Spending time abroad, particularly if you volunteer for a worthwhile project, is a life changing experience. It gives you the chance to take on new challenges and is a real opportunity to live outside your comfort zone whilst making a difference to people’s lives at a time when they need it most.
Travelling is a great way to broaden your horizons, share your skills as well as perhaps learning some new ones. Volunteer to work on a project and get to see a new country, experience a different culture whilst making a contribution where it is often desperately needed.
If you have the interest and the urge to travel, and want to have a more meaningful experience than lounging on the beach for a couple of weeks, then why not volunteer abroad on a project of your choice? There’s a huge range of destinations and projects ranging from childcare and teaching to tending to wildlife and reservations as well as building projects. Unless you want to volunteer for a teaching or medical placement, you don’t necessarily need any particular experience or specialist knowledge to volunteer.
When you choose to volunteer abroad, you will find a huge and diverse choice of destinations available. Volunteer to work in orphanages and children’s homes in Thailand or for a destination with a real difference, try Cambodia. Help the children improve their English skills and give them the chance of a better future. This trip can be particularly rewarding for both you as well as the children you help, but you will also get the chance to explore this fascinating country which has made such great progress despite its tumultuous past. If you are studying to be a teacher, this is a trip you can include on your CV.
If animal conservation is more your thing then you could consider helping to protect pandas in China, turtles in Costa Rica or for the really brave, Whale Shark Conservation in Mozambique. For those with an interest in marine biology and diving, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. You will get the chance to swim with these magnificent creatures whilst gaining a recognised diving qualification. However, this trip is a lot more than a ‘jolly’. You will be contributing to some significant scientific research and helping to safeguard the habitat of these amazing creatures.
Community projects also offer a great opportunity to see a new part of the world whilst making a positive contribution to a community in real need of help. There are always building projects available where you can get involved in building schools, community centres and other vital buildings in countries such as Thailand and Guatemala. You will also get plenty of down time in which you can explore your country of choice, experience the culture and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings!
Shirley Jones is a student counsellor, careers advisor and a former gap year student. She writes regularly for a number of student magazines, websites and blogs. “If you want to see the world and do some good whilst you’re at it, volunteer abroad” says Shirley. “You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve and the difference you can make”.