A Beginner’s Guide to International Volunteering: What to Expect and How to Prepare
International volunteering is a great way to grow personally, gain invaluable experience, and make a positive difference in the world. With so many different programs available, it can be difficult to know where to start. This beginner’s guide will give you an overview of the international volunteering experience, from researching programs and preparing for your trip to making the most of the experience once you’ve arrived.
International volunteering is a form of service learning that allows individuals to travel to other countries and work with local communities on projects that support their development goals. Volunteers are typically expected to develop their own skills while also helping the host organization meet its goals. These experiences typically last anywhere from a few weeks to a year.
International volunteering has many benefits. It provides an opportunity to gain new skills, build relationships with people from different cultures, and gain a better understanding of the world. It also gives volunteers the ability to make a real difference in local communities, and can provide a unique opportunity to gain a new perspective on global issues.
Short-term volunteering typically lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. These opportunities are often focused on specific projects and are designed to provide volunteers with a brief but meaningful experience.
Long-term volunteering is usually one year or longer. These opportunities often involve more extensive training and more in-depth projects, allowing volunteers to gain a deeper understanding of the organization and the local community.
Research Potential Programs
When researching potential programs, it is important to consider the organization’s goals and how your skills and interests might align with them. It is also important to research the local culture and community in order to ensure that you are making an informed decision about the program.
Evaluate Cost and Commitment
It is important to evaluate the associated costs and commitment of international volunteering. Many programs require a significant financial commitment, so it is important to research the associated costs and determine whether or not the program is a good fit for you.
Fundraising is an important part of international volunteering. Many organizations offer fundraising resources and guidance to help volunteers raise the money they need to participate. It is important to research potential fundraising strategies and determine which ones will be most effective for your situation.
Once you have identified a few potential strategies, it is important to start identifying potential donors. This can include family and friends, local businesses, and online crowdfunding platforms.
Visas and Passports
It is important to research visa and passport requirements for your destination country. Depending on your country of origin and the length of your stay, you may need to apply for a visa before your trip.
It is important to research language requirements for your destination country. Depending on the program, you may need to have a basic understanding of the local language in order to effectively communicate with the community.
When packing for your trip, it is important to consider the climate and local customs. In addition to clothing, it is important to pack any necessary supplies or items that you may need during your stay.
What to Expect
It is important to research the local culture and customs before your trip. This will help you to better understand the expectations and norms of the local community and how to best interact with them.
Cross-cultural communication is an essential part of volunteering internationally. It is important to be mindful of potential cultural misunderstandings and to be open to learning about different cultures.
Learning the Local Language
Learning the local language is a great way to deepen your understanding of the local culture and to better communicate with the community. It is important to research language learning resources and to practice as much as possible before your trip.
Researching Safety and Security
It is important to research the safety and security of your destination country before your trip. This includes researching local laws, laws related to volunteering, and any potential safety risks.
Once you have researched the safety and security of your destination country, it is important to develop a risk management plan. This should include strategies for managing potential risks and an emergency response plan in case of an emergency.
It is important to research health considerations for your destination country. This includes researching any potential health risks, the availability of medical care, and any necessary vaccinations.
Travel insurance is an important part of international volunteering. It is important to research potential insurance providers and to determine the type of coverage you need for your trip.
It is important to research potential accommodations for your stay. Depending on the program, you may be able to stay with a host family or in a volunteer house.
Food and Meals
It is important to research potential food and meal options for your stay. Depending on the program, you may be able to purchase food from local markets or have meals provided by the organization.
It is important to research the volunteer duties associated with the program. This will help you to understand what is expected of you and how to best contribute to the organization’s goals.
It is important to research the expectations of the organization. This will help you to understand what is expected of you in terms of volunteer hours, communication, and reporting.
Making the Most of Your Time
Once you have arrived, it is important to make the most of your time. This includes developing relationships with the local community, taking advantage of any available resources, and making an effort to understand the local culture.
It is important to be prepared for homesickness. This can include keeping in touch with family and friends, finding ways to stay connected to your home culture, and taking time to relax and enjoy your experience.
It is important to debrief after your trip. This can include reflecting on your experience, discussing it with others, and looking for ways to stay involved.
Once you have returned home, it is important to look for ways to stay involved with the organization and the local community. This can include fundraising, mentoring other volunteers, and staying informed about the organization’s projects.
International volunteering is an amazing opportunity to gain new skills and experiences, make a positive difference in the world, and gain a deeper understanding of the global community. With the right preparation and research, it can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience.
Klein, J. (2020). International Volunteering: A Beginner’s Guide. https://www.volunteerforever.com/blog/international-volunteering-a-beginners-guide
Karabell, L. (2019). How to Go International Volunteering: A Step-by-Step Guide. https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/how-to-go-international-volunteering-a-step-by-step-guide