12 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad in High School

by Elsa Thomasma

The teenage years can be some of the greatest years of growth and development for humans as a whole. With these years come many struggles, challenges, and changes, posing many situations where the ability to adapt, overcome limitations, and pursue strengths is needed. By volunteering abroad during high school, students can gain priceless abilities that go beyond any classroom education at home. Teens who volunteer abroad have the opportunity to expand their understanding of the world while developing a well-rounded perspective on the social issues and political problems that affect the world.

Digging a trench in the mountains near Tijuana, Mexico

Digging a trench in the mountains near Tijuana, Mexico

Photo by Elsa Thomasma

1. Become more driven in your studies. 

Be inspired by your trip abroad and the volunteer work you complete. Work on a construction project, and maybe you’ll decide you want to be an architect; work with kids and maybe you’ll decide you want to be a teacher. The tasks you carry out while volunteering may emphasize your abilities in a new way or illustrate your strengths, giving you a new direction in your studies.

2. Learn about new cultures. 

Instead of reading a textbook, witness it, observe it, and experience it. Living amidst a culture will allow you to learn the ins and out of the culture with ease, no more forced memorizing or study guides needed! Try authentic foods, watch festivals, and explore the mountain villages all for yourself. When you are back in the classroom you will be an expert on things your classmates have never even experienced.

3. Pick up language skills while you're young. 

Learning languages when you’re young, will give you ample time to develop the skills, not to mention it is proven that the earlier you learn the easier it is to become pick of the abilities. By pursuing the opportunity for language learning among native speakers you will have a great advantage over your classmates when notoriously required language courses are added to your course load. In the global economy of today, bilingual individuals will inevitably have an upper hand in the job market too!

A student riding on an elephant

4. Discover new friendships. 

Volunteering abroad in high school will give you the chance to make friends from all over the world while also helping you bond with students from your own school or country. Develop a friendship with someone who has lived a life completely different from your own, find a home away from home in a city you never knew existed, share a once in a lifetime experience with a friend from grade school, learn the history, culture, and language of a country directly from a local your age. The opportunities you'll have to build relationships with locals and fellow volunteers will be priceless memories you'll keep with you for life.

5. Challenge yourself. 

Overcoming any challenges abroad will give you the confidence to overcome the little challenges at home. Build a house for a family in Cambodia, spend a weekend hiking through the Amazon, bear the heat of the Sahara, spend three weeks without access to the internet, live without running water, try unusual cuisines. Volunteering can challenge you in every way possible and once you’ve successfully completed your trip you will feel ready to tackle anything that life throws at you! But first you have to be open to the challenge.

6. See beautiful places, in a safe, parent-approved way. 

Enthralled by the ancient history in Egypt, the bustling cities of China, or the natural attractions of Peru? Get your parents approval to see the world through volunteering. If you want to escape the winter blues of the north and venture to a tropical paradise but your parents just won’t budge, turn the trip into an opportunity to grow and learn, and fulfill your selfish desires in a way that your parents will not be able to resist saying "yes" to!

A man with kids

Volunteer programs will ensure your safety, plan out your accommodation (which might include a homestay!), and provide meaningful educational experiences in the form of both service projects and excursions.

7. Complete required community service. 

Many organizations and clubs for young people require annual community service hours. Turn this requirement into an amazing experience. Choose to go abroad to complete the hours, as opposed to selling raffle tickets outside the grocery store or cleaning up a local park. Spend time caring for an orphan, teach a child how to play basketball, bring medical supplies to a remote village, construct a school, and you will change your outlook on community service completely.

8. Adaptability fosters success. 

Learn how to adapt to a new environment, new culture, new climate. Start developing your ability to adapt to whatever life throws at you young and you will become a more adaptable person in the future. Adaptability to a trait not easily illustrated in writing, but volunteering abroad will automatically demonstrate your ability to adapt, which is becoming increasingly important in the world today.

Girls in front of Taj Mahal

9. See famous places. 

Have a picture of a famous landmark or a place of ultimate natural beauty that you’ve been longing to see in person? Seek out high school volunteer programs with excursion to that destination and mix rewarding experiences with your desire to explore. Visit majestic architectural wonders, witness the Running of the Bulls, view a Rembrandt painting, see where the Berlin Wall once stood; experience the history of a nation as you work alongside locals to better their lives for years to come.

10. Gain unique perspectives. 

See how others live their lives day to day. Witness things you can’t see at home, unique traditions or practices. Come to understand what the necessities of life are, by seeing those with not enough and those with too much. Become empathetic to the struggles and triumphs of individuals you’ve never met and learn to be less judgmental and more understanding.

Take time to revitalize your outlook on life and you may find more purpose in your daily life back at home.

11. Grow up. 

You may feel annoyed when your parents or older siblings insist you need to grow up, but volunteering abroad at any age provides participants with the ultimate opportunity to grow up. Whether 16, 64, or 29, volunteering will expose you to things you’ve never seen before. Overwhelming living conditions in congested cities or desolate villages. A lack of resources you never imagined, or stratification of wealth beyond repair. Issues of malnutrition, disease, and heartbreak that may seem unbelievable. Witnessing what the world truly experiences will force you to grow up and realize the reality of life, the good and bad (and learning to survive without your parents won’t hurt either).

Find out more information on high school volunteer programs abroad now!