Studying abroad is an exciting chance to experience a different culture, learn a new language, and meet new people. But if you want to enrich your study abroad experience, even more, you could try volunteering during your program. But how can you volunteer while studying abroad?
Volunteering can be hugely rewarding as you pursue something you enjoy while giving back to the community or area you’re living in. In fact, almost half of students who participate in volunteering projects while studying say that their career aspirations have changed for the better. 94% said that they felt that volunteering abroad made them more resilient. But finding volunteering opportunities, and balancing this with your studies, can be challenging.
In this article, we’ll share our top five tips on how to volunteer while studying abroad. From how to find opportunities to what to look for in a project, this is your guide to volunteering while studying abroad.
How to Volunteer While Studying Abroad
Volunteering while you study abroad can be a great addition to your experience. You’ll gain vital experience in working in teams and accomplishing a project at the same time as completing your education.
However, if you don’t know anything about how to volunteer while studying abroad, it can be a minefield of information. These are our best tips for making volunteering and studying abroad work.
1. Check your Programme requirements
Some intensive study-abroad programmes, particularly those that only last for a semester or less, may not allow for part-time work (volunteer or otherwise) while you study. This is because your programme may include lots of mandatory extracurricular activities that endeavour to introduce you to the culture of the place you’re living and studying.
So, if you want to volunteer while studying abroad, it’s worth checking when you apply for your study abroad experience that you will have the time for this.
2. Contact Your Study Abroad PrograMME for help
Universities and colleges with long-lasting study abroad programmes will likely have helped many other students who want to volunteer during their programme. Your first step if you’re interested in volunteering is to contact a study abroad rep at your university. They may have links to organisations in your intended destination that they can refer you to for volunteering opportunities.
The study abroad department at your university may also be able to advise you on the logistics of volunteering while studying abroad, for example, how many hours you may be able to take.
3. Do Independent Research
As well as your school or university’s study abroad department, you should also do your own research for volunteering opportunities. A couple of the most popular websites that compile volunteering opportunities include:
While WWOOF is mainly centred around volunteer work on farms or sustainability projects, Workaway connects travellers with hosts in different countries for a variety of volunteer opportunities. There are other sites as well, but you should be careful to look for only legitimate opportunities through not-for-profits and other charitable organisations to make sure that your work is going to have a real impact.
4. Choose a Project That Matches Your Interests
You may be spending more than just a few hours a week volunteering: you might sign up for one day a weekend, or a couple of hours every evening. You’ll be spending a lot of time on your volunteering project, so it’s vital that you’re doing something that you will enjoy.
As you research volunteering opportunities, try to think about whether it’s something you would feel passionate about. Do you enjoy working outside, or would you prefer a volunteering project that’s less hands-on and more admin based? Would you like to work with animals or people?
5. ask Questions about the Volunteering Opportunity
Once you’ve found a project that you would like to do, it’s time to find out more about it. Many for-profit organisations scam students into working for them for free, so it’s important to find out if the project you’ll be working on is legitimate. At the same time, you should know the particulars of what is expected of you. Some questions you might ask include:
- What will day-to-day activities look like on the project?
- Will I have direct support on the project?
- Do I have to pay a fee to volunteer?
- How is the local community involved in the project?
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas about how to volunteer while you study abroad. It can be an incredible experience, allowing you to really immerse yourself in the local culture of the place you’re studying and give back to the community. For this reason, it’s a valuable addition to your CV.
However, for some people, volunteering might not be an option, perhaps because they wish to find a part-time job to fund their study abroad experience, or because your programme is too intensive for part-time volunteering work. Spend some time thinking about whether part-time volunteering work is suited to your programme before jumping in.
If you want to find out more about volunteering, check out our blog post, Student Volunteering Abroad: Best Programmes and Destinations.