Participating in a volunteer abroad program may sound like a daunting experience—picturing
yourself in a foreign country, surrounded by an unfamiliar culture is understandably frightening.
However, if you have the courage to put your fear aside, you will find that seizing the
opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone will enrich your life more than you can imagine.
Volunteering abroad allows you to create experiences and foster connections that you will carry
with you for the rest of your life. You will have the opportunity to see the world, create
lifelong friendships, and learn what it means to be human.
It’s Time to See the World
Many people talk about their desire to ‘see the world.’ Be it the novice or the seasoned traveler,
it is human nature to want to experience new things. While travel is on many people’s bucket
lists, often other commitments such as work, family obligations, and financial circumstances
hold people back from pursuing their travel dreams. What you will find, however, is that anyone
who has made traveling a priority in their lives will tell you to do the same. Seeing new parts of
the world is more than viewing the beautiful scenery. It is being wholly present in a new culture; it is
acclimating to a different lifestyle; it is interacting with people that you never would have met at
home. The benefits of going abroad are unprecedented in regard to global awareness and
perhaps, more importantly, self-awareness. The expansion of perspective that you will undergo
abroad allows you to better connect with and serve the people that surround you, which after all,
is the clarion call for volunteer abroad programs—to volunteer your time and talents to serve
those in tough circumstances.
The Purpose of a Volunteer Abroad Program: The People
While seeing the world and experiencing new things is a catalyst for personal growth, nothing
will be quite as impactful on you as the people you meet along the way. The people you
volunteer with and the people you volunteer for may affect you in deeply personal ways and even
become lifelong friends.
The very basic takeaway of the social interactions you will have in a volunteer abroad program
is the social skills you develop. You will learn how to better communicate with others, how to
handle conflict in tense situations, and ultimately, how to show love to those around you. The
bigger takeaway, however, is the friendships you will develop. Traveling abroad in a group will
bring you closer to your comrades, even if you do not know any of your fellow travelers before
embarking on the journey. Navigating a foreign place requires reliance on one another. You will
share experiences with your companions that you will share with very few other people. It is
very special to share in awe and excitement with others as you try new things together, fostering
In addition to the bonds you will form with your peers, the connections you will make with the
community you live in will shape the way you see the world. The relationships you develop will
be founded on learning about how they live and who they are. You can never truly understand
another’s culture until you have immersed in it yourself. Learning about others’ challenges and
observing how they persist through them will influence you as you approach your own life
challenges. Interactions with the people you meet abroad will be humbling and inspiring.
Becoming a Little More Human
Above all, being part of a volunteer abroad program will teach you what it means to be a
humanitarian, and how to form genuine connections with other people. To volunteer is to give of
yourself freely, and in doing so, you will find that there is nothing more human than selfless
service. Being aware of the difficulties of others and working to improve their quality of life will
at times be exhausting and overwhelming, but will also be fulfilling and humbling. Additionally,
serving others and experiencing their lifestyle will help you to greater recognize the many
blessings and privileges you enjoy back at home. Volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to bless
the lives of others and to give of yourself.
Furthermore, while humanitarianism may commonly be associated with tying quilts or compiling
care kits, participating in a volunteer abroad program allows you to see another side of what it
means to be humanitarian—of what it means to be human. Being human is sharing a bowl of
soup with a family who can barely afford it. Being human is playing and laughing with children
on a dirt road. Being human is handing a parcel of basic life supplies to someone and seeing their
face light up. Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to see how even small efforts can
make huge differences in the lives of those in need. Not only will you get to see the difference
you can make in others’ lives, but you will get to experience the transformative ability of selfless
service for yourself. If you allow yourself to truly connect with the people you meet in your
volunteer abroad program, you will return home a little different than you were when you left;
you will be better equipped to serve each person you encounter for the rest of your life because
you will be more aware of their needs. Volunteering abroad teaches us how to be more human.
An Irreplaceable Experience
Signing up for a volunteer abroad program will change you. You will get the opportunity to
experience parts of the world unfamiliar to you, to connect with people from all different walks
of life, and to learn from the people you serve what it truly means to be human. Being abroad in
a service-oriented capacity is an experience that cannot be replaced. The greater perspective of
the world and of your place in it that you gain from volunteering will impact the rest of your life.
Still, feeling hesitant? Take the leap. You won’t regret it.