Guest Post: The Long-Term Benefits Of Volunteering Abroad

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December 31, 1969

Today’s article is brought to you by Tom Hopkins. Tom is Editor in Chief for Minds Abroad, your informed counselor for study abroad and travel programs in China. Learn Mandarin in China and enrich your cross-cultural experience. For more posts and information on places of cultural and historical interest that we take our students to, visit www.mindsabroad.com.

When you’re contemplating a gap year program, you can choose to volunteer for the immense learning experience. These programs introduce you to real life situations that require the use of a foreign language coupled with an understanding of the culture of the new place. This is one of the finest methods of learning, while contributing to the benefit of the society. With corporate social responsibility becoming an imperative, a volunteering program adds irreplaceable value to your resume and to your personal development.

Exploring the Multifaceted Genre of Volunteering

Gap year programs allow students to take time out of their routine studies and visit countries that they have only read about. Most of these students apply for study abroad programs in order to learn the language of their host country. These programs also give students the rare opportunity to explore the country’s major sites of historic and cultural interest. Visiting these sites helps them understand firsthand about the nation, its people, the culture and lifestyle. But interaction at this basic level, even though it adds value to a student’s resume, is not enough—because a student fails to draw maximum benefits from such an experience.China lilies - Volunteer Global

Today, most of the countries branded as popular destinations and incorporated into study abroad programs are developing nations like India and China. There is a distinct difference between study abroad providers bringing students to China or India and those bringing students to more developed countries, such as those in Western Europe. This is because developing countries offer more opportunities of volunteer work pertaining to the emancipation of the poor and elderly. Students interested in gap year jobs can choose from a vast array of volunteering opportunities that these countries have to offer. In the process, they can enhance their skills and allow interaction at a ground level. This offers an immersive experience unlike anything else. Students also have to use their communication skills among others to interact effectively.

There are many types of volunteering jobs that one can opt for on gap year trips. It is not imperative that one has to teach only. A student can utilize his or her skills in various aspects of community service. Those who are interested in management can foray into various other sectors like retail, customer services, and more. Every social service organization requires allocation of resources for effective functioning.

Depending on the skills of a student or professional, he or she can be a part of a community service center board and help strategize the overall functioning of the organization. As an alternative, one can also join the management committees to look over the operations. One can choose child and youth services or work with the elderly. One can also opt for assisting people with disabilities and help them learn skills that will allow them to be independent in the long run. All such tasks require knowledge of the language of that community so that communication remains smooth. This pitches one in a real work environment where situations that arise are unanticipated. Resolving such situations helps induce tolerance, patience and thinking on one’s feet. The comfort of the home nation being absent, one has to deal with additional aspects of cultural difference, working styles and methodologies. All such scenarios put one into situations that are a part of daily work life.

One can also work with the emergency services to learn dealing with unforeseen situations which require deft handling of the problem and quick thinking.

So—what benefits have you found from international volunteering? How has it helped to shape your career, your education, and even your worldview? Post your stories below!

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, Dainis Matisons.