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International service learning placements offer pedagogical advantages such as practical design experience, opportunities to develop communication skills, and a means to see technology in a broader perspective. But there are some legitimate ethical concerns as well. Qualitative, phenomenographic research was conducted in order to understand the benefits and limitations of international humanitarian engineering placements. The success of an international engineering humanitarian placement often depends on intangible qualities, such as the student's attitude, communication skills, and cultural awareness.This article looks in more detail at the merits of international humanitarian engineering placement by asking "who benefits and who pays?".