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8 Important Things You'll Learn While Volunteering Abroad

By Guest Writer

Updated February 26, 2021 Updated February 26, 2021

By Riyanka Roy

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel to a different country to teach children or help build a school? Volunteering provides an opportunity to make life better for someone else, rather than just focusing on making it better for yourself. If you’re not sure how to spend your holidays, find a community abroad you can give back to and you won’t regret it. Here’s what to expect:

Little things make big differences

No matter how small your contribution appears to you, it can actually make a big impact in someone else's life. If you join a teaching program in Ghana, for example, you'll play an important role in teaching children English, and that isn't something small. Nothing really is small as long as you are dedicated to what you do. Even just a smile can encourage someone who really needs it. Volunteering abroad will help you to learn it doesn't take much to add sunshine to someone's dull day.

You will learn to be more empathetic

When you get engaged with a project that aligns with your areas of interests, you'll feel an emotional attachment to the people you work for. Their problems will appear to be your problems and you'll try to resolve them in the best possible manner. For example, if you volunteer for football coaching, you'll celebrate when your students score a goal as much as they do.

The more you adapt, the more you’ll benefit

Volunteering means living in conditions you won’t be used to back home. In most cases, you'll have to live with a local host family and live the way they do, which might include sharing sleeping quarters with someone you don’t know. Local food might also be completely opposite to what your taste buds are used to, so you’ll have to adapt in order to enjoy your journey. It will be tough but it will also make you better than you were before.

What you consider to be a necessity will be a luxury to others

Taking a shower with hot water or having 24/7 access to WiFi might be things you feel you can't live without, but a volunteer vacation will change this for good. You'll learn to live a much simpler life, one without social networks and unnecessary extras. Your hosts will make you realize the secret to a happy life doesn't lie in material objects. A hug from an orphan or a word of blessing from an old man will come to seem more precious to you than any material object.

You’ll learn so much more from first-hand experiences

After you reach your volunteering destination and spend quality time with the locals, you’ll soon realize how much your school lessons missed out. Experiencing a land and a people first-hand, from their festivals and choice of art and music to their dating rituals and settlements, will help you learn more than you would from a classroom.

People respect you more if you speak their language

While many people at your volunteering destination will be well versed with English, you'll still earn some brownie points if you can speak the local language. Not knowing the language isn’t necessary but it’s definitely advisable as it will make your hosts feel as if you’re making a genuine effort to connect with them. If you go for an English Teaching Project in Bangkok, for example, you can ask your students to teach you Thai in return for you teaching them English.

Share stories about your community as well as just learning about theirs

While you get to know the culture and customs of your hosts, they also get to know about yours. As well as asking for information about their traditions and customs, share your side of the story as well. In most cases, your host community will comprise of people who are less privileged and may have never heard about some aspects of the world which seem commonplace to you. Give them a clear picture of the world outside their immediate environment.

Sharing a smile is the best thing you can do

As you'll learn the value of little things, you'll also realize smiles are universal. If all you can give someone is a smile, that would be enough. Make an effort to smile at people around you every day and soon you'll realize their joy is making you happier as a person.

Volunteering abroad will inspire you to make better choices every day because you’ll see how even your smallest actions can create a ripple of change that makes the world a better place. You'll grow as a person and start respecting every individual, irrespective of their differences.

This article was written by a guest contributor. Think you'd like to write for TopUniversities? Click here to find out more.

This article was originally published in July 2017 . It was last updated in February 2021

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