Students Set Out: A Guide for Student Volunteers
In today’s competitive age, college students are constantly juggling social life, grades and extracurriculars. Traveling as a student is a luxury usually thought of as time with family or a semester abroad. GivingWay shows students that exploring abroad can mean more when you are welcomed into a remote community as a volunteer to help, learn, and grow.
Setting off to volunteer may seem impossible because of time, money, and safety – this guide is intended to help overcome these barriers and allow entrance to the world of volunteering abroad.
1. First things first; how to OPTIMIZE YOUR TIME while volunteering abroad.
Receive credit. Many times, summer opportunities can translate to elective credit or even count towards your major! Once you find an organization with a volunteering position that interests you, speak with your academic advisor about your role and responsibilities as a volunteer and learn your school’s criteria for earning credit abroad. You can blog about the activities and photograph project results to show what you have accomplished.
Boost your resume. Volunteering positions, though unpaid, still come with immense responsibility and foster unimaginable learning experiences unlike any job. Take note of the specific tasks you perform at the organization in order to include your new skills on your resume.
Improve a second language. Choose a country where they speak the language you are currently learning, or left behind in high school, to receive language credit at your university. Even if you are unable to receive formal credit, use this as an opportunity to improve your communication skills which can be hard to fully grasp in a classroom setting.
Set off in the summer. The summer is a fun time to set off and explore while you have the most time off school. This is the perfect time to volunteer if you are looking for something more long term – this could mean gaining sufficient hours for class credit or volunteering with children who need time to adjust to new adults in their lives. Keep in mind traveling halfway around the world means your destination is amid the opposite season – if traveling somewhere tropical, volunteering in the summer likely means more mild, pleasant weather.
Volunteer over winter break. Winter break is a great time to travel for a short-but-sweet volunteering experience. You can volunteer for a couple of weeks and still have sufficient time to wander on your own if you so desire. This could serve as an opportunity to dip your toes in the water: the experience is sure to deliver and you can return to the same organization, or discover a new one, to offer support during the summer.
2. When living on a college budget, flying across the globe is unlikely accounted for in your monthly spendings. Thankfully, with GivingWay, there are ways to KEEP THE COST DOWN.
Volunteer while abroad. A good way around paying for flights is volunteering in a country you’re already planning to visit. If you volunteer during your semester abroad, you eliminate the need for another long, expensive flight. Plan the trip with friends studying abroad in the same region or invite new companions you meet along the way to feel more at home, while also providing more helping hands to the community.
Filter your search. When using the GivingWay platform, you can filter your search for organizations by cost and if accommodation and meals are provided. The nonprofits’ GivingWay pages clearly articulate the daily cost and/or one time fee to volunteer – some are fairly cheap or even FREE! It is important to know these costs are more than a number; typically, the daily fees pay for food and housing provided by the local community. Consider these costs carefully and evaluate what is supplied in order to gauge an accurate price estimate of your experience.
Consider Fundraising. You can request monetary support on personal social media accounts in creative ways to make the ask more comfortable and effective. A meaningful method for raising money could be asking for a donation in which 50% will be donated to the organization and 50% will support the cost of your trip. After your experience, be sure to post again, thanking those who supported your experience and tag GivingWay for a chance to be featured!
Volunteer Online. Our new Online Volunteering allows the experience to be completely free! You can easily integrate volunteer work into your busy schedule while enjoying the comfort of your own home. You can also use volunteering online as an initial step to foster a strong relationship with the nonprofit to later visit and volunteer on-site.
3. Often times, regardless of how perfect or how passionate, it takes a lot to GET YOUR PARENTS ON BOARD.
Do your research. The best starting place is to read GivingWay’s Safety and Vetting article. This describes the criteria for nonprofits to be eligible to set up a profile on GivingWay and outlines the safety precautions and research that should be completed before traveling. Before presenting your proposal to your parents, make sure you have done your research! This could include reading through reviews of past volunteers or contacting the organization directly through the GivingWay platform with questions about your future experience.
Invite family along. Once you set off for college, the time spent with your family decreases drastically as you no longer live in the same zip code – let alone under the same roof. Invite your parents, siblings, and grandparents to live in the same community and volunteer by your side – you can even have some fun creating an online or physical invitation with photos! Your invite will allow your parents to do their own research and warm up to the idea of volunteering abroad. If they wish to join your adventure, you can easily filter your search for organizations suitable for families. Even if they cannot join you, they will know you are serious about wanting to volunteer.
4. The last and key step to ensuring the best possible experience is to BE OPEN MINDED.
Expect the unexpected. As much as you try to account for every last detail before arrival, you can’t plan for everything. You can’t plan the way you will feel, which community members will become your best friends, which days will be the best or when you will feel home sick. There will likely be ups and downs, so it is important to be open minded and appreciate all of the moments of your incredible opportunity. Culture shock is a real, yet exciting state to encounter, so embrace it for all it has to offer in opening your eyes to new niches of our beautiful world.
Keep a Journal. Journalling is a great way to express your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and excitement. Often times, if you are nervous for what’s to come or feeling uneasy about a big change, it helps to jot down the thoughts running through your head to give them an escape – especially with a language barrier to locals and less-than-perfect cell reception. Journals can also help emphasize your personal journey by reflecting on and appreciating the little things that happen that you won’t want to forget. Seemingly obvious, having a journal does not translate to having a diary – it doesn’t have to be secretive or formally written – you can express your trip however it feels right. You can draw pictures, tape in photos or small keepsakes, you can have a friend take up a page with a note or rip a page out to gift to someone else. Even if you don’t use it everyday, a journal is nice to have in case you find yourself using it during your time abroad.
Volunteering in a remote community overseas is far from a day-to-day activity; therefore, considerations and plans must be made ahead of time. Seemingly a ways away, you have already begun your journey to volunteering abroad. Now it’s up to you to encompass your passion and dedication to make your dream volunteering experience a reality. Happy Volunteering!