With summer quickly approaching, your lack of seasonal employment might inspire panic and no concrete summer travel plans might cause your palms to perspire. But, relax. There’s something even better on the horizon, and soon all of your worries will fade away. How can we make that guarantee? Well, we just can.
Rather than working for pennies at your local BBQ restaurant or mapping out a circular road trip, how about investing in something adventurous and meaningful? There are plenty of summer volunteer programs for college students, from working with children to volunteering with sea turtles, so make this your best summer yet. Take a look at the many summer volunteer programs on GoAbroad to get your search started (and keep taking a look because it is constantly updated!).
There are tons of benefits to reap from summer volunteering: increased happiness and health, professional growth, new global connections, positive impact on the community you serve, and all the warm fuzzies that go with it. Admit it; the more you think about this, the more appealing a summer volunteer program abroad sounds, right? So, let’s keep the good times rolling, here are nine reasons why you should spend your summer volunteering abroad:
Why sign up for summer volunteer opportunities abroad?
1. It'll Double as an Adventure
With longer, warmer days comes the promise of adventure, excitement, and an endless supply of fun in the sun. Many of us dream up plans that will make for the summer of a lifetime, but we end up falling into a rut of doing the same thing day after day— namely, sleeping in and binge watching the newest season of whatever on Netflix. Summer volunteer programs (especially ones that include adventure opportunities) can save you from the monotony that your break between semesters has become. Instead of diving into that new series on Netflix, you could be helping with sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica or building a house in Thailand. No matter what you do or where you go, it sure beats your standing pizza order and a trip to the mall!
2. You'll Learn Tons of New Skills...
Taking a class to get ahead of your credits or even taking a class just for fun (you’ve always wanted to learn guitar, right?) over the summer break are great ways to take advantage of the extra time on your hands. But, summer volunteer programs can give you more than the ability to solve matrices or play a C-chord. From work-specific skills, such as learning how to dress a wound, constructing house foundations, or teaching children, to increased communication and work ethic, you’ll be hard-pressed not to gain something from your summer volunteer program. It is a great self-esteem booster, and looks great on future resumes and job applications!
3. ... and Meet Tons of New & Interesting People
While spending each day of your summer with the same crew can be fun, why not branch out? A summer volunteer program will give you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Gain a new perspective by chatting with someone from Finland, Argentina, and South Africa, all around the same dinner table! Exposure to new cultures and ways of thinking expands our understanding of the world, and can teach us more than any textbook— so don’t shy away from conversation. If you really hit it off, you could even plan to visit your new friend in her home country the following summer. Talk about #SquadGoals, right?
4. You'll Be Able to Narrow Down Your Career Interests
Summer volunteering is the perfect way to test a career possibility before devoting your life to it. Rather than blindly thinking you want to be a teacher, only to realize you have a fear of sticky fingers after one week in a classroom, test the waters first. With the variety of summer volunteer abroad programs available, it will be easy to find one that fits in with your interests and career goals. Choose to volunteer in medical programs, conservation projects, childcare facilities, or whatever peaks your interest. If you love your time spent volunteering abroad, make a career out of it! If you weren’t that into it, look into other career options, or volunteer again for another cause. It’s certainly not rocket science— unless that’s what you’re into.
5. You Can Pick Up a New Language
Even during summer volunteering abroad you can pack a lot of language acquisition into a few weeks. Whether you’re starting from hola or need help perfecting the pluperfect tense, full immersion in a society where you hear, see, read, taste, and breathe a foreign language does wonders for the brain. Learn from the locals, or chat with fellow international volunteers, and you will leave with a full language repertoire under your belt. Not only does becoming a summer volunteer abroad beat a semester (or year) of sitting in a classroom, but you’ll be able to form meaningful relationships with the people you’ll spend your summer volunteering with.
