Sometimes volunteering is not only an opportunity to help others. It is also a chance to improve, develop and learn new skills, languages and challenge yourself in the situations which you would not have experienced otherwise. This is especially true if a volunteering program takes place in a foreign country. For many people volunteering is a chance to travel more and an opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. In this article, we will make an attempt to explain why volunteering abroad is a fascinating adventure and encourage you to try it at least once in your life.
1. Volunteering gives a chance to learn new skills
Very often in order to become a volunteer, you are not required to have any special skills. At first, you are investing your time into the project, rather than skills and knowledge. Usually, an organization, which hires volunteers, takes care of the training of those who need it. In addition, you will expose yourself to different types of projects. One day you might be engaged in a restoration of the medieval church in France or helping to film documentaries about Christmas celebrations in Iceland. And the next time you will be participating in an archaeological excavation in Portugal or designing gardens in Japan.
Volunteer projects can also become sort of a short-term internship. Sometimes volunteers try to find programs which are adjacent to their profession and this way get international experience in a particular field. Others, on the contrary, like to choose completely new activities or something that they have always wanted to try.
Once again, if a volunteer does not have the skills necessary for a certain program, you may always be trained at the location. Remember, it is motivation that matters the most.
2. Volunteering allows traveling on a budget
There are more than 3000 volunteer programs in 107 countries. In order to become a part of the volunteer project, an applicant has to pay for the flight tickets (or another type of transport), visa (if needed) and a fee for participation. Things like food, lodging, cultural and entertainment programs and even some excursions around the location are usually free of charge. If you want to travel even more, look for projects, related, for example, to photography or choose several short-term projects which start one after another and located in the neighboring countries.
Volunteers often have enough time for traveling. The working shift usually lasts on average 4 to 5 hours with breaks. In addition, volunteers are given two days off per week. During the free time, you can explore surrounding areas and actively communicate with other members of the team, which will give you a unique cultural exchange experience.
3. Volunteering is a great opportunity to practice foreign language
Members of a volunteer camp often speak English with each other. Therefore if English is not your first language, communicating with others will help you to overcome the language barrier and improve your vocabulary.
Please note that spending 2 weeks in a foreign community cannot guarantee that you will learn the language from scratch. But you will definitely start speaking, rather than be thinking of the right words to say. During the stay, you will have to find a way to make others understand you, which is the best way to practice the language.
If your main goal is to learn the language, search for the linguistic volunteer projects. In this case, in addition to volunteer work, participants attend language courses with native speakers. Sometimes the common language of the project is the language spoken in the country where the project is conducted. It might be especially interesting for those who want to practice several languages by communicating both with team members and local citizens.
4. Volunteering will let you travel to the places you haven’t even heard of
What are the chances that on your vacation you will be able to attend a protected natural reserve, let alone to live there? Or could you ever imagine that coming to the French village, you will get to know all the locals, who will invite you for dinners? But you can experience all of this with volunteering.
The citizens of the southern regions are more hospitable and sociable. In the north, people seem to be more reserved. But a volunteer status literally makes locals, who are grateful for your help, open their door for you.
5. Volunteering teaches you self-development
Despite all the excitement from a long-distance travel, there is still one downside: you have to get to your destination on your own, with your own money and at the agreed time. The project leaders will provide a detailed information sheet, which lists all of the travel options, but you have to do the rest by yourself.
It is a huge stress for a person to travel alone to a foreign place, especially if it is some remote village and you don’t have a direct flight. It might be even scarier if you are simply shy, don’t speak the language or have some kind of phobia.
Volunteering forces you to become the best version of yourself, at least for the time of the project. You will learn to become more unpretentious, sociable and tolerant.
6. Volunteering is a great way to make friends
Volunteering involves a lot of teamwork and constant communication. Common goal brings people closer. Often participants become friends and continue communicating even after the end of the project. They even go visit each other. Volunteering brings a great opportunity to make new contacts, which may last for a long time and be useful not only in terms of friendship but even in studies, work or other fields.
7. Volunteering provides experience and an opportunity to get recommendations
If you are just starting a career, most likely you desperately need some place to practice and get experience. In this case, volunteer work might be a great solution. All around the world, volunteering has become a trend in the area of personal and professional development. A well-known LinkedIn service, aimed at professionals, recommends indicating volunteer experience in your profile. In addition, profiles with volunteer experience are viewed by HR-managers more often.
8. Volunteering helps cope with stress
With the modern pace of life, constant stress takes its toll, especially in the big cities. Simple and monotonous physical work, such as planting trees, is a great way to “clear your mind” and rest from the city hustle.