Going abroad doesn't have to be an experience you missed out on just because you didn't study abroad while in college. Volunteering and interning abroad are two opportunities that allow you to explore the world while gaining skills, no matter if you're a college student, a college graduate or just someone who wants to travel!
Interning abroad and volunteering abroad are both similar options for meaningful travel. So how should you decide which is right for you? We at GoAbroad have broken down what interning abroad and volunteering abroad entail in an effort to help you choose the right program!
Both volunteering abroad and interning abroad help you gain vital skills that will help you with future endeavors. Depending on your goals, whether an internship or volunteering will help you more could be a toss-up.
Volunteering Abroad: If you are interested in conservation, health care or working with children, your volunteering options are just as plentiful, if not more, as interning abroad. Aside from the direct experience you can gain in your area of interest, you can also gain general skills such as work ethic, teamwork and flexibility.
Interning Abroad: Interning abroad will give more beneficial experiences to those interested in journalism, marketing, business or other fields with few volunteer opportunities. Across careers, interning abroad will help you gain experience working in a professional environment, whether in an office or in the field. Since you are required to have previous experience to intern abroad, it's likely that your internship will be at a higher level than a similar program available for volunteers.
Both volunteering and interning abroad require an application, just as most programs abroad do. But the application process and experience necessary differs.
Volunteering Abroad: Anyone interested in volunteering abroad needs to fill out an application before they are allowed to go save the world. These applications are similar to the ones filled out by study abroad students and require you to share basic personal information and answer a few general questions about why you're interested in volunteering.. Since most volunteering abroad programs offer training, previous experience isn't necessary. As long as you apply in time and can afford the program, you will be able to volunteer abroad.
Interning Abroad: Applying to an internship abroad is more like applying to a job. You will need to send a cover letter and a resume in addition to a general application. Some companies tailor internships to your interests or look for internships you're best suited for after receiving your resume. Similar to a temp agency, this guarantees that the company will be able to find you some sort of internship abroad. However you are not guaranteed to be accepted into your dream internship; your background and qualifications matter.
Benefits to Career
Both volunteering abroad and interning abroad will give you a one-up in the job market, but each will benefit you in a different way.
Volunteering Abroad: Skills gained while volunteering abroad are beneficial no matter your career path. Learning to work as a team, pick up new skills and be up for anything are assets that all employers look for. Not to mention the fact that you were in a different country, soaking in a new culture and gaining independence. Having volunteering experiences on your resume also shows that you are a passionate person with good work ethic.
Interning Abroad: Employers like to see actual work experience in addition to education and grades, and internships are a great way to gain this experience. International work experience shows that you have global interests and are able to adjust to different office cultures, which are both incredibly important to potential employers. You will also gain valuable references and possibly career connections through an internship.
The cost of volunteering abroad and interning abroad are very similar. The prices of both range depending on how long you want to be away from home. And yes, it seems as though you shouldn't have to pay to volunteer and that you should gain money for interning rather than lose it, but programs offer services that don't pay for themselves. The cost of food, living and insurance are covered within most programs. Besides, the experiences you gain will pay off big time in the job market, so you should consider volunteering or interning abroad an investment.
Integration into Country
Your interest in volunteering or interning abroad is due to more than career gains. You can volunteer or intern anywhere, but you want to travel some place new! Integration and international experiences matter, and your experience will be different depending on what you do.
Volunteering Abroad: When you volunteer abroad, you do so with a group of people. These people could be from a variety of countries or from your homeland, but no matter where they are from, these are the people you will be with during most of your trip. You will likely spend most of your time on and near your volunteer site, but you'll also have the chance to explore. Some volunteer programs are set up so the first part of the trip is volunteering and the second part is site-seeing and adventure-having.
Interning Abroad: Interning abroad is similar to working abroad in that you will spend most weekdays at your internship. You will be on your own living and working in the city where your internship is located. This might give you more of an opportunity to integrate with the working-class citizens of that country than volunteering abroad would allow. However any exploring you do is with your own time and money, so if you're interested in spending a week zip-lining and kayaking, you may want to look for a volunteer program that offers those types of excursions.