What are the benefits of volunteering abroad?
Volunteer work abroad can change your life. It puts you right at the heart of local communities, giving you a chance to immerse yourself in their culture while giving back in a meaningful way. Carefully selected overseas volunteer work that is managed to be sustainable and long-term, ensures you can be sure that the time you give contributes to a broader journey.
You can learn a lot from gap year adventures and experiencing new cultures and ways of life. When you get back home, those lessons translate into skills and experience that benefit you personally and professionally. We've written up our 10 top benefits of volunteering abroad.
Personal benefits of volunteering abroad
Meet new people and make new friendships
Travelling friendships can feel frustratingly temporary at times. Spending part of your trip doing volunteer work abroad is a guaranteed solution: it may sound obvious, but you really get to know the people you work with every day. Sharing the often intense experience of charity work abroad and working hard for a community with very limited resources is a sure way to forge friendships with the strength to survive both the test of time and of living on different continents!
If you’re travelling with someone from home, sharing the experience of overseas volunteer work together will hugely develop your friendship and is a good way to adjust to new environments.
Strong bonds with those you're travelling with
It may sound obvious but you will really get to know the people you work with every day. Your shared work and situation will lead to some unique and unlikely friendships with strong bonds for life. It is a great idea to do volunteer work abroad with a friend from home or if you're on a gap year you can choose from a variety of gap year programs as both instances will ease you into the new environment and lead to immeasurably strengthened friendships.
Volunteering gives a sense of accomplishment
Volunteering for charity work abroad can offer a rare sense of accomplishment: unlike the office jobs that so many people work day-to-day, you’ll know that your work is helping change people’s lives for the better. It’s common for volunteers to discover a new hobby, a passion for volunteering itself, or even to move into paid work in the charity sector.
Develop knowledge and sensitivity of other cultures
Volunteers are taught about body language, gestures and conversational customs that may differ between their home country and the country in which they are volunteering, to avoid the risk of accidentally causing offense. The lessons are fascinating and often humbling, leading volunteers to reflect on how their behaviour comes across to others in daily life.
It's a unique experience
Volunteering work abroad and immersing yourself in small communities is a great way to get away from the tourist trail and meet locals. Though volunteering work abroad is popular, chances are very few people have done exactly the same volunteer work as you, and even then no two volunteers will have exactly the same experience.
It’s not all hard work! Overseas volunteer work is important and rewarding, but it’s also about trying new experiences, meeting people, and just having fun!
Professional benefits of volunteering abroad
Valuable work experience
The current job market is challenging, with tens or sometimes hundreds of people applying for the same job or placement. Volunteer work abroad will give you valuable and unusual experience to add to your CV or resume to help you stand out from the crowd.
The US-based Corporation for National and Community Service tracked more than 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t.
It's a networking opportunity
Not only does overseas volunteer work provide the hands-on practical experience that employers value, it is also an opportunity to meet people of all ages and backgrounds from all around the world and forge professional as well as personal connections.
Develop new language skills
Living and working in another country is hands down the best way to learn the language: hearing it spoken around you and using it yourself all the time. If your volunteer work abroad involves teaching English, you’ll develop your English written and verbal skills at the same time.
Learn teamwork through volunteering
Another key skill you’ll develop amongst the numerous volunteer benefits is teamwork. Making your project a success will involve working closely with a diverse range of people, both locals and other volunteers, many of whom you might otherwise never interact with.
How to manage a team
As a volunteer doing charity work abroad, you will almost always be put in a position of management. Whether this is for a small group of people or a whole team, being able to manage effectively will push your career prospects one step further.
If you're thinking about volunteer work abroad, be sure to do your research. Explore sustainable, carefully managed opportunities and research the best volunteer abroad programs across a range of places and cultures.