7 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad

by Julia Zaremba

Ever get the feeling that you have a higher calling? Something that goes beyond the corporate world, SUV’s, or the latest iPhone model. Do your toes curl just thinking about donating a truck full of canned goods to a children’s charity? Have an urge to just tear off your jacket, throw on a cape, and fly off to save the world from corruption and destruction?

Voilà! You might just be a virtuous volunteer at heart.

Now it's time to spread the love.

Silhouette of construction workers
You’re helping to build more than just houses and schools as an international volunteer.

Volunteering is a noble cause, one that can positively impact yourself and the environment.

There’s much more to it than just another bullet point on your college application though, and it can go far, far beyond that local charity or neighborhood pet shelter.

Next time that you draft your international travel plans, why not include some good ol’ altruism to the itinerary, magnify your experience, and join the rank of helpful humanitarians? Instead of partying around the world, hopping from one touristic city to another with new posies, indulge in a more substantial experience.

Volunteering abroad offers something to do, somewhere to go, and somewhere to stay, while giving you something much more important than just passport stamps and shot glasses to take back home.

Need more reasons to volunteer abroad? Not quite sold on the benefits of volunteering abroad? (Seriously?!) Read forth! 

1. You'll Have More Time

Well, technically this isn’t true. Everyone has 24 hours in the day, and even the magical qualities of pro bono do not add additional minutes to your day. However, you’ll definitely feel like you have more time. This is because the time you’ll spend will be filled with a higher value than it normally is; every action will have a purpose, making every moment seem longer, no matter how long you volunteer abroad for.

In terms of numbers, the hourly value of volunteers is on the rise every year; in 2016, it is estimated that an hour of volunteering is worth $23. When your worth is extended into the entire course of the day (and let’s face it, makes more impact than filling out spreadsheets back in the office), your sense of accomplishment at bedtime will be through that new roof you’re building.

Cover letter and pen sitting on a desk
You’re doing more than building your resume. 

2. You'll Feel Healthier

The health benefits of volunteering are many: lower rates of depression and heart disease, increased functional ability and accomplishment, improved physical fitness, strengthened mental wellness, and many more. Mix this with a greater sense of empathy and self-efficiency, all tinged with a generous speckle of universal love, and you’ll be more Zen than a Buddhist monk and reach a level of nirvana that your yoga teacher is endlessly stretching toward. 

Struggling with a range of health issues? You may have just found the perfect reason why you should volunteer abroad.

3. You'll Build a Community

Volunteering abroad gives you an extended family without any of the drama or need to buy Christmas presents for uncles you’ve never met. You strengthen your teamwork skills, develop camaraderie, and see how people from all backgrounds and countries are unified as they work for a common cause. In addition, you will strengthen someone else’s community: support families through disability care and elderly assistance, improve schools through tutoring, provide positive examples for youth with mentoring programs, and clean up the neighborhood with parks initiatives

So, why volunteer? Because it truly brings the world together.

4. You'll Develop Skills

Volunteering abroad gives you field experience (literally) in topics and skills you are interested in. Rebuilding homes after the earthquakes in Nepal or giving dental check-ups to children in Peru will develop parts of your brain (and body!) that class lectures or YouTube tutorial videos can’t. On the other hammer-wielding hand, if you would like to tackle a new interest or even switch professional fields, volunteering is an unselfish way to test the waters and add something to your resume. And, let’s be honest: if you are passionate enough to do something without any monetary rewards, this shows a commitment that speaks volumes to future employers.

Young students in Burma
You build a community when you volunteer abroad. 

5. You'll Travel Well, Far, and Affordably

It’s hard to find a more meaningful kind of travel than volunteering abroad, especially when you add all of the benefits that it offers. For one, volunteer opportunities are flexible; whether you want to research brown bear mating habits in Romania for two weeks or develop new systems for Kenya’s sustainable farms for a year, there is a volunteer program that exists and fits your schedule.

Second, the value of volunteer program fees are hard to dispute (as long as you stay away from big, dishonest corporations). While there are volunteering fees (which ideally go directly toward supplies, your lodging and food, and the community), they are modest and you have many options to fund your travel. It’s a lot easier to have a successful fundraiser when you advertise for a good cause, rather than when you try to raise money to “sail around the Caribbean for four months and try all the cocktails.”

6. You'll Learn About The World

Not only will you learn about the functions and organizations of the government as you work with nonprofit organizations, but you will also open your mind to different cultures, new traditions, foreign languages, and fresh perspectives. Your values with undoubtedly change, your ego will shrink, and your appreciation for life’s little treasures will grow higher than those trees you’re planting. And who can argue that these aren’t enormous benefits of volunteering abroad?

Mosque, Abu Dhabi
You have the opportunity to see beautiful corners of the world and make a difference while doing it. 

7.  You'll Grow Inside & Out

Even more than you learn about the world, you learn about yourself. We’re not just talking new technical skills or that growth spurt if you’re signing up for a high school volunteer program abroad. We’re talking about discovering new passions and evolving into a multi-layered, global citizen that radiates humanity. We’re talking about becoming the very best YOU; a reflection of all the beauty, goodness, and positivity that you witnessed and shared in the world.

Only word of warning: don’t set out to change the world; you’ll be disappointed to learn that the world doesn’t necessarily need changing. Instead, challenge yourself every day, test your patience, and open your mind and heart.

You will learn more than you impart, and you will gain more than you give.

Now that you’re radiating good vibes, go see which volunteer program abroad best matches your interests and cleanses your karma. Then, put on a pair of boots, pack a measuring tape, pull on some gardening gloves, and start building the greatest adventure of your life.

Don't forget to save and compare volunteer programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad!