Arrange your own field placement

Note: Arranging your own field placement (AOFP) is at SEED's discretion. While it is possible to AOFP, it is a very complicated process. We recommend students complete their field placements through World University Service of Canada (WUSC). This is not intended to restrict you but to ensure that all students are able to fulfill the program’s academic requirements and contribute to sustainable development on similar terms, while having a safe and productive learning experience.

Before you start

The eight-month field placement in a developing country is a significant and mandatory requirement of the BES in International Development (INDEV), Practice Specialization. The placement is normally defined as a two-term position in a developing country, starting the first week of 4B fall term and ending the last week of April during 4C winter term. All students in this specialization must successfully complete the field placement course, INDEV 401-402, in order to receive academic credit.

In some cases, students are eligible to arrange their own eight-month field placement. Before you consider arranging your own field placement, please ensure you have read the field placement policies for the standard process.

The standard process for field placement through our placement provider WUSC is recommended to all students because of the professional services and in-country support provided: experienced in-country staff, airport pickup and orientation, assistance with accommodation, workplace advice, and emergency assistance. WUSC also has the capacity to re-assign students to different locations and partner organizations in the event of placement collapse due to political unrest, unforeseen visa complications, natural disasters or other factors beyond students’ control.

When considering whether the AOFP option is for you, be aware that the risk of placement collapse and non-completion due to factors beyond your control may be higher than through our primary placement provider WUSC. You should also expect to put in more time arranging and preparing for your own field placement independently with less overall support from your host organization than typically provided by WUSC.

With this in mind, you will find more details below to help you assess whether you are (or will be) eligible to apply for AOFP and how the AOFP process works. At any stage, you are encouraged to consult with John Abraham, Lecturer and Field Placement Manager (FPM), Email  

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In order to be eligible to apply for AOFP in the INDEV program, you must demonstrate that you haveat least one of the following four requirements:

  • six months to one year of relevant international work experience (paid or volunteer)
  • an undergraduate degree from an accredited university or college
  • citizenship in a country where you wish to secure a field placement
  • proficiency in one of the languages used in the country where you wish to secure a field placement (other than English)

Additionally, you must have successfully completed the following prior to your pre-departure term and before you submit your AOFP application form:

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Program requirements

Below are the minimum program requirements for AOFP:

  • Country destination:
    Before you take any steps to arrange a field placement in a developing country, no matter what your citizenship, you must be aware of the overall level of security risk in the country or region where you wish to apply for field placement. Check that your proposed country is eligible for approval by reviewing the Travel Advice and Advisories. If a country advisory is “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” at any time during the approval process or prior to departure, your AOFP application will not be approved.
  • Legal authorization (visas/permits):
    Once you have identified a prospective host organization, you must check that you can arrange a visa or permit for the duration of your eight-month field placement, and that you understand the process, timeline and associated costs. Your host organization may or may not be in a position to assist you with this; have that conversation early in the process with any prospective host organizations and your FPM.
  • Work experience:
    The field placement must be demonstrably relevant to BES-INDEV themes of social justice and environmental sustainability, and to advancing one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Positions focused on academic research, formal teaching, sales, military service, commercial media, social work or voluntourism will not be approved.
  • Host organizations:
    Students are not permitted to pursue the AOFP option with partners of WUSC or its Uniterra program that are actively recruiting student volunteers.
  • Full-time position:
    The field placement must be full-time, which is 35-40 hours per week in accordance with your host organization’s work schedule. Vacation days may (or may not) be granted during the placement period, depending on the host organization’s policies and priorities.
  • Placement length:
    The field placement must be held for the duration of both terms, with some flexibility around start/end dates. Anything less than 12 weeks per term will not be eligible for credit without proper documentation (i.e. accident or medical condition requiring an early return to Canada). Cases of partial completion will be assessed on a case-by-case basis without any guarantee that credit will be granted.
  • Supervisor:
    You must have an assigned supervisor within your host organization. This person must not be related to you.
  • Placement offer letter:
    You must have proof of an offer from a host organization in either a letter or email, outlining the terms and conditions of the placement.

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Approval process

Please aim to submit your AOFP application (DOCX) to the INDEV Field Placement Manager (FPM) during 3B term. Before applying to a prospective host organization you are expected to have used the resources available to you through the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Career Action and EDGE for producing a professional-quality CV. If you have questions about your AOFP content or suitability at any stage, make an appointment to review with your FPM before proceeding.

Decisions on AOFP applications are declined or accepted on a case-by-case basis by the FPM. Please allow 10 days for approval and verification with your proposed host organization. Your AOFP must be approved and verified before you can proceed to apply for legal authorization to enter a placement country. Application does not guarantee approval.

In order to ensure you have enough time to secure your visa, you need to submit your AOFP application form and all other required documentation at least 60 days prior to departure.

What you will need to complete and submit the AOFP application form:

  • A valid passport for entry into your placement country. In the case of a Canadian passport this means it will not expire for at least six months after your return to Canada.
  • Host organization details including supervisor’s name, title, department, email, phone (and website address if applicable).
  • Placement details including proposed start/end date, a job description, information about legal authorization, costs, flights, accommodation, airport pickup and who will arrange and pay for what.
  • Proof of an offer from host organization.

Once your AOFP is approved and verified with the host organization, you can proceed to obtain legal authorization for entry into your placement country and purchase flights. If you require proof of enrolment at the University of Waterloo, submit the proof of enrolment request. If you require any additional documentation, see your FPM for assistance.

If your AOFP is declined, you will be notified by your FPM about the reasons and advised how to proceed. Your options will normally be to apply for a WUSC placement along with the rest of your cohort or make changes to your plans and re-submit.

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Pre-departure requirements

  • Your safety and security while outside Canada is of paramount concern to the University of Waterloo and St. Paul's University College. For travel advice and assistance before you travel and throughout your field placement, register for International SOS, a service provided to all Waterloo students. To obtain an SOS card, see your FPM. Learn more about International SOS on Waterloo International's website
  • In the term prior to your departure, complete the online predeparture training module and all other instructions provided to you by Waterloo International’s Safety Abroad team. Once your placement is confirmed, you must notify Safety Abroad to have this setup for you on LEARN. 
  • You must ensure you have adequate health insurance coverage for the entire duration of your field placement. If you are unsure what coverage you have outside Canada you can check the WUSA's Studentcare website or call toll free at 1-866-369-8794. 
  • Complete and submit the AOFP Risk Management Form (DOCX)  to the INDEV FPM prior to departure. 
  • In addition to your university health insurance plan, your provincial health insurance will lapse if you are outside Canada for more than seven months. To ensure continuous provincial health coverage, you must request a letter from your FPM indicating the purpose of your stay outside Canada, which you will then take to a Service Ontario office. 

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