Frequently Asked Questions Topics
- About the Program
- Application & Selection Process
- Living Arrangements
- Health & Wellbeing
- Post Placement
- Work Culture & Expectations
- Fellow Support & Professional Development
About the Program
How long is the program?
The Global Community Fellowship is a 13-15 month program for recent university graduates and experienced professionals. Fellows work at NGOs, schools, universities, and social enterprises across Asia to support community development, capacity-building, and education.
What makes the VIA program unique?
VIA has six decades of experience in Asia. Our Fellows join a community that spans our history and is focused on providing the support necessary to create positive change on the ground in Asia. Our participants are able to stay connected to a group of like-minded individuals throughout their careers. VIA also provides opportunities to contribute to meaningful impact in local organizations in areas that most other exchange organizations don’t have access to. By working directly with communities, Fellows get hands-on experience learning how organizations in Asia are using creative and innovative methods to address critical social challenges.
What is the relationship between the Global Community Fellowship and VIA’s other programs?
VIA’s programs are intentionally designed to connect and scaffold with the bigger picture goal of cultivating aspiring social impact leaders and empowering organizations in creating meaningful change in their communities. The Global Community Fellows play a critical role by supporting VIA’s partners in accomplishing their social impact missions and serving as a bridge to connect partners with the wider VIA network. Fellows may also have the opportunity to support VIA’s short-term Explorer programs, which serve as introductory experiential learning opportunities for students and starting professionals to explore social issues and build intercultural competency, and Accelerator programs for teams and organizations seeking training and support to develop a new social impact project or initiative in their local community. VIA facilitates several of these programs independently every year, but may also collaborate with our partners, including some GCF posts, to offer these programs to their students, employees, or community members.
Do I have to have teaching experience to teach English?
While Fellows work on a wide range of projects, teaching and facilitation are often involved to varying degrees, depending on the post. For those whose primary role is teaching English, prior teaching experience, Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) certification, or a strong desire to teach is very helpful.
What will I do as a VIA Fellow?
Most VIA Fellows serve as either an English teacher or an NGO staff member. Some posts will involve a combination of teaching and NGO work. Teaching in some capacity may be included in Fellows’ responsibilities to ensure they meet certain visa requirements.
Primarily English teaching posts are typically universities, colleges, or college readiness programs. Fellows are often responsible for creating lesson plans and teaching courses as varied as speaking, writing, literature, business English, or film. No previous teaching experience is required.
VIA’s NGO partners include local nonprofits, community-based organizations, and social enterprises. Fellow duties could include editing journal articles, helping with grant reports, community outreach, event planning, or supporting fieldwork. Some Fellows may also tutor their co-workers in spoken and written English.
I am really interested in the history of this program. I love that it was an option for conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War and I would love to learn more about that.
VIA began in 1963 when Dwight Clark, then Stanford’s Dean of Freshman Men, organized a summer project with Stanford University students. The students assisted programs serving Chinese refugees in Hong Kong through rooftop schools, medical clinics, recreation programs, and road building. The summer reshaped many of these students’ personal and professional goals. They so valued the benefits of their cross-cultural experience that they recruited other students for similar projects. In 1966, the program was incorporated under the name Volunteers in Asia, now VIA.
In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, student participation in VIA programs was shaped by the Vietnam War. VIA then created two-year positions for conscientious objectors seeking “alternative service” opportunities in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.
By the end of the Vietnam War, VIA was offering two-year opportunities to graduates and professionals, and short-term posts to undergraduates. It had also extended its programs to students outside Stanford. In 1980, a China program was added to continuing programs in Indonesia and Taiwan. In 1990 VIA volunteers began serving in Vietnam, and in 1992, Thailand. Today, VIA offers a year-long Global Community Fellowship, which places recent university graduates and professionals with partner schools and NGOs in East and Southeast Asia. VIA also facilitates short-term programs for US and Asian high school and university students from many of the same countries.
Application and Selection Process
Who can become a VIA Fellow?
VIA program participants range in age from 21 to 70 and come from many different walks of life. Interest in Asia and cultural immersion bring a diverse group of Fellows together. Candidates must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Be able to read, write, and converse clearly at a professional level in English (English does not need to be your first language).
- Be a US citizen, permanent resident, or have significant experience in the US (e.g., graduated from a university, worked several years in the US, etc.).
- Have completed at least a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) by the time of departure.
VIA does not require any specific educational background, prior language training, teaching or overseas experience, but these experiences are extremely helpful. Some posts may have additional specific requirements.
Should the Statement of Purpose essay focus on interests and qualifications for a specific post(s), or should it focus on the VIA Global Fellowship Program more generally?
In the Statement of Purpose, it’s helpful to know the applicant’s motivations and intent in applying to the program generally, although applicants are welcome to mention specific posts that they are interested in, as well as locations and types of work, as they relate to the applicant’s motivations.
Are interviews held virtually or in-person?
The interviews have been conducted virtually since 2016, usually using a video conference platform like Zoom or Skype. Recognizing that applicants may be in a range of different timezones, VIA staff try to have a variety of times available outside normal US Pacific Time working hours.
Regarding the optional video, how does including (or not including) a video impact the assessment of applications? What if an applicant doesn’t have good equipment or much experience in video production?
It doesn’t hurt your application to not submit a video. About half of applicants generally submit videos, and many are videos that were already made for another purpose. A video works best for sharing additional content that is supplemental to the application (rather than a reiteration), providing a different perspective to help us get to know the applicant better, and when the subject matter is something that can be conveyed better through video.
What is the purpose of the different interview rounds?
The interview format has evolved over time, but currently there are two interview rounds with VIA staff.
The first round is primarily intended to assess the candidates’ overall fit with the program. It’s important that candidates will not only work well with their counterparts at their host organization, but will also be active, supportive members of their cohort and the larger VIA community. These interviews have been conducted as group interviews since 2018, where candidates are asked to review and discuss a prompt. Many applicants have commented that, while initially the idea of a group interview was a bit intimidating, they really enjoy the discussion and it doesn’t feel like an interview.
The second round is an individual interview more targeted towards the candidate’s specific qualifications, as well as goals, interests, and fit with potential placements. VIA is usually able to confirm with partners which posts will be available for the upcoming cycle by this time, so the goal of the second round is to identify candidates to recommend for each post (some candidates may be shortlisted for multiple posts).
There may be additional interviews scheduled for finalists with their potential posts, depending on the preferences and availability of the host organizations.
Do you accept late applications?
We set a priority application deadline for each cycle (usually late October / early November), after which we begin the application screening and interview process. We do continue to accept applications after the priority deadline and review them on a case-by-case basis until all placements are filled. In the past, we have selected Fellows from among candidates who submitted their applications after the priority deadline. We also keep applications on file for a year and will contact applicants at the beginning of the next cycle to ask if they would like to be considered. Individuals who submitted an application in the previous year will have the opportunity to update their application and resubmit it for the next cycle.
What is the living situation like?
The living situation will be dependent on the specific post. Some posts will provide housing (e.g. in a guest house or on-campus housing), and some posts will provide Fellows with a stipend to secure their own housing. Some housing arrangements will not have kitchens available to cook your own meals.
Is it possible to live in private (not shared) accommodation?
Fellows should have their own private room but may have accommodations where common areas are shared with other people (e.g. a multi-room guest house or dormitory).
Can my family visit or stay with me during my post?
Family and friends can of course visit you during your Fellowship, but your specific housing arrangement may not make it feasible to have them stay in your home. Speak with your post supervisor about what would be most appropriate.
Health and Wellbeing
How will my healthcare costs be covered while I am on the program?
