Volunteering abroad can be a rewarding experience for secondary school and university students and young people looking for productive ways to maximise their 2023 summer holidays.
However, volunteering abroad isn’t an opportunity to go sightseeing. From building houses to developing new skills, volunteering abroad offers a learning experience that no textbook can teach. It’s also an opportunity to establish lifelong friendships with the locals.
If you’re considering volunteering abroad but unsure where to start, our staff members will discuss seven things you must know before signing up.
Do Your Research
Before volunteering abroad, you must always research if the organisation’s works align with your values and beliefs and if the work interests you and is relevant to your future goals.
We also urge you to familiarise yourself with how volunteers measure their overall success and what they expect from you as a volunteer.
Ask many questions, and don’t hesitate to get critical regarding how an organisation works. If you think that group is offering false promises or hiding something, you may want to find better options.
Lastly, consider volunteering with organisations that a friend, co-worker, or professor recommended. Consult other people to get their opinions on your selected volunteer organisation.
Learn the Language
It’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with at least the basics of the local language before volunteering abroad. Research and learn some necessary words and phrases, including fundamental questions and commands, to avoid feeling isolated, stressed, and frustrated.
You may also want to pack a portable two-way dictionary or download a smartphone app that works as a trustworthy translator. Learning the language can better equip you to find food and a washroom when needed.
Learn about the Culture
Like learning the local language, educating yourself about the local culture before volunteering abroad could save you from stress and frustration. We also recommend educating yourself about religious and cultural beliefs, which could be essential in Muslim and Arabic countries.
Learn about the Country’s Healthcare System
Besides learning about the foreign country’s language and culture, you should also educate yourself on how the medical system works in their area before volunteering abroad to help prepare in case of medical emergencies.
You should also ensure you have travel medical insurance to cover you outside your home country to gain access to preferred hospitals, doctors, emergency assistance, medical hotline, and pharmacy discount savings if you’re in an accident or fall ill.
Update Your Vaccinations
Health experts always advise it’s better to be safe than sorry. Travel vaccinations and immunisations are essential when volunteering abroad, especially in developing countries.
Knowing the target country’s recommended and necessary vaccinations to protect yourself from potentially dangerous diseases is part of familiarising yourself with the local healthcare system.
We also recommend staying updated on the country’s local health advisories.
Prepare for the Unexpected
You’ll inevitably encounter unexpected situations when volunteering abroad, such as wars breaking out, cancelled flights, medical emergencies, or natural calamities.
You must always keep a laminated list of emergency numbers and contact information in your pocket or wallet and store this information in your phone.
We also recommend investing in travel insurance to cover you in case of emergencies. Trip insurance covers cancelled trips, travel medical insurance, and emergency evacuation.
Stay Connected with Loved Ones
Lastly, whether you’re leaving behind close friends, family, or both when volunteering abroad, you must always communicate where you’ll be living and how they can contact you.
If you’ll be taking a day trip from your volunteer job, ensure your loved ones know your whereabouts and send them a quick note. Staying connected can also make you feel less homesick and lets loved ones know where to find you in emergencies.
Volunteering abroad offers priceless lessons that no textbook could offer. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills and build broader connections. Determining what to do before leaving your home country can save you stress and frustration.
Are you interested in volunteering abroad or gaining a meaningful medical internship? Volunteering Solutions offers the best summer volunteering programs for young people worldwide tailored to your skills and advocacies. Apply now!