International service, when properly administered, has the potential for mutual benefit to those who serve and those who are served. When this is achieved, a deeper understanding between cultures produces greater and more long-term outcomes. This “higher good” is coveted by students who wish to better understand the world on the human level, and to apply their understanding to careers caring for it. Peru Country Manager Daniel Salazar shares his observation of the benefits to students who have served under his leadership in Latin America.
Volunteering abroad as a student is so much fun: You get to travel around the world, experience new cultures, and help struggling communities along the way. But on top of that, it allows you to develop new skills, gain work experience, and build a solid résumé. The best part is that for many students, volunteering abroad will help you know yourself better and figure out the career path you want to pursue. I’ve witnessed five benefits to students who volunteer abroad:
It helps you figure out what career you want to pursue.
Most young people have a difficult time figuring out what they want to do professionally. That’s understandable: It’s a decision that impacts the rest of your life. But a first step is getting to know yourself better and how well you perform in a particular environment. Do you prefer for-profit or non-profit work? Do you prefer desk work or field work? Do you have an entrepreneur’s spirit, or would you prefer to join a big established organization or company? There’s nothing like volunteering abroad to help you find the answers to these and many other questions that will allow you to make a better career decision.
When you volunteer abroad with Global Volunteers, you experience true development work, where the goal is to help children and families, rather than simply earn a living. In this career, you will be in the field, working with the local people, helping them with needs you’ll have right in front of you. Our work projects usually rely on resources available locally and do not follow a mechanized process, so a proactive and resourceful attitude is essential. Once you have experienced this kind of hands-on, real-life work experience, you will undoubtedly have a clearer idea of what kind of career you want to pursue.
For instance, this was a defining period for college student Ashely Schubart, who proclaimed while serving in Tanzania: “I’ve learned so much about myself and my abilities, I developed myself professionally and got the confidence I needed to kick-start my career as a nurse.”
It makes you a better person.
Besides how service enhances your résumé, volunteering abroad makes you a better person. High school volunteer Cassidy Richardson says, “Service is a very important and beneficial part of life that everyone should participate in frequently.” Volunteering abroad is an awesome experience, but it’s not easy. It requires you to work to help others, be away from home for a bit, and learn to work in a team. And, all of that happens in a different culture, so the experience helps you grow as a more mature, hard-working, and selfless person. This is important because, besides the knowledge or experience you need, you may not be productive in a work environment unless you have the soft skills you develop while volunteering abroad. When you volunteer with Global Volunteers, you will take part in team-building activities which will help you develop soft skills such as good listening, patience, empathy, and many others. And, unlike expensive workshops you may have heard of, volunteering abroad will ensure you have the opportunity to develop these skills and not just learn about them in a workshop.
“Service is a very important and beneficial part of life that everyone should participate in frequently.”– Cassidy Richardson, high school volunteer in the Cook Islands
It adds depth to your résumé.
This is an indisputable fact, and a particularly important one if you don’t have much work experience. Whether you are about to graduate high school or college, you will most likely have little work experience. So what can make you stand out from all those other applicants? What can make you a better team-player and a more community-minded and conscientious person? The fact that you actually worked full-time with a group of strangers in a completely different culture! This added boost will prove critically important for both job and college applications.
Judy, who volunteered in Montana with her granddaughter, shared with Global Volunteers what the experience meant beyond the eye-opening revelations: “Two years ago I brought my granddaughter, Martina, with me on a Global Volunteers trip to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. It was a wonderful trip and Martina was so impressed! At the time she was a sophomore in high school. This year she is a senior, and has spent the past few months working on her applications to colleges, mentioning her volunteer work. One of the schools contacted her before she received her official acceptance letter to tell her that they were so impressed with her volunteer work in Montana that it was one of the deciding factors in offering her acceptance!
So I want to thank you for the opportunity you gave us to travel there and take part in the activities on the reservation. It certainly has made a big difference in Martina’s life!”
Make no mistake, volunteering abroad adds depth to your life – whether you’re in a small high school or a large, renowned college, the positive impact of volunteering reaches everyone. Kyle Schwartz, Cornell University student and Peru volunteer says: “It’s important for a résumé to reflect who you are as a person and if a company values someone with strong initiative who cares about helping others, volunteering is a great way to emphasize these qualities. It provides a way to stand out and can create a helpful talking point that can help employers understand more about your values and work ethic.”
“It’s important for a resume to reflect who you are as a person and if a company values someone with strong initiative who cares about helping others, volunteering is a great way to emphasize these qualities. It provides a way to stand out and can create a helpful talking point that can help employers understand more about your values and work ethic.”Kyle Schwartz, Peru Student Volunteer
It’s an amazing way to make connections.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of networking. But you may not understand its importance, yet. Most people ignore how crucial networking is until they have been through at least a few application processes. Sometimes it can be really difficult to find a good job unless you know someone. High school volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to make more connections in a casual and fun way. While on a Global Volunteers service program, you will need to work with your team to have the greatest impact in the community where you will be serving. That experience will unite you with the rest of the team. And, unlike a boring networking event, here you can develop friendships for the rest of your life and, who knows, you may find your next job this way!
As if that weren’t enough, the best part is that the friendships you can develop will not only be with your team, but with the local people you are serving. Lucie Bonneville, a volunteer in the Cook Islands, comments: “My service experience in the Cook Islands gave me the opportunity to form relationships with so many people. My fellow volunteers, the country coordinators, the children I worked with, the teachers/administrators, the bus drivers, and more. The list goes on and on.”
It makes you a better candidate.
Once you better understand what career you want to pursue, you have grown as a person, and you’ve developed more skills, you will simply be a better job candidate. The experience of volunteering abroad is fun and exciting, but it’s also true work experience. When you know that you have that work experience successfully under your belt, plus all of the above, you will feel a lot more confident. Who doesn’t need a boost in confidence for a job interview? So when you are at that job interview, you will have this incredible volunteering abroad experience that will make you feel more qualified and competent, and the best part is that this confidence will be backed up by facts.
Peru volunteer Josh Elkin says, “When you’re interviewing for a job, they ask you a set of questions based on the résumé, and on average there really isn’t much to talk about on a résumé, at least not anything that allows you to show any character. Though this is where volunteerism may have an effect. Your volunteer work gives you a great talking point to not only show character but also possibly encourage another to consider volunteering. It definitely cannot hurt to have volunteering on your résumé; it was even a talking point for me when I got my last job.”
In an interview, you’ll have plenty of examples from your volunteer abroad experience that demonstrate your skills in a real-world setting. You may even have more experiences than your interviewer! Jed Pettit, a high school volunteer in Montana, says, “Whether you are seeking entry in medical school, like I am, or another competitive program at a college or university, I urge you to find that spark that will make your application stand out. A trip with Global Volunteers may just be the best place to find it!”
“Whether you are seeking entry in medical school, like I am, or another competitive program at a college or university, I urge you to find that spark that will make your application stand out. A trip with Global Volunteers may just be the best place to find it!”– Jed Pettit, high volunteer in Montana
We invite you to join a service program to serve the world, explore other cultures, gain new skills, strengthen your confidence, clarify your career choice, and prepare for your future!
Also check out these articles on student volunteering: