People to Avoid When Volunteering Abroad

by Elsa Thomasma

Anyone who has volunteered abroad has come across some interesting characters who they may prefer they had never met. Unfortunately, not everyone who chooses to volunteer internationally is able to adjust to life in a new country. These are the top ten people to avoid when participating in a volunteer program abroad; they may simply annoy you or possibly embarrass you, but either way if they could be a future fellow volunteer so it is best to be prepared.

The Crusader

The person who thinks that volunteering abroad means modifying the culture to match the perfect egalitarian structure back home. They try to wipe out thousands of years of sexism, the caste system, and backwards traditions in two weeks, adamantly protesting that it is the “right” way for society to run.

The Entitled One

She paid for her volunteer abroad experience and therefore she has the  right to make consumer demands, boss around the local staff, require a proper pillow, and insist that her host mother cooks her food the right way.

A woman in the beach

The Vacationer

This volunteer is no volunteer, instead they are someone looking for a free vacation from Mom and Dad, posed as a charitable donation of their time in a tropical destination. They skip placement to go on extended, lavish weekend vacations, go to the beach every day as soon as their required hours for the day are completed, and take every chance they can to “get away” from their volunteer responsibilities.

The Oblivious One

Someone who talks loudly about inappropriate things, or openly discusses cultural practices they oppose in public among groups of locals. These international volunteers assume no one speaks English and think they are always free to discuss their opinions with anyone who will listen.

The Rebel

A volunteer who is out of his or her parents guidance and control for the first time. They don’t know their own limits, always try to impress people by doing or saying outrageous things, and in the end end the night with too much to drink, forcing their fellow volunteers to carry them home.

The Hypochondriac

This volunteer thinks every piece of food, every bug, and every seat is infested with bacteria that will surely kill them in minutes. They complain that food is not up to par with their standards, and therefore they are inevitably sick throughout their entire stay. If they get bit by a mosquito they are doomed to contract Dengue, West Nile, or have some other serious infection.

A woman wearing a mask

Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding, life-changing experiences of your entire life. Regardless of who you meet along the way the most important thing to remember is why you came and not who you're volunteering with. You’ll be friends with some people, and others may fit one of the latter descriptions, but in the end everyone volunteering overseas is taking time out of their lives to help others, which should always help them connect in some meaningful way.