VIA will provide you with supplemental travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation insurance, and political/natural disaster evacuation coverage. Travel insurance will only cover you while you are abroad, so it is recommended that you maintain your own private health insurance in your home country for times when you may return home during your Fellowship year. In addition, some countries will require you to enroll in their national health insurance.
How does VIA support the mental health of Fellows?
Fellows will have 24/7 access to mental health counselors through a remote service called My SSP. In addition, Fellows have regular check-in calls with VIA staff and their post supervisors to not only discuss project progress but reflect on their wellbeing while abroad.
Can I bring a pet with me?
While it may be possible to bring a pet to your host country, please keep in mind that some countries impose fees, health certifications, and lengthy quarantine periods to bring in an animal from overseas. In addition, your specific housing arrangements may not be able to accommodate animals.
I have specific dietary needs – will I be able to find appropriate food options while abroad?
While this will depend on your dietary needs and the region where you are working, we have had many Fellows in the past who follow vegetarian, halal, or other restricted diets. Some housing arrangements will not have kitchens available to cook your own meals. Your predecessor can be a great resource for specific dining recommendations!
What environmental hazards should I be aware of?
Different regions of the world are susceptible to weather conditions and natural phenomena with which you might not be familiar – for example, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, mosquito-borne diseases, monsoons, and extreme temperatures. It is best to do research beforehand and prepare for the unexpected. Some regions may also have man-made challenges such as heavy smog or burning seasons. Review the US State Department advisories regarding potential travel risks in foreign countries.
What are the expectations of VIA Fellows in countries/regions where there is political unrest, protests, etc?
Safety is always a concern for VIA. VIA is in constant communication with our partners to assess what is happening on the ground and the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the Fellows. All Fellows and short-term participants are provided with comprehensive medical and evacuation insurance. Our home office and in-country staff regularly follow State Department warnings. In case of emergencies such as political upheaval, natural disaster, or illness, VIA has emergency and evacuation plans in place.
What are the financial repayment options for students who have significant student loans? Will the fellowship provide a basis for income-driven repayments?
Fellows should contact their loan servicer to discuss specific repayment options. Fellows often enroll in income-driven / income-based repayment plans or deferment during their Fellowship.
How much do Fellows receive in funding, and how is the amount determined?
Fellow per diems vary from country to country and city to city depending on the cost of living. Fellows may receive from $200 to $800 per month, depending on the local cost of living. The per diem is comparable to that of a local salary and allows you to live comfortably at a local level. The exact amount will be stated in the placement offer letter sent to selected candidates.
What expenses are covered by the Fellowship?
- Approximately three weeks of training, covering program management, cross-cultural communication, leadership development, local language lessons, and teacher training. If held in-person, lodging, local transportation, and some meals will be covered.
- Comprehensive emergency medical and evacuation insurance
- Living and housing stipend (based on local cost of living) while working at your post
- Intra-Asia travel from training to your post and wrap-up conference, if these are offered in-person
- Language study grants
What out-of-pocket expenses should I expect to cover?
- Vaccinations (cost will depend on individual insurance)
- Costs related to health quarantine
- Initial visa costs ($150-$300, depending on country)
- Roundtrip airfare to/from Asia (usually around $2,000)
- Meals and optional activities during training and conference, if held in-person ($300-$500)
- Personal travel while at post or after Fellowship has ended
Are there options for outside funding?
We encourage Fellows to research external funding opportunities. Some funding opportunities require academic enrollment, which may be an option for someone enrolled in a graduate program but deferring a year to complete the Fellowship, for example.
What is the best way to utilize a Fellow’s per diem?
Estimate your monthly costs and stick to a budget. We recommend Fellows discuss expected costs with their post and predecessors.
How should I prepare for unexpected costs?
We recommend Fellows have at least $1000-2000 for emergency use. Most medical expenses, for example, will need to be paid out-of-pocket and then the Fellows will be reimbursed after submitting a claim.
How are candidates paired with respective Fellowship options?
