While most individuals’ knowledge of Scotland will forever be confined to the cinematic depictions of Braveheart or Highlander, volunteering in Scotland will present the rare opportunity to engage with this Celtic country in its truest form. By becoming a volunteer in Scotland, volunteers will experience an entirely new culture while making a worthwhile, positive impact on local communities. Scotland is a country with beautiful sweeping landscapes, a rich history, and a fun modern culture. Whether completing volunteer work on environmental projects or in education, international volunteers will have the time of their lives while giving back to the Scottish people.
Edinburgh is the country’s capital and economic center. It is also an important hub of education, culture, and commerce for the entire United Kingdom. Historically prominent and rich in modern culture, the city plays host to the world’s largest annual international arts festival and is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Those who volunteer in Edinburgh can enjoy placements working within the city, while at the same time have ample opportunities to tour the city’s many museums, libraries, and historic monuments in their down time.
Glasgow is the country’s largest city with just over 500,000 inhabitants. Situated on the River Clyde in the central Scottish lowlands, the city is known for its fundamental role in both the Scottish enlightenment and the country’s Industrial Revolution. Today it is a thriving city with many modern entertainments, and is also famous as the country’s sporting capital (the first ever international soccer match took place in Glasgow in 1872). An equally stimulating city to Edinburgh, volunteering in Scotland is sure to be a fun and rewarding experience in either of the nation’s two largest cities.
Other potential locations for volunteer work in Scotland include the smaller cities of Aberdeen and Dundee, as well as the famous town of St. Andrews (which is known worldwide as the home of golf). Many volunteer programs in Scotland involve environmental or wildlife conservation, which will also take volunteers to the Scottish highlands, one of the last wild regions in Northern Europe. Climate varies across the country but, depending on when you volunteer in Scotland, you can generally expect conditions to be temperate, cool, and damp.
Projects & Placements
There are many volunteer placements in Scotland’s major cities in the areas of social work, education, and community service. Scotland is a developed country but still must cope with its fair share of social ills. International volunteers are welcomed with open arms to help combat social programs and immerse themselves in Scottish culture. Teaching children and working at daycares or orphanages are popular options for volunteering in Scotland, and it is also possible to find volunteer work preserving Scotland’s rich cultural heritage at museums or libraries.
For those whose interests lay beyond city life, other placements are available which involve environmental and wildlife preservation projects throughout the country’s northern highlands and island chains. Monitoring and researching environmental trends, removing invasive species, and preserving natural habitats are all types of common volunteer work in Scotland. Scotland is famous for its magnificent landscapes, however like many habitats around the world its land has become threatened by industrialization and erosive processes.
Opportunities to volunteer in Scotland are available throughout the year and volunteers can often enjoy the flexibility of deciding their own start and end dates. Volunteer programs in Scotland can last anywhere from a few weeks up to an entire year, so research carefully which seems like the best fit for you and your schedule. Summer volunteer programs are typically the most popular, because of the warm seasonal climate and ideal scheduling.
Costs & Affordability
Scotland can be a fairly expensive country to volunteer abroad in for non-Europeans, as the country uses the relatively strong British Pound as its local currency. Prices in Glasgow and Edinburgh are generally on par with other major cities across the United Kingdom (although considerably cheaper than London).
Beyond upfront fees, many volunteer programs in Scotland will help out with general living costs by compensating international volunteers with some combination of room and board. Scholarships and fundraising campaigns are also a good way to soften the blow on your wallet. If affordability is a concern, check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory to search for financial aid opportunities available for volunteering in Scotland.
Accommodation & Visas
Often volunteer programs in Scotland will help you to organize either group or individual housing. Homestays are a popular option for volunteers who choose to stay for a shorter period of time. If you are organizing housing independently and/or planning on volunteering abroad in Scotland for an extended period of time, then you may want to look into renting a flat. Living with roommates will make rent cheaper, so communication with other volunteers or leasing a single room with locals may be a good idea.
Volunteers from Australia, New Zealand, or the United States only need to obtain a visa if they plan on volunteering in Scotland for more than six months, provided they have a return ticket and proof of funds to cover the duration of their stay. Members of the European Union can typically volunteer in Scotland without a visa.
Benefits & Challenges
Volunteering abroad in Scotland is a great way to familiarize yourself with the country’s culture on an intimate basis while knowing that you are making a positive impact overall on local communities. The Scottish people are fun and welcoming and carry with them a proud and rich history. Travelling anywhere in the world to complete volunteer work is a noble pursuit and carries with it the potential for great personal development - all that’s left to do is decide to take the first step!