5 Reasons Why Every Study Abroad Alumni Should Volunteer Abroad

Don’t think that graduation marks the end of opportunities for time abroad. On the contrary, it’s just the beginning. Volunteering abroad is a great opportunity for your next adventure! Need more convincing? Try these five reasons on for size to see why it can be the perfect next step.

1. Experience the World Beyond the Sightseeing and Tourism

The study abroad experience is spectacular beyond words, but there is a whole “other world” out there beyond what we may typically think of in terms of travel. There are amazing towns and small rural villages that are home to people with some of the biggest hearts I have ever seen – and they can use your help. Volunteering abroad provides you with the opportunity to experience life as a local, indulging in their customs and seeing firsthand the poverty they face on a daily basis. By volunteering, you have the opportunity to make a difference in these communities and the lives of people around the world.

2. Stretch Your Boundaries

The thought of volunteering may seem intimidating or daunting, but don’t fret – that’s totally normal! You are a study abroad returnee. That makes you a unique part of the population. Take the next step to stretching your boundaries by participating in a volunteer trip abroad. I thought my chances for travel were nearly over until I discovered this whole new option. I volunteered through Kaya Responsible Travel, and although it was a bit nerve-wracking not knowing exactly what to expect, I am happy to say I had the experience of a lifetime.

3. Give Back By Sharing Your Skills (Or Lack Thereof) in a Particular Area

Are you really good at teaching? Construction? Or maybe you’re studying to be a nurse? Volunteer your skills abroad to help those in need around the world while also gaining new skills. Maybe you love working with animals, but have no official experience. Volunteer placements are incredibly diverse, ranging from working in orphanages, bathing elephants, helping communities implement a water system, and more. I volunteered with African Impact in Zambia on a teaching project and had no previous experience teaching. Many programs do not require experience in the field, but rather a willingness to learn!

4. Learn to Appreciate What You Have

Volunteering in another country opens your eyes to an entirely new part of the world and an unfamiliar way of living. When I volunteered in Zambia I had never experienced anything like it. Although they lived in deep poverty, the people were some of the friendliest I had ever met. Working with kids in the schools and seeing their smiling faces amidst the difficulties they face every day, made me realize how much we all take for granted back home. Commodities such as running water or shoes are cherished by some people, and we use them on a regular basis without thinking twice. Exposure to these obstacles will truly create appreciation for all of the little things we have that are often taken for granted.

5. Meet New Friends From All Over the World

Volunteering abroad is such a unique experience because you get to meet people from all over the world. On certain programs, such as the one I participated in, you may stay in a house with other volunteers. This means that you will be surrounded by people from all different cultures from around the world. I learned so much, like how the girls like to straighten their hair in Holland and how English is integrated into the school system in Sweden. What stood out the most for me is how the people I met inspired me. Everyone was so passionate about volunteering and it was amazing to work alongside them and share in that passion. No matter how long you choose to volunteer, you will be able to make many lifelong friends along the journey that you will keep in touch with for many years to come.

Marissa-SuteraAuthor: Marissa Sutera

Marissa Sutera is an MBA student at Eastern Illinois University where she works as a Graduate Assistant at the Office of Study Abroad. She received her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Marissa caught the travel bug on her study abroad trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England in May 2012. Most recently, she participated in a volunteer teaching project in Livingstone, Zambia. Marissa hopes to continue her career in international education so she can share her passion for travel and empower others to go abroad.

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