The Fellowship selection is essentially a three-step process:
- First, VIA screens applicants to ensure 1) they meet basic eligibility criteria, 2) their interests and motivations align with the Fellowship’s goals, 3) they are sufficiently prepared to live and work in a cross-cultural context, and 4) they will actively contribute to – and benefit from – the community and culture VIA aims to nurture in its programs and as part of a greater global network of participants, partners, and collaborators.
- Second, VIA consults extensively with our partners to clearly understand their needs and identify any unique skills or competencies that might be required for a Fellow to be successful at their institution.
- Finally, we conduct an in-depth review of all candidates to determine an alignment between the post’s needs and the candidates’ interests and goals.
How soon will I leave after being selected?
Fellowship placements are typically finalized at least 3 months prior to departure to ensure enough preparation time for both the Fellow and the post. Exact work start dates vary by post.
How many Fellows are sent to each post?
Most posts only have one Fellow. There are a few posts that have accepted more than one Fellow. In those cases, Fellows are typically working in the same department / in a similar capacity but might be working on different projects.
Can friends and couples join together?
VIA may be able to accommodate friends and couples wanting to join together, but we aren’t able to guarantee any particular arrangements. Some of our posts have the capacity for more than one Fellow. Other posts are close enough for Fellows to see each other frequently. Because not all posts are available each year, it is important to speak with VIA staff if you feel strongly about being posted together.
Will I be in a rural or urban community?
VIA has posts in both rural and urban communities. As part of the application process, you will be given a chance to list your preferences.
Will all posts listed on your website be open next year?
No, not all posts listed on our website are open in any given year. Because Fellows have the option to extend their assignment for an additional year, some of the posts listed may not be available. Also, at our annual mid-year conferences, Fellows provide input on opening new posts and closing old posts. If you have questions about a specific post, please contact VIA staff.
Do I get to choose which post I go to?
You will be able to indicate your preferences in terms of location and type of work in your application. Applications are evaluated according to partner needs and applicants’ skills/background. Many accepted Fellows receive one of their top choices. However, we ask that Fellows be flexible and consider the needs of the program and our partners.
Will placements be offered as remote or hybrid positions if international travel is not possible?
At this time, we don’t anticipate offering remote positions. It is in the best interest of the partner and VIA that the Fellow is at the post, though we do recognize the fluctuating situation with COVID-19. If our regular departure time is disrupted then we might delay departure until a later date or implement a quarantine protocol. Travel restrictions will be dependent upon the country and its immigration regulations.
Work Culture and Expectations
Are Fellows allowed to have other involvements (e.g. job, volunteer, academic program) alongside their Fellowship post?
A Fellow’s post responsibilities should be their first priority, but VIA encourages Fellows to make connections with local organizations outside of their post through volunteering, participation in outside activities, etc. Workload and flexibility of work schedules will vary between posts, so it is the Fellow’s responsibility to manage their time outside of work to best take advantage of other opportunities.
How does VIA support Fellows in their post responsibilities?
VIA works with the host organization to set expectations about the Fellow’s role and responsibilities, with the understanding that these expectations may shift as the situation requires. Fellows will have regularly scheduled check-ins with VIA staff to discuss any challenges and successes the Fellow is experiencing while abroad. VIA staff can provide helpful training resources both before and during the Fellowship period tailored to the needs of the Fellow and post.
Do we get breaks for family visits or to go home for the holidays?
Breaks or vacations are dependent upon your post. Most of your vacation time will take place during national holidays of the country you are posted in, which may or may not coincide with holidays you customarily observe.
How many hours a week will I work?
Most primarily teaching positions include approximately 16 hours/week of class time, as well as additional prep time, grading, office hours, or other activities. Some NGO positions require up to 40 hours/week.
Fellow Support and Professional Development
How much time should I expect to spend on pre-departure activities?
