Get the Most Out of Your Volunteering Abroad Experience!
Volunteering abroad is an amazing way to experience new cultures whilst giving something back and can be a great way to enhance your CV. Once you have chosen your project and know where you are jetting off to, there are some things to bear in mind to make sure you get the most out of your volunteering abroad experience! However long you are volunteering for, if you approach the project with the right attitude and enthusiasm for the job, you will be sure to make a positive impact, so we have gathered some top tips to make sure you have the best time possible and get the most out of your volunteering abroad experience!
Have an open mind! Even though you should have some ideas about the project you are committing to, when moving abroad to volunteer it is best to expect the unexpected! Volunteering abroad requires an open mind, as circumstances can change and your role can alter day to day, so be prepared for this and remember that flexibility is a must. You will get the most out of your volunteering abroad experience by being open to these new experiences and making the most of every unexpected opportunity.
Respect people and their culture. It is likely that whichever country you are travelling to volunteer in there are cultural differences from home. Treat fellow volunteers and members of the community with respect, and take the opportunity to learn about people’s experiences and cultures that you may not otherwise be exposed to. Volunteering abroad is a collaborative effort, so it is important that you approach your role with a humble and open attitude, and demonstrate how you value other people’s contribution – you’ll be sure to learn a lot, and maybe even make some new friends.
Be reliable! Since you have dedicated yourself to a project, it is important that you fulfil your obligation and are not flaky! Turn up on time, complete the hours you have committed to, and if plans change for any reason, give the organisers the same courtesy you would a boss at home and give them a heads-up! Your presence is valuable in a potentially under-staffed and under-budgeted project, so respect the importance of your role!
Know why you’re there. Doing a little research into the organisation and the role they play within the community before you land in a new country is a great way to ensure you know what is expected of you, and understand the importance of the project you are contributing to. Understanding the bigger picture of the volunteering program may mean that you are able to offer skills or assistance in a way that you wouldn’t have initially thought to, and can lead to a more fulfilling experience.
Be independent! Volunteering abroad is an amazing opportunity to gain independence and learn how to take initiative, even in unfamiliar environments, as you won’t necessarily have a supervisor constantly telling you what they need you to do. It may be up to you to recognise what needs doing, meaning that you will gain confidence as you begin to offer new ideas and see where you are needed. You will need to listen to problems and find the answers yourself, showing your ability to find solutions.
Have fun! Volunteering abroad can be a challenging experience, but the benefits that come in the form of the lives you will improve, the friendships that will grow and the memories you make more than outweigh any difficulties you may face. Volunteering abroad encourages you to see situations from new perspectives and gives you skills that you can implement in years to come, so embrace the challenge, and enjoy the experience!
By Kathryn Gardner