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So You Want to Be an Overseas Student Volunteer

volunteerStudying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to expand your horizons and travel the world while still pursuing your academic goals. Volunteering overseas offers the potential to help people outside your own community. But what if you decided to do both of those things at once? Like peanut butter and chocolate, popcorn and M&M’s®, or french fries and milk shakes, studying and volunteering abroad pair surprisingly well. If you’re considering volunteering during your study-abroad trip, read on for a few ideas on how to prepare.

Budget concerns

Before you get too far into your plans to volunteer as an international student, sit down and make a list of every possible expense you could have overseas. This might include items like

Once you have this list prepared, you can begin to create a budget. This will depend on numerous factors, including the amount of cash you have saved up beforehand, any monetary assistance you receive from your parents and your level of financial aid. Bear in mind that volunteering will take away from—or even eliminate—any time you might spend working at a paying job.

Decide where to give your time

Once you have your budget squared away, the next step is deciding where to volunteer. This might be contingent upon where you’re studying; teaching English to school children is a great option in South America, but not exactly necessary in English-speaking countries like Australia or Ireland. Look into options close to where you’ll be living in order to keep your commute time short, and try to consider how you can best give back to your adopted community.

Form follows function; volunteering follows education

Since you’ll be taking classes and volunteering, you might give some thought to finding a way to allow your volunteer work to supplement your education. For example, nursing students might apply to work with an organization like Nurses Without Borders to gain experience in the field, or pre-med students might volunteer with Doctors Without Borders or a similar organization. Students of archaeology might consider volunteering to help at a dig site.

Volunteering while studying abroad is a great way to make the most of your time overseas. Numerous considerations go into such a trip, and you must plan for every possible contingency. Do your research thoroughly before you ever set foot on a plane, and trust your instincts. You’re sure to enjoy a productive and memorable study-abroad trip—and, with any luck, your memories of it will be every bit as delicious as that handful of popcorn and M&Ms.

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