Working abroad: a life-changing opportunity

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Introduction

More and more people of all ages are volunteering to work for interesting projects based all over the world. From teaching in India to nursing abroad in Africa, conservation work in South East Asia to construction work in South America, the opportunities for volunteering are endless and the commitment required ranges from a couple of weeks to a couple of years.

Volunteering is a two-way process – you get out of it what you put in and you take away just as many new experiences and opportunities as you help provide. What does the experience of being a volunteer abroad give back to the volunteers? From the enthusiastic endorsements of many who have benefited from the experience, here’s what volunteers can take away:

New skills and experience

Volunteering is an exciting way to gain useful experience in a number of fields: education, journalism, social work, animal care, health care, marketing, politics, web design – you name it and you can probably gain it!

While many employers look for relevant experience on a CV, they are also looking for evidence of commitment, determination, independence and someone who can provide that something extra. Volunteering helps to give you this edge by making you stand out from the CV crowd.

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Learn a new language

The career path of those with a second language can become that much broader – and where better to learn a new language than working side by side with those who speak it? International communication is of growing importance because of the rapidly expanding global economy and you can cherry-pick your volunteering destination to match your target language.

Learning a new language is never easy, but you will get a lot further learning Spanish in Nicaragua than you will attending evening classes. When you spend a significant amount of time abroad with native language speakers, you will be amazed at how quickly you can become fluent.

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New job opportunities

For some volunteers their work has led directly to a paid job with an NGO or charity. Some volunteers see it as an intern opportunity that gives them the chance to try out a new field, such as teaching, to see if it suits them. Others, like nurses, do the work to see if they would enjoy working abroad in particular countries. For all volunteering helps open new doors.

What would you most like to volunteer for?

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Comments 4 comments

Alina 4 years ago

I've been flirting with the idea of spending some time abroad for a while, and I think that volunteering would be the perfect way of doing so!


Nelly 4 years ago

Great article! I really want to so some volunteering but I am still unsure where to start. This article really inspires me to push my dream.


Victoria Leat 4 years ago

Although it is very true that volunteering is a great way to bolster your CV and give you valuable life experience, it is concerning to note that nowhere in this article is any mention of the benefits to the host communities that volunteers work with. Whilst volunteering allows you to travel the world, this is not a good enough reason to undertake international volunteering.

There has been extensive criticism of the volunteer tourism (also known as "voluntourism") market in recent years and with good reason. Sending unskilled volunteers to undertake work in communities with very little consideration of the impact, sustainability or longer-term effects is both careless and potentially damaging.

For those seeking to truly help those less fortunate, skilled volunteers can prove to be a valuable asset to local organisations to help them grow and develop. But this can only be driven by the true need of a community (rather than a tour agency making money), with clear aims and objectives, a long-term organisational strategy and sustainable outcomes. A stark example of this is a recent Al Jazeera documentary about volunteering in Cambodia http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower...

Articles such as the one above are great for highlighting the positives for the individual volunteer, but more time and thought must be given to the benefit to local communities and international development as a whole.


Sonia 4 years ago

I did volunteering abroad two years ago because I loved the idea of gaining experience in teaching while giving something back. It was an amazing experience and nothing I've done in my life so far compares with the feeling I had back then while doing something good for other communities.

Great hub :)

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