Follow this ultimate guide with 7 tips to know before volunteering abroad and you’ll be ready for anything:
#1: After completion, volunteering won’t guarantee you a visa, or a job:
There are a lot of volunteers who come abroad thinking they will get hired after or get help extending their visa. Make sure you don’t lose track of the expiration date of your tourist visa. If you really have the desire of staying longer, inquire with your programme to know what the options are for getting a more permanent work permit. You may have to make some quick trips to the embassy to fill out the necessary forms. There are always chances that they will hire you, but don’t rely on that too much.
#2: Things can be very bad, worse than you think.
A lot of programmes mention something often referred to as “culture shock”. You may think that you saw it all, but you probably didn’t. Often when volunteering, you witness things you never thought you would have to see. You may see first-hand emaciated children sleeping on cars at night, or things that make you realize what true famine really is. This obviously is no reason for not doing it, but be prepared.
#3: You won’t change the world.
You may think that you’ll change the place where you’re going. You can and will definitely help a lot, but thinking that you’ll change the world with a couple weeks or months of volunteering is very naive. Accepting this fact can take a while, and is no reason to not volunteer abroad. Every little bit you help is great and you’ll help a lot. Just prepare yourself for what you might see and be prepared to leave without having solved all the problems in that place.
#4: Volunteering can make you see sides of yourself you never knew existed
There are high chances that you will have confrontations with extreme situations. Those situations can make you feel vulnerable and even make you cry or break down. Try to put a positive spin on the situation. How you react in these situations can help you learn a lot about yourself. For example, you can find your love for children while struggling to teach English at a primary school. You can realize you are very good at helping people with disabilities when faced with helping someone that needs you. Getting to know yourself while exploring a foreign culture is part of the process. Be prepared to look within.
#5: You don’t need to pay for a volunteer placement:
There are a lot of programs that offer you a placement to volunteer abroad, however you need to pay a significant amount of money to get them. These kinds of programs are great and help support you a lot by helping you create networks, choosing the right International health insurance for you and giving you a decent place to sleep. However, there are endless programs that provide the same benefits to you without asking you for any money. Do extensive research before selecting a program.
#6: Despite everything, you will miss it afterwards.
Volunteering abroad is an experience that will leave strong imprints on you. You will be put in uncomfortable positions, asked to make heartbreaking decisions and live without food or hygiene you’re used to. But you won’t stop thinking on some things that you had seen and those are the best lessons of all.