this option; we encourage you to inquire about it upon your arrival. Our local representative will always be happy to assist you. Remember, never keep all of your cards and cash in one place.