How to Find the Perfect Volunteer Placement Abroad


Updated on Jul 23 • 5 minute read

Have you been looking for a way to enrich your life, while helping others in the process? Volunteering has become a popular option for many, with countless opportunities available for those really hoping to make a difference. More and more students, in particular, are opting to take a year off from school and commit some time to volunteer work before they pursue their educations or their careers.

However, if you truly want to broaden your horizons, volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to happen in your own hometown at the community outreach center. It can present international adventures that you may have only dreamed could be possible, with lasting positive effects on your life.

In fact, volunteering abroad can help you:

  • Step outside of your comfort zone
  • Provide you with unique skills
  • Discover your aspirations, whether professional or personal
  • Learn to understand and embrace a new culture
  • Work as a team toward the achievement of common goals

Most people refer to their volunteer experiences as the most rewarding times of their lives, packed full of educational encounters. While there may be adjustments to make and lifestyle changes on the horizon, the statistics for repeat volunteer work are quite high.

International volunteering among students has also become a viable option to add a level of enrichment that is unparalleled, which is why it is seen as an educational benefit and a tool for personal growth. Even though dozens of countries offer exciting programs, the areas with the best potential for volunteer placements abroad include:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Latin America

Once you decide on the geographical location, you must look at the numerous diverse types of volunteer work. Of course, there are several things to keep in mind when you’re making your decision, so that you find the ideal situation that best suits your individual needs.

In this guide, you can explore where to look, how to understand the requirements, what goes into the selection process, the best ways to search and more. Let’s get started so you can prepare to begin your international adventure!

What to Look for First

When you begin to explore your options, the first thing you should look for in an organization is its ethical commitment to the program. Plus, it’s important to know that your hard work will benefit a legitimate need.

However, how can be sure that you’re selecting a good organization, rather than one that might become problematic down the road? First impressions can actually tell you a lot. Pay close attention to the images and the content that is utilized to promote the organization, and what they tell you about the message they are hoping to send.

You can also ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the branding seem trustworthy?
  • What type of relationship does the organization seem to have with the community?
  • Are there quotes from previous volunteers included?
  • Do the images look natural or staged?
  • Is the information presented informative, or does it appear vague?

Of course, there are other things to take into consideration beyond your first impression, but it’s definitely a great starting point!

Check the Requirements

Most volunteer placements will have a few basic requirements that must be met to be considered. These can vary according to the organization, but there are a few basic conditions.

Languages: English is one of the most requested languages for international volunteer work, as that it is often spoken and understood as either a first or second language. Other high-demand language requirements include Spanish, French and Portuguese. Many volunteer placements focus on education, so speaking the local language is also almost always a requirement.

Age: Typically, the only age-related requirement is that the volunteer is of legal age in the country where the work will be performed. There is no age limit, but a volunteer must be able to perform any physical duties associated with the placement.

Health: The volunteer’s general well-being must also be taken into consideration. Many organizations may request documentation from a physician stating that the individual is in good health and able to acclimate to a different environment and climate. Depending on the region, particular variables like humidity and elevation may come into play.

Fees: It may be odd to some that you may be required to pay certain fees to participate in volunteer work, but some organizations will need to be reimbursed for expenses that are incurred during your placement. But keep in mind that you will receive accommodation while abroad, food, transportation and other forms of support. These fees are usually paid monthly, at an average rate of €150. If any monthly fees reach over €300 per month, you may want to screen the organization a little more.

However, keep in mind that there are some volunteer opportunities whose fees are covered by the host organization, but if you’re interested, get on the waiting list as soon as possible.

Popular Types of Volunteer Work

Teaching Providing education to regions that are in need can be one of the most rewarding types of volunteer work. If you have teaching experience or have earned your TEFL qualification in teaching English, you will quickly find that there are numerous placements that can utilize your expertise. Additionally, if you are not certified, you can volunteer as a teacher’s assistant.

Environmental One of the top forms of environmental volunteer opportunities is animal conservation, which will help feed anyone’s love for animals and their health and safety. Assistance is also always needed to help clean local beaches, dispose of litter and make sure that parks and playgrounds are free of any hazards.

Construction One of the more common forms of volunteer work is construction assistance. This can be extremely enriching, as participants often help build new schools, hospitals and homes for families in need. Experience is great, but not necessary — just as long as you can use a hammer! Sports Volunteering in the area of sports is quickly becoming a popular option for volunteer placement, especially with students. If you have experience coaching or assisting with certain sports, you may just find yourself helping teach children how to play soccer, or learn how to compete in volleyball with neighboring towns or villages.

Public Health Perhaps one of the most important ways an individual can volunteer is helping to ensure public health. This can range from working at health clinics and hospitals, to educating both children and adults about personal hygiene and ways to avoid illness.

How Volunteers Are Selected

Organizations looking for volunteers have a commitment to their program, and they should be on top of pairing the right volunteer with the right placement. In most cases, expect to fill out in-depth forms and be able to submit a CV that will outline your experiences and goals.

Some organizations may require an interview, which is an additional step in ensuring that you’re a good match for the program. Be prepared to explain why you’re a good fit, along with what you are hoping to gain from your international volunteer experience.

Top Ways to Search for a Placement

Beginning the actual search for your volunteer program can feel a bit overwhelming. However, there are a variety of ways to look for the ideal placement.

International Voluntary Service This service provides information on international placements involving social outreach and assistance. The International Voluntary Service is focused on volunteers who have had past experience, whether locally or internationally.

EVS Funded by the European Commission, the EVS is an international volunteer program for individuals residing in Europe, between the ages of 18 and 30. They arrange placements in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. They also refund 90% of travel expenses for stays between two months and one year.

Social Media You can also take to your favorite social media channels for your search. There are all types of forums and groups that offer information on international volunteer placement. Plus, you can even connect with other volunteers who have worked in the same programs for tips and honest recommendations.

Targeted search Open up a search engine and begin to look for volunteer organizations. Be as specific as possible, and include the specific type of volunteer work you are looking for, along with the region.

Use your network Ask your friends and family about volunteer opportunities. The chances are that one of them has worked in a similar program, or perhaps they know someone who has experience in volunteer placements.

No matter where you decide to go and what you opt to do when you get there, you will be opening yourself up to a world of new and exciting possibilities. This eye-opening opportunity is not only a stepping stone for your educational or professional pursuits, but it can promote growth in all areas of your life. Embrace this adventure, and enjoy every moment!

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