While flowers are blossoming and the sun is starting to peek out from the clouds, you too can do your part to beautify the world and make it a better place. Divert your spring fever energy to a good cause by signing up for an alternative spring break trip abroad! Whether it’s running around barefoot with children, taking care of wild cats, or hammering together new homes, there are alternative spring break volunteer opportunities waiting for your eager pair of hands and active mind. The time slot might be short, but the impact and memories will be eternal.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Spring
Spring break can be a lot more than selfies in new swimwear, all-inclusive beach resorts, or lazy days in pajamas and boxes of cold pizza. Put life into perspective with an alternative spring break program abroad, and come back home with a few extra credentials and a lighter peace of mind (instead of a hangover).
Deciding to spend spring break pursuing a righteous activity isn’t a huge time commitment, yet its benefits don’t fade quickly. If you don’t want to miss out on any semesters or summer back home, pack a punch with two week (or less) alternative sping break trips. Not only will the weather be gorgeous as hibernation is coming to an end, but crowds will be smaller and prices cheaper. Since each country has spring break during a different week, there will also be less competition for accommodations and flights. Plus, who doesn’t want to see how iced teas compare across the world?
Working with people, animals, and the land in another country is a humbling experience, full of potential for personal development. Instead of a week-long party, you’ll learn that some countries employ pura vida (in moderation) year-round. Instead of listening to your friend’s boyfriend issues, you’ll learn that there are real issues out there that take real commitment and innovation to solve. Learning from new cultures will expand your perspective of the world (and of yourself!), and make you a global citizen that is sensitive to the needs of others.
In addition to warm, fuzzy feelings, participation in alternative spring break programs can convey a lot on resumes and applications. Not only does it show that you are passionately interested in something, but it shows that you are a go-getter, stepping outside of comfort zones to tackle the unknown. It also hints that you are a master communicator, not selfish, and a team leader. Who doesn’t want to hire a candidate like that?
With mild temperatures and blooming flowers worldwide, there are no bad places to sign up for alternative spring break trips. When deciding where to volunteer abroad during spring break, focus on what types of environments stimulate you and what kind of work you are interested in.
Southern Africa. Rich in colors, traditions, languages, nature, and volunteer opportunities, the southern portion of Africa is a great place to spend spring break volunteering. Make animals friends in Madagascar or reach your peak in Mozambique, which also offers a great opportunity to brush up on your Portuguese while you’re at it. If you’re a nature lover, check out the largest underground lake and oldest desert in Namibia. This country was the first to include a provision for environmental protection in its constitution, so you know you can get some good land preservation spring break program options here. Social care and medicine are other hot topics of focus for alternative spring break programs in Africa.
Middle East. While most areas of the Middle East don’t go through extreme seasons, it’s not scorching hot yet, so it’s not a bad idea to watch the sunrise color this particular region during springtime. Hop into a hot air balloon over Cappadocia in eastern Turkey, then enjoy some chicken for dessert and visit Santa Claus’ birthplace (surprise!). If pyramids and camels are more your thing, spend a week or two working with construction projects and childcare in Egypt. For those that want to focus on women’s rights and education, try Israel, the Holy City of culture and religion.
East Asia. Whether it’s pandas or kimchi that you’re interested in, east Asia doesn’t disappoint. Get confused about your age and keep your distance from red ink and the number four in South Korea while volunteering at an orphanage. Dare to tread into the Forbidden City in China or zen out in Japan, both of which offer great environmental conservation and child care volunteer programs. There are plenty of alternative spring break programs available in both urban cities and rural fields, so opt for whichever extreme you like most and explore east Asia’s diversity.
Alternative Spring Break Programs
You might not be able to build an entire schoolhouse or teach an entire language in a couple of weeks, but there are still plenty of alternative spring break opportunities abroad. Zone in on your passion or branch out to a new field, then dive in!
Conservation Work. Enjoy the sunny weather as you work with wildlife and the environment. Plant trees, build fences, conduct forest research, track wild animals, clean beaches, plant seeds, or graph ecosystems. The types of critters and flora differ by season, but the mission is always the same: preserve Mother Nature and all of its furry/scaly/slimy children.
Social Work. For those with big hearts and people skills, volunteering in social work is a fantastic opportunity to make new friends and help the disadvantaged. Whether it’s mental health or health care, patients will require patience, understanding, and a couple of hugs. Educational social work opportunities may include working with victims of abuse or motivational speeches for disadvantaged youth.
Disaster Relief. As the exodus of people is reaching new volumes throughout the world, refugee air positions are likewise on the rise. Corrupt environments and natural disasters leave thousands homeless, and there is a high demand for volunteers among refugee camps, fundraising charities, rehabilitation work, and language teaching posts.
Altruism is a universal language, so language should not be a barrier when searching for alternative spring break trips abroad. However, it’s always respectful and helpful to, at least, familiarize yourself with the basic phrases and customs of the country you are planning on volunteering in.
Tips & Advice for Spring Break Volunteering
Preparing for an alternative spring break trip is going to require significantly more planning and preparation than a mere trip to the beach with your besties. Since you’ll be dealing with limited days, focus on minimizing the material goods and maximizing potential; here’s how:
Packing. The idea of an international trip might inspire images of large suitcases, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Pack conservatively, think of layers, bring a backpack instead of a rolling suitcase, and invest in a good pair of shoes. Leave with extra room to bring back souvenirs and presents.
Traveling. Pick an alternative spring break program that is focused on one location, so that you don’t waste valuable time in-country traveling. Also, see if it’s at all possible to head out a day earlier or leave the night before spring break starts, especially if you’re traveling a long distance. Flights can take a long time, and even more so if there are multiple connections involved!
Volunteering. Make sure that your goals can be accomplished in a mere week or two, and that your effects are larger than your carbon impact. If you want to teach English, maybe stick with helping out in a day care. If you want to learn a language, pick an alternative spring break trip with greater immersion opportunities.
Preparing. Set your watch to the new time zone a few days in advance, make sure all visas and paperwork have been completed, check your passport (one more time), and research a bit on the culture you’ll be visiting. Read the volunteer orientation packet, so then when you hit the ground, you can start running.
Benefits & Challenges
Short but sweet, a spring break volunteer program might seem like a whirlwind of activity. As soon as you adjust to the new country and routine, it’s time to get on another plane and go home. However, good things come in small packages. Getting a taste of volunteer life can inspire future altruistic endeavors and might open your eyes to places and projects worth pursuing. Make the most of every moment and see that the effects last long past your departure.
Financing alternative spring break trips might be another tricky challenge, as it’ll still be a significant amount of money for only a short time abroad; not to mention you’ll be in the middle of your financial responsibilities related to university enrollment back home, and you might have to deal with finding a sublease for a week. However, the monetary price tag attached to making a meaningful difference in the world is deceptive, and a volunteer spring break trip can open doors to many places and people. If you need help funding your alternative spring break trip, consider snatching a scholarship or funding your travel via crowdsource fundraising.
Deciding to pursue this noble cause is an endeavor with greater bragging rights than who won the Beer Pong competition or whose skin adopted the nicest shade of bronze. In this year’s spring cleaning, throw out the artificial and useless, and instead, stock up on positive impact, good energy, and international friends as you volunteer abroad.