6. You'll Be Granted Some Travel Flexibility
More so than study abroad programs or internships, summer volunteer programs abroad come with a sense of flexibility that makes including them in your summer travels a breeze. Start and end dates are not set in stone and program durations are usually determined by the program participant. This means that commitment times can be anything from a week to three months. In other words, there’s something that fits any sort of summer schedule, whether that includes extended cruises around the Caribbean or quick trips to Eastern Europe.
Keep in mind, however, the commitment you’re making. If you choose to spend your summer volunteering, that’s what you’ll be doing, primarily. You may have time to travel before and after your summer volunteer program, but if you’re going to be there BE THERE, put your all into it, and work hard— don’t be jetting off every weekend and shirking your responsibilities.
7. You'll Get Healthier
Whether it’s because you’re out moving and interacting or because you’re not sitting on a couch and eating pizza day after day, summer volunteering is linked with a lovely assortment of health benefits. Investing in something meaningful increases mental wellness and decreases rates of depression. Physical fitness improves (guess there’s an advantage to hammering nails and carrying plywood for hours, day after day), and heart disease rates drop. That’s not even to mention the warm, fuzzy feelings you’ll be wrapped around in, which come with their own set of positivity.
8. You'll Beef Up That Resume
Just because school’s out and you’re not sludging through classes doesn’t mean that your professional development has to come to a stop. A summer spent volunteering abroad proves that you are genuinely passionate about something, which looks a lot more impressive than just college credit or temporary job in the same field. In addition to the new life skills that you’ll develop, you’ll be able to put a few more meaningful bullet points on your school or job applications. Summer volunteer programs abroad are great conversation starters for any interview as well!
9. You'll Do Something Meaningful
Summer volunteer abroad programs can benefit you in a variety of ways, but don’t forget that the purpose of volunteering is to help others. Instead of spending your time tossing a frisbee at the beach or mastering Mario Kart, do something that influences others’ lives. Being able to look back at your summer and say, “I built a classroom” or “I made an impact on wildlife conservation” is something you’ll be proud of for the rest of your life. You could even keep the warm fuzzies rolling and become a returning summer volunteer abroad.
Next steps to signing up for summer volunteer opportunities abroad
Now that you have the inside scoop, know where many volunteers choose to spend their time, and know common causes that volunteers are working to eradicate, it's time to choose who you want to volunteer abroad with! Choosing a program isn't as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these steps. Start browsing all of the program possibilities, then...
- Decide where to go. Figuring out where YOU should volunteer abroad for the summer is paramount. Have a short list of locations that sound ideal for your goals and skills (i.e. if you don't have experience working with animals, you might reconsider volunteering in Kruger National Park or with turtles in Costa Rica). Don't let anything hold you back—choose a place that's right for you and your skills. (Psst! Here are the best places for summer volunteer abroad programs this year).
- Pick your project. We outlined a few common causes that international volunteers support above. Do some reflection on what skills and knowledge you bring to the table, and which project would best benefit from your time and energy.
- Choose from the best volunteer abroad programs. Pay attention to past participants’ reviews, program/university reputation, location, and how the project's needs match your skills. Some programs may even share contact info for ambassadors or past participants if you want the REAL dirt. Here are more considerations to make as you figure out how to choose the right volunteer program for you. Pro tip: You can use MyGoAbroad to compare programs side-by-side.
- Plan your finances. Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge on travel (in addition to program costs and airfare). Be sure to raise a little extra money to donate to the organization that you'll be working with. Learning how to fund your volunteer abroad adventure is essential prior to your travels!
- Get prepared! Preparing for summer volunteer opportunities abroad is as fun as it sounds. With the days til departure number dwindling and your excitement boiling, it can be easy to overlook the details. Lean on us to help guide you through your pre-departure process—that's what we're here for.
You're ready to SEIZE summer volunteer opportunities abroad!
If you think you’ve got what it takes to make a positive difference in the world (and upon yourself), toss those work applications aside and call up your flaky road trip friends to tell them that you’ve got better plans: to give your time and skill sets to a good cause. With a summer volunteer abroad program, it’ll be the season of change and growth. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.