When most people think of volunteering, they think of going to a local soup kitchen to serve food or tutoring kids after school; but that’s only one small aspect of volunteer work. There’s a whole world out there with billions of people who could use some help. That’s why there are so many opportunities for volunteering abroad. Not only do you get the satisfaction of helping others, you also get to travel to a new country, experience a different culture and gain valuable experience doing it. But how do you get connected to these opportunities and how do you decide where to go? What should you do while you’re there? How do you prepare after you’ve decided where to go? I hope that I’ll be able to answer those questions for you and point you in the right direction.
Where should I go to Find Foreign Volunteer Opportunities?
As a student looking for volunteer work, you’ll find no shortage of organizations looking to hook you up. Many groups help students find opportunities around the world. Many are faith-based, but there are several secular groups as well. Find one you’re comfortable with before you commit. Make sure they share the same values and that you fully support their mission before you sign on with them. If you’re even slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, it will magnify by the end.
How do I Pick where to go and what to do?
The first step to deciding where to volunteer is to eliminate the places you definitely don’t want to go. Take into account climates, political atmosphere and crime. Do a little research on potential volunteer destinations and get rid of the ones that don’t entice you. From what’s left, look at the opportunities available to you. Do you want to help people get healthcare, cook for others, build houses, teach English, help the homeless or work on indigenous issues? Pick a few activities you’re interested in and look for those opportunities in countries on your list. Once you’ve matched your preferences and skills to an opportunity and country, you’re ready for the next step.
How do I Prepare for My Trip?
Once you’ve found the country you want to visit and a volunteer opportunity that lines up with your skills and interests, the next step is preparing for your trip. If you need extra money to go there, organize some fundraising activities. Have a bake sale, ask local business owners if they’ll sponsor you or have a garage sale. Get your community and any groups you belong to involved. Once you’ve got the money, get your paperwork together. Apply for a student visa, get your passport updated and purchase your airfare. Collect everything in one place, make numerous copies and make sure everyone who needs the information has it. That includes your parents and your volunteer coordinator.
Cover your health needs with a student volunteer insurance plan. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. It’ll cover emergencies and, if you’ve been covered long enough, some pre-existing conditions. Go get the immunizations recommended for your destination and keep the paperwork with you in case you need to provide proof.
When you pack, make sure you include items you can’t live without — toiletries, clothing, books and a few personal items — as well as things you’ll need for studying, if you’ll be in school while you’re there, and specific items you need for the volunteer work you’ll be doing.
Volunteering abroad can expand your horizons, enrich your life and provide you with great experience for a college or career resume. If you find the right country and opportunity for you, pursue it and have fun!