How to volunteer abroad for students

College is a time for discovery and challenge, both inside and outside the classroom. Make the most of your college years by volunteering abroad or joining an international internship and make travel part of your university experience.College is a time for discovery and challenge, both inside and outside the classroom. Make the most of your college years by volunteering abroad or joining an international internship and make travel part of your university experience.

What is Volunteer Abroad?

Volunteer abroad is the process of doing unpaid work in a foreign country, oftentimes in a developing country in great need, with the goal of simply having a positive impact on the people and environment of that country. Volunteers can be any age, but the vast majority of volunteers tend to be young people between the ages of 18 and 30. As a volunteer, you must be willing to give your time and energy to help the people around you and teach them practical skills that they can use in the future, thus creating a sustainable environment. Volunteer abroad work is very diverse, and you can choose which type of program most interests you. The most popular types of work include teaching and environmental conservation.

Why Should I Volunteer abroad?

It’s a thing many of us consider doing, but an experience only the minority undertake. If you know somebody who has travelled to a country such as Kenya, Malawi or India to volunteer abroad, you have probably already heard about how incredible and life-changing it is. It is this, perhaps a friend or loved one telling you about a trip they took, that often the triggers the idea in our heads and makes us think, could we volunteer abroad too?

A big part of volunteering abroad is getting involved with the people you are there to help. Over the course of weeks or even months, depending on how long you decide to volunteer abroad for, you’ll get to know and become part of a community. In overpopulated Western countries, building this similar aspect of the community can be tricky at best, with so many different faces around day in, day out, it’s hard to get to know everybody by name, let alone on a personal level.

Volunteering abroad can be very fulfilling no matter what project you undertake, but if the project speaks to you on a personal and emotional level, you are so much more likely to take more out of it. Maybe you’ve endured the suffering a medical condition and want to make sure others are taken care of just as you were? Or perhaps you had a difficult childhood and you want to bring a bit of happiness to children who’ve already endured too much?

Where Do I Start?

The first step is determining which type of volunteer project is right for you. While working on construction projects, farming and working with kids are popular choices, they aren’t the only options. There are a dizzying array of volunteer opportunities around the planet, and there is something for anyone and everyone. Search until you find something that resonates with you!
Research is so important when it comes to finding the perfect gig for you. Start with an open mind and sift through all of your options.As you start to get a feel for what is out there, determine your budget. You’ll often have to cover your own travel and living costs, so decide what makes sense for you. With that number in mind, decide which countries you’d like to visit and how long you would stay.

Once you have a few potential volunteer opportunities in mind, Google the heck out of them to see if the organization is reputable. Also, I recommend getting first-hand details from previous and current volunteers.

Applying for and booking your volunteer trip is the next step in the process of becoming a volunteer abroad.

After you have done thorough research and decided on an organization and program that fits your needs, you will probably be wondering how to apply for volunteer work.It is usually very simple to apply online – all you need to do is fill out the application. Different organizations have different methods for approving applicants – sometimes they will ask you to interview, other times you’ll have to write a statement of interest.

This allows the organization to determine whether you’re a right fit and whether you really are interested in making a difference.
Once you’ve been approved, the next step is booking your trip. Work with your chosen organization to get everything in order and to finalize your spot in their program.
While booking your final trip can seem overwhelming, as long as you plan ahead and make sure you know everything you need to get done, you won’t have to worry.When you travel you become an ambassador for your country and this is a big responsibility!

Acting culturally appropriate when abroad is of the utmost importance, and requires a bit of effort on your part. Before you leave home, make sure that you study the cultural norms section in your travel guide and talk to travellers who have been there.
Of course, when it comes to your volunteer experience flexibility is key. Most volunteering projects are determined by the needs of the community at the time and these can change quite frequently.

With that said it is also important to prepare for a degree. If you know you will be teaching English, learn a few activities that you might be able to do with the kids. If you are going to volunteer with a women’s empowerment project make a list of what skills you can share that might be relevant to the women’s life. If you are going to work on a marine conservation project look into some of the current issues that marine conversationalists are facing. 

Volunteering will sweep you off your feet in a completely exhilarating way. Days will fly by, jam-packed with daily activities, group meals, and meeting new folks from around the world. Taking the time to write down a few things that you personally want to get out of the experience means that you will stay present with your own intentions as well.


Volunteering means meeting new friends, it’s inevitable, and these will be the kind of people whose soul sings the same song as yours. You will want to spend a lot of time with them, and you should. However, don’t also forget to go on walks by yourself, to take time to process things on your own accord, to sit solo in a coffee shop and watch the world go by letting your thoughts brew completely uninterrupted.

Whether you’re looking for summer volunteer programs for college students, or winter break opportunities, there’s a powerful experience waiting for you. Volunteering abroad as a college student will have a profound impact not only on you but also on the community you work within.