Volunteering can change your life for the better, and those benefits are amplified when you jump out of your comfort zone and volunteer abroad. Being immersed in a new culture can change your entire perspective while benefitting the communities you visit.
How Volunteering Abroad Could Benefit You
When you decide to volunteer your time and skills in a different country, your motives likely aren’t focused on helping yourself — instead, you’re dedicated to helping those in need. However, you won’t walk away from an international volunteer experience without reaping some personal and professional benefits.
- Developing a Global Perspective
Your volunteer experience will inevitably be accompanied by both rewards and challenges. Going into the experience with an open mind is key to getting the most of your experience as an international volunteer. You’ll learn that your little corner of the world is much different from other cultures, and that that’s completely fine.
- Improving Your Communication Skills
If you’re in an area where you don’t speak the language well, you’ll be surprised how quickly you catch on. Someone who has trouble learning new languages in a classroom setting may find it easier to learn with a more hands-on approach. Of course, you should learn as much of the language as possible beforehand, but the language barrier will undoubtedly improve the way you communicate at home on a daily basis.
- Giving You a Sense of Purpose
Many people who go on a volunteer trip find it difficult to gain equivalent satisfaction from a traditional vacation after they return. Oftentimes, volunteering gives you the best of both worlds. Helping others is your main purpose while volunteering, but you’ll also have free time to explore your host country.
- Creating Lifelong Friendships and Memories
When you’re making a lasting impact on those in need, that experience won’t fade from your memory anytime soon. Those who volunteer for an organization often have similar interests, so you’ll likely form a close bond with your fellow volunteers, as well as the native people of the countries you visit.
- Bolstering Your Resume
It’s not uncommon for those in the medical field to volunteer abroad as a way to give them a beneficial experience that enhances their existing education, but virtually anyone can use their global volunteer experience as a selling point on their resume.
- Improving Your Teamwork Skills
After volunteering abroad, you may be more willing to work with a team toward a common goal. Independence is an admirable quality, but many cultures focus more on interdependence, leaning on each other regularly.
How to Volunteer Abroad
When choosing your overseas volunteer work, it’s vital to ensure that your efforts are designed to be sustainable, providing these struggling areas with the best chance for long-term success. There is no wrong way to start your search for an overseas volunteer opportunity. It all depends what you’re looking for, where you’re hoping to go, and what your existing skill set is.
One option is to find a credible organization that facilitates international volunteer work. From there, you can choose where to go and what you’ll be doing. If you have a passion for helping wildlife, you may want to volunteer with an organization that focuses on conservation efforts. If you’d like to be a part of improving education in developing countries, there are programs for that, as well. You’d be surprised to learn how well your interests and skills can intersect, leading to the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.
Going to an unfamiliar area is a big decision, so in your initial search for a volunteer organization, you should first ensure that the organization you’re volunteering with is credible and legitimately doing their best to help others. That brings me to my last point…
Do Your Research
You shouldn’t expect to walk into the experience with no background knowledge. Once you’re firm in knowing where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing, research that area thoroughly.
Firstly, be sure you understand their culture. The United States is a great place, but what we consider to be “normal” may be seen as rude or insulting to someone from a different country. When in doubt, listen before you speak.
Secondly, you should protect yourself. Visit your doctor and make them aware of your upcoming trip. They can ensure that your vaccinations are up-to-date and that you can obtain an adequate supply of any medications you may need for yourself on the trip.
You’ll also need to keep track of all your credentials. If you will need a passport for the trip, give yourself enough time to obtain one.
Traveling internationally to volunteer is a big decision, but the experience could change your life for the better and provide you with invaluable experience. You can either volunteer for a short period of time or commit to a longer stay. If volunteering abroad is something that interests you, don’t be afraid to try it out!