volunteering abroad

Every year taking some time to volunteer abroad is becoming more and more popular. It is a great way to spend time off from school or work and allows you to help people while seeing the world. When most people think of helping out overseas, however, they don’t consider all the options they have. The fact of the matter is that you are able to select all sorts of things from where you go to how long you are gone for and what you do. Here are the most important options to consider when volunteering abroad.

How Long

One of the most important things to decide before you go abroad is how long you will be there for. For many people this simply depends on how much time they can get off from school or work. A common option is to spend a week or two helping out in another country over spring or winter break. An increasingly popular option is to take a gap year and volunteer abroad either between high school and college or college and graduate school. This is ideal if you want to be able to spend an extended time volunteering.

Where To Go

Although when you think of volunteering, most people imagine going to third world countries, this is not the only option. The fact of the matter is that every country in the world needs volunteers of some sort and almost all of them are willing to accept them. This means that whether you want to go to Africa or Europe, you will most likely be able to find a place to volunteer that truly needs your help.

By Yourself Or In An Organization

Many colleges are beginning to plan spring break trips to volunteer abroad but if you do not have this option (or are going for a longer time), you have two main options in terms of planning: you can either do the work yourself or go as part of a volunteer organization. If you need flexibility and are willing to put in a bit of extra work in terms of planning, it is reasonable to go by yourself. If you are traveling to a third world country this can also be a great way to save money.

No matter where you are going to volunteer, however, traveling through a volunteer program can make life a lot easier. Most will only charge for your everyday expenses such as food, shelter and transportation and they will do all the planning for you. This means that you will not have to worry about the basics such as finding a place to stay, a place to volunteer, learning how to get around and most importantly having the proper documents to volunteer. If you opt to go with an organization, they will guide you every step of the way; you just have to be sure to choose the right organization. Some will even pay for a good part of your trip although these programs are typically harder to apply for.

The Project

One of the most important things to consider when you are planning on volunteering abroad is what you want to do. If you don’t know which country you want to volunteer in, this is a great way to narrow down the options because certain countries will have more volunteer opportunities in certain fields. For example, a person who wants to do environmental volunteering will find that Costa Rica is a great option. The options for projects truly are limitless but some of the most common are teaching, working with kids, working with the elderly, working with the disabled, social work, building homes, working on food distribution and environmental work. If you plan on volunteering with an organization, be sure they have the type of project you want before you make your final decision.

Where To Stay

Another important consideration that can affect your overall experience is where you will stay. The most common options are: in a host family, in your own apartment or with other volunteers. Each option comes with its own advantages so it depends on what you want to get out of the experience. If you want a great deal of freedom, living on your own is the best. If  getting to know other volunteers from other countries is important to you, then living with other volunteers is ideal. The best option if you want to truly learn about the country, however, is to live with a host family. This will allow you to pick up the language much more quickly and learn about the culture. It will also give you a great excuse to come back and visit after you are done volunteering. Generally speaking, if you are looking to live with a host family, the best option is to go through a volunteer program as they will have the necessary connections to help you find one.