Volunteer abroad programs could be a great opportunity to gain unique, hands-on work experience, while meeting like-minded people and seeing the world. Through international volunteering, you could get your hands dirty on a construction project, gain teaching experience, or help provide essential medical care. Better yet, the skills and experience you develop could help you succeed on the job or at school once you come home! And these opportunities could be available across the globe in all shapes and sizes. So whether you want a short trip to expand your horizons, or a long-term chance to settle into a new culture, international volunteer programs could get you there.
Types of Volunteer Abroad Projects
Whatever your strengths, as a volunteer abroad, you could use them to make a real impact. Some global volunteers prefer to use their volunteer work as an opportunity to get their feet wet in their field, using their education and experience to help others and pad their resume at the same time. Others, meanwhile, prefer to learn something new, moving outside their comfort zones.
Fortunately, there may be many different opportunities, available in a wide range of fields. You might choose from any of the following types of volunteer abroad programs—and more!
- Conservation: Love nature? Save the earth by working with animals or the environment. You could help provide conservation education, work in an animal refuge, explore the jungle, and more.
- Arts & Culture: Help communities thrive by increasing access to arts and culture experiences, or even provide art education.
- Education & Childcare: Help care for children, provide educational support in real classrooms, or even teach children and adults to speak English. Some education volunteer programs may require a background in education.
- Infrastructure & Community Development: Want to get your hands dirty, literally or metaphorically? Help improve infrastructure in communities in need, through construction projects and disaster relief. Or you could use your business savvy in economic development projects to help the local businesses get back on track.
- Human Services: Love working with people? Human services volunteering projects could be up your alley. You could help increase access to healthcare in underserved communities, provide important social services, work in women’s rights projects, and more. You could even use your flair for language to help people communicate through translation.
Places to Volunteer Abroad
The type of work you do is a big part of volunteering abroad—but it’s not the whole thing! It’s also about where you go. When thinking about places to volunteer, remember that the one you choose could have a huge impact on your experience there. It could effect everything from the types of projects available, to what you could see, the cuisine, language, local culture… you name it!
- North America: A variety of fascinating volunteer opportunities may be available throughout the beautiful North American continent. Volunteer in Canada, The United States, or even Mexico! With beautiful vistas spanning from the Atlantic to Pacific, you won’t run out of places to explore in your free time.
- Central & South America: Immerse yourself in one of the many diverse and fascinating Central and South American cultures. Volunteer opportunities may be available in Spanish and in English, in countries spanning from Belize and Guatemala, all the way to Argentina. Want to experience island life while making a difference? Volunteer in Caribbean countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Jamaica!
- Europe: Spend your volunteer abroad in a place rife with history and culture. Volunteer in European countries like England, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and more! Live the European life, potentially learn a new language, and experience history up close, all while improving the lives of the people in your new community.
- Africa: Opportunities to volunteer in Africa are as diverse as the continent itself. The continent of Africa boasts 54 countries, more than a thousand cultures and languages, and countless plant and animal species. The volunteer projects you could get involved with may be equally varied. Whether you prefer a more metropolitan lifestyle or to experience life in a remote village, great opportunities may be available in Africa.
- Asia: A world of exciting opportunities could be found throughout Asia. Volunteer in East Asia and get to know life in China, Korea, or Japan. Prefer warmer weather? Volunteer abroad in Southeast Asia. For example, you could work on a project in Bangkok, and explore Thailand in your free time.
Volunteer Abroad Program Length
Different volunteers have different needs when it comes to finding the project for them. But choosing the destination and type of work isn’t all. A range of project durations might be available. International volunteer programs may also be offered year round or during different seasons. This could open the volunteer abroad experience to more people with a variety of obligations and preferences. So whether you’re looking for a short but impactful trip, summer volunteer programs, or an extended project to live abroad, great options may be available.
- 1-2 Weeks: Shorter excursions more your style? Spend one or two weeks abroad on a volunteer project. Then sightsee in your free time, or keep traveling when you’re done!
- 3-4 Weeks: If you want a slightly longer stay, consider a project lasting a few weeks to a month. You could have a little more time to really get involved—plus some extra time to explore.
- 1-3 Months: Spend anywhere from a month to a season volunteering abroad! You could dedicate a whole summer, or use your volunteer project to escape the winter weather back home. Either way, projects ranging from one to three months could be available, giving you just enough time to get settled, make a visible difference, and get to know your temporary home.
- 4-6 Months: Want a little more time to get your hands dirty? Spend four to six months as an international volunteer. Whether you’re working on a limited project with a set completion date, or joining ongoing efforts, half a year in your international home could be just the right amount of time to see your work start to pay off.
- 7-11 Months: Looking to fully immerse yourself in the international volunteer life? Projects lasting anywhere from seven to eleven months allow you not only to become a part of your local community while you work, but also to pursue a fuller experience of that culture. By spending most of the year abroad, you’ll see what it’s like to live there in all different seasons. You’ll also have time to really get to know your neighbors and fellow volunteers, potentially forging lifelong friendships.
- A Year Or More: Global volunteers who dedicate a year or more to working abroad have the opportunity not just to be a long-term visitor, but to live as