Volunteering abroad is one of the most interesting things you could do to gain experience of a totally different culture. It gives an opportunity to meet and collaborate with new people, get acquainted with new experiences, learn new language and much more. After my first international volunteering experience abroad, I came back as a changed person. I was more flexible and open towards learning new things and doing things differently. Based on my experience, I would suggest to keep in mind the following things before starting journey as a volunteer abroad.
1. Be sure about the place you choose
Always make sure that you have enough knowledge of the place where you plan to do your volunteering. You must be aware of the culture, weather, political situation, medical system etc. before you choose a place. Having basic knowledge of the place is always advisable. If you don’t like cold weather then you must definitely not choose to volunteer in Norway or Sweden during winter time. Similarly, if you think you cannot work in difficult conditions then you must not choose small villages and towns of South Asia or Africa. However, I enjoyed coming out of my comfort zone and working in completely different places.
2. Don’t trust strangers easily
In the beginning, you must try to assess the people around before you trust them. However, this does not mean that you must close yourself to meeting new people. After all, you are planning to volunteer abroad to get a new cultural experience. So you must maintain a balance and be open to meeting new people as well as being cautious at the same time. I can assure you that after a few months of being cautious, you will become more comfortable with the people there and will be able to collaborate with people quickly. It is only a matter of time but you must always be careful.
3. Have a backpack with essentials only
Your backpack must have all the essentials like a little first aid kit, comfortable sports shoes, loose clothes, culturally sensitive clothes and all the essentials that would be required for the trip. Make sure you don’t carry things or clothes that you won’t use. It will only be an extra burden to carry everything on your back. This was my biggest learning experience and I had to throw away a lot of things that was just an added weight
4. Always have some extra cash
Having extra cash for emergencies is always a good idea. There can be a situation when you miss a flight or some other emergency might arise so you must have some extra cash at that time. Always keep that cash in a safe pocket and take it out when you really need it. Also, add some extra cash to your emergency bank account so that you are in a position to withdraw it in the case of emergency. Since you will be abroad, you might not have friends or family to rely on. Therefore, having some cash handy is necessary.
5. Have a good knowledge of the organization
When you are going to volunteer with an organization, you must always research about it in advance. If it is an NGO then you must know what areas do they work on like working with kids, teaching English, medical and health care etc. where does their funding come from and where do they invest their money etc. The last thing you want as a volunteer abroad is that the organization you are working with is a fake one or is indulged in illegal businesses. I also did my personal research about the organization and everything seemed well which helped me in getting a great experience during my time abroad.
I would also give immense credit to Maximo Nivel Volunteer Programs because they made sure that my smooth stay and I had an incredible experience. They gave a very personalized treatment and were always at my disposal in case of emergencies. However, there are other agencies like Project Favela, Volunteering India, Volunteer Programs Bali and much more to choose from. In the end, I would like to suggest that everyone who can go for a volunteer program abroad must definitely go but please be very careful about it and choose your sending agency or partner agency wisely. This will help you gain the best experience of your lifetime.