In the second part of her essay excerpted here, Nilusha Jayasinghe talks about why she believes schools should include international service in high school curricula. Read the first part of her essay here.
Student Volunteering Abroad: One Of the Best Decisions Of My Life
With every graduate school application, job opportunity, or volunteer opportunity that comes my way, I reflect on the journey in international service that I have been on, which began with those two weeks in Ghana when I was a teenager. Though I was there for only two weeks, I was part of the volunteer stream that would sustain the work of that rural eye clinic. In a short two weeks, my life changed in ways that I did not anticipate. My mind opened to the cultures and way of life in Ghana and the similarities across all humans no matter what the race or ethnicity, I learned how to problem-solve and provide care with minimal resources, how to communicate cross-culturally using non-verbal cues due to language barriers, and created lifelong bonds with the three other volunteers that the volunteer abroad program connected me with, all from diverse walks of life.
Professionally, I better understood how medical care is provided in marginalized settings, realized the importance of building local capacity, and confirmed my interest in global health, a realization that has shaped my life ever since. It’s safe for me to say that the monetary investment that I made in that two-week trip resulted in many returns for me, and that volunteering abroad has been one of the best decisions that I have made in my life.
Integrating International Service in High School Curricula
High school volunteering abroad creates a stronger vision for students’ futures, teaches them compassion, immerses them in another culture, gives them the opportunity for career exploration, and allows them to gain experience that they could never get in the classroom. Because of all these reasons and more, it would behoove us to capture the attention of high school students at such an opportune time in their lives. I believe that global travel should be a mandatory piece of a high school curriculum, and that opportunities to integrate international service into high school curricula exist. We can integrate international service in high school curricula by partnering with international service organizations such as Global Volunteers to offer volunteer abroad opportunities for high school students during their summer, winter, or spring breaks.
These volunteer abroad opportunities could earn participants service or academic credit along with a stamp on their transcript in return for their service. The international service student organization can lead the publicity process of this opportunity, with the staff and faculty members assisting in advertising them. Advertising should emphasize the longevity of their short-term impact due to the steady stream of volunteers and consistent local leaders that sustain their work, the high school service or academic credit they would receive, and the recognitions that they could earn.
I also believe that international service in high school curricula could be improved by adding a class that serves as a primer about international work, such as an “International Affairs,” “Global Health,” or “International Development” course. Then, a portion of the high school budget can be allocated for an annual short-term international service trip for students taking these courses. During this high school volunteering, participating students could write or blog much like the Volunteer Voices section of Global Volunteers’ blog, as part of their assignments, in which they can reflect on their experiences abroad.
I believe that global travel should be a mandatory piece of a high school curriculum, and that opportunities to integrate international service into high school curricula exist. We can integrate international service in high school curricula by partnering with international service organizations such as Global Volunteers to offer volunteer abroad opportunities for high school students during their summer, winter, or spring breaks.
All of these efforts would result in a constant and consistent message about the benefits of international service and high school volunteering, which should capture the students’ attention and add to their motivation to participate. Since recognition is known to fuel motivation, high schools could additionally award a senior award or recognition during graduation for a select student for his or her outstanding global service, and this award could develop into a coveted award that students would work hard to obtain. As evident, there is ample opportunity to include international service in high school curricula and partner with relevant organizations with mutual goals, to advance the message about international service and the importance of student volunteering.
Take the Leap
With the testimony of my experience and suggestions that I have made here, I hope that more youth, specifically high school students, can be enlightened at the myriad of volunteer abroad opportunities that exist around the world and with organizations such as Global Volunteers, especially the ones for high school volunteering. If they take the leap like I once did, their lives too may change for the better, forever.
If they take the leap like I once did, their lives too may change for the better, forever.
Read the first part of Nilusha’s essay here.
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