For many students, volunteering abroad is the perfect opportunity to travel, see some of the world and be involved in a good cause. Volunteering overseas will give you the chance to experience new cultures, meet new people and improve your outlook on life.
Why should I volunteer abroad on my gap year?
One of the things that draws so many people to volunteering abroad after secondary school is the opportunity to help those in need. There are lots of volunteering opportunities out there, some far away and some closer to home. In most cases, volunteering programs tend to focus improving the lives of others in some way.
Volunteering abroad is also a great addition to your CV, especially if you’re planning to apply for full-time jobs or get into university when you return. Not only will you gain a whole new set of skills from volunteering, but you’ll gain lots of new experience that you can write about on your CV.
Take a look at this video to hear a bit more about the benefits of volunteering during your gap year, for you and the community where you volunteer:
What volunteering opportunities are available abroad?
There will always be a need for volunteers throughout the world and there are literally too many different types to mention in one blog post. If you have a particular volunteering experience in mind, there’s most likely a program out there to meet your needs. Some of the most common overseas volunteering opportunities include:
These types of projects normally involve providing relief to parts of the world that have experienced natural disasters, famine or disease. You might find yourself helping to rebuild villages following earthquakes, building wells in Africa, or increasing awareness of disease to people in developing countries. If you’re a hands-on person who likes to really get involved, then choosing a humanitarian project could be for you.
If you’re someone who enjoys being outdoors and loves animals and wildlife, then a conservation volunteering program could be for you. Conservation work can take many different forms and particular projects vary widely depending on which part of the world you’re in. For example, you might yourself working in a conservation zoo in South Africa, protecting marine wildlife in Australia or helping control deforestation in South America.
Volunteering for career development
Voluntary work abroad doesn’t have to be about community-based projects. Many students travel abroad on their gap year in order to gain voluntary work experience in a certain industry. Because some careers are more competitive than others, it can sometimes be difficult to get a foot in the door with companies in the UK. In some cases, it can be easier to gain work experience abroad by offering your services voluntarily.
For example, if you’re interested in a career in teaching, you might want to consider volunteering in a school in France? Or if you’re interested in the technology industry, Japan could be the place for you to go to gain some experience. Volunteering abroad to help your career can be a great way to develop your skills and gain the experience that employers are looking for in the UK and worldwide.
Check out this infographic from GoAbroad to get some inspiration (right click and choose "Open image in new tab" to see a bigger version):
How to choose a volunteering program?
With so many opportunities out there, how exactly can you find the perfect volunteering opportunity for you? To help decide on what type of program would suit you best, we’ve put together a list of questions for you to consider:
- What are you looking to gain from volunteering abroad?
- Are you looking for a personal experience or a career opportunity?
- What particular causes are you interested in?
- Where in the world would you like to go?
- Would you prefer to work outdoors or indoors?
- Do you want to work on your own or as part of a team?
- How long do you want to volunteer for?
- What is your budget?
Once you have answers to these questions, you can then start to eliminate some options. Hopefully, doing this exercise will give you a better understanding of what you really want to achieve from volunteering abroad and where you might want to go.
From there, you should be able to look into specific volunteering programs in your country of choice and look into the logistics of making your gap year happen.
Are you thinking about doing some voluntary work abroad? What’s your motivation for volunteering? What advice do you have for students who are considering volunteering overseas?