To provide meaningful experiential learning activities for students outside of the classroom, many social work programs are including service learning as a curricular component. Indeed, research shows that service learning is a widespread practice in higher education across academic majors. This study uses qualitative data from from 34 students in two sections of a master’s-level social work course to explore student experiences with service learning. Major themes from the students’ data are presented here. Students reported both liking and being challenged by the freedom to tailor their own experiences, described developing new skills, reported being able to apply course content/learn about the field through hands-on learning, and felt that they contributed to a community organization/agency through their service learning projects. There are often challenges to implementing service learning projects. This paper presents semi-structured service learning as an alternate model to the traditionally arranged project, giving students the opportunity to develop their own projects tailored to their interests. Instructors looking to provide educational opportunities through real world experiences will gain insight into this process and the outcomes of such a project.

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