- Pre-departure training meetings with VIA staff – 1.5 hours per month in the four months preceding departure
- Asynchronous training activities (practicing project development tools, reflecting on my role as a Fellow, setting intentions for Fellowship year) – 2 hours per month in the four months preceding departure
- Pre-departure meetings with post supervisors – 1 hour per month in the four months prior to departure
- Asynchronous logistical prep (e.g. visa, flights, immunizations, insurance, communications with VIA and post, etc) – 2 hours in the months prior to departure (dependent on the time it takes to apply for visa, etc)
Do I have to attend all the training sessions?
Yes. All training sessions are mandatory. In some cases, exceptions are made such as if an applicant has prior experience in-country. However, applicants who can attend all training sessions will receive priority in the selection process.
Does VIA offer any support for language learning?
As part of your pre-departure training, we encourage Fellows to set intentions for how you hope to learn the language and culture of your host community. Fellows are eligible to receive up to $500 USD reimbursement for costs related to language study ($250 USD for Indonesian Fellows due to the costs of in-country orientation). Some posts may have in-house language courses you can participate in or have relationships with nearby language schools, but this will vary from post to post. If your post is not connected to any resources for language study, you can seek out language study opportunities on your own. Past Fellows can also serve as a good resource for identifying tutors and programs.
What efforts are made by VIA to facilitate community between VIA Fellows both during and after the Fellowship?
Prior to departure, Fellows will participate in the pre-departure process which includes training sessions. The training sessions are collaborative in nature and will provide Fellows with ample opportunities to get to know one another. During the Fellowship, Fellows keep in touch with each other through social media and have multiple opportunities to connect throughout the year during training sessions with VIA staff.
Will there be chances to check in with VIA staff throughout the Fellowship and will there be chances to also connect with and hear about other Fellow experiences as well?
Training prior to and during the Fellowship will focus on key areas such as leadership, intention-setting, and project development tools. The wrap-up conference at the end of the Fellowship is designed to support Fellows as they transition to new opportunities (i.e. graduate school, careers in the country or in the US).
Fellows are required to participate in regular check-ins with VIA staff and training sessions at the beginning and middle of their program. Outside of regular meetings, Fellows can reach out to staff for additional support or schedule a time to meet.
Will there be opportunities to meet up and visit other Fellows during the experience?
This depends on the post. Each Fellow has slightly different expectations and time commitments required of them by their host organization. However, there may be some common time off, such as national holidays. It is during those times that it might be easiest to coordinate visits between Fellows.
How are Fellows with specific identities (e.g. LGBTQ person, person of color, follower of a certain religion, etc) supported while on the program? Is it possible to speak with a former Fellow about their experiences as someone with a specific personal identity?
We recommend that selected Fellows do some research about the general perception of certain identities and to raise any concerns with VIA staff and post supervisors if they feel comfortable doing so. It is common for Fellows to feel a sense of isolation away from their usual friends, family, and identity groups, so it can be helpful to maintain regular communication with your community back home.
What efforts are being made to increase alumni networking, retention, and collaboration?
As a Fellow, you become a part of VIA’s extensive alumni network where you will have the opportunity to join in alumni engagement activities, connect with alumni via social media, and support VIA programs.
What have previous Fellows done after their time with VIA? Do most go on to work or attend graduate school?
Many of the alumni have gone onto graduate school, pursued jobs in their same location or returned to the US for job opportunities. Several of our GCF alumni have continued to support VIA programs. GCF alumni pursue a diverse range of careers, but some common trajectories include teaching, government / diplomacy, policy and policy-related research, international development, grant management, etc.
How often do Fellows find work and remain in their post country after the Fellowship?
Some alumni have managed to find job opportunities in their post country while others return to the US or third countries to pursue career and education opportunities.
How does VIA help with post-Fellowship transition?
At the end of the Fellowship, there is a wrap-up conference where you will talk about professional development concepts: resume writing, graduate school preparation, etc. Staff will try to help provide documentation of their Fellowship or references to support them after the program.