The Top 10 Reasons Why Volunteering Internationally Will Help You Get Ahead
International volunteering provides a more reciprocal form of travel, in which both volunteers and host communities are able to benefit from the experience. The following report focuses on the benefits that can be gained by volunteers.
Enhance your CV/resume and increase your employability
Volunteering overseas is a great way of making your CV/resume stand out. It shows that you are willing to step outside your comfort zone to make a difference to the lives of others. Employers appreciate this and they value the life experience, soft skills and cultural understanding that you will gain through volunteering.
Gain professional orientation/clarification
International volunteering gives you the opportunity to take time out of your regular routine and think about what it is you really want to do with your life. By volunteering in an area you are interested in pursuing, you will have the opportunity to solidify your goals and career path. Alternatively, you may choose to explore new career possibilities.
Another benefit - that's 3
Improve college admission chances
Colleges and universities increasingly look for candidates with life experience and international travel experience. They value students who have taken a year out but are increasingly demanding as to how you choose to use your time out. Heath (2004) states that "there are good gap years and bad gap years, with young people expected to justify the manner in which they spend their time" see references (p.14). Volunteering overseas is perceived by universities as a 'productive' way to spend at least part of a year out due to the opportunities provided to step outside your comfort zone, mature, broaden horizons and consider career options.
Improve chances of university/college success
By taking time out to volunteer abroad, you will also increase your chances of success at college/university because you will be giving yourself the time to mature and focus your interests. Time Magazine reported that "Robert Clagett, dean of admissions at Middlebury, did some number-crunching a few years ago and found that a single gap semester was the strongest predictor of academic success at his school." (2010).
Benefit 5 - Awesome!
Experience improved self-esteem, self-confidence and life satisfaction
By volunteering abroad you will have the opportunity to experience personal development, which can take the form of improved self-esteem, self-confidence and life satisfaction. By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself into a different culture, you are likely to feel a sense of empowerment and also begin to reflect on what you want from life.
One of the reasons why universities are so in favour of a year out, is that they recognize the need to avoid burnout. "You've spent 12 straight years as a student. You have spent the better part of the last year conducting an exhaustive college search, completing your college application and going through a rigorous admissions process. Before you embark on a major and pursue a degree program, it may be time for a break. Taking a year off before returning to school will afford you the opportunity to approach the next phase of your education with a fresh start and renewed vigor while staving off academic burnout." (Campus Explorer 2010).
Gain new knowledge and work experience
Working in another country will provide you with the opportunity to gain knowledge, experience and skills which you may not have been able to acquire at home. The obvious example is learning a foreign language much faster than you could at home by immersing yourself into the language and culture. In addition, by volunteering in your field of interest you will have the opportunity to learn new ways to approach different problems, and you will gain valuable work experience in a new environment.
Learn about the world and different cultures
Volunteering is very different to being a tourist because you will spend a significant amount of time in one place and you will be working on a daily basis with local people. This provides an invaluable opportunity to learn about different cultures, develop an understanding of the issues facing host communities and develop a sense of global citizenship.
Meet like-minded people
One of the most long-lasting benefits of volunteering is the friendships you will make. You will meet people from all backgrounds and all walks of life but the challenges you will overcome together will often create life-long bonds
Have an incredibly rewarding experience
Perhaps most importantly of all, volunteering overseas gives you the chance to give back and this can result in an incredible sense of fulfilment. Volunteering also gives purpose to travel and this has been highly documented in a variety of literature.
About the Author
Eliza Raymond has a Masters focused on international volunteer programs from the University of Otago, New Zealand.
She has published work about international volunteering in Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, the VolunTourist Newsletter, Tourism Recreation Research, and the Journal of Geography Teachers.
She has also presented her work at the ATLAS Conference: Tourism After Oil.
Eliza has volunteered all over the world and has worked for the Global Volunteer Network for the last 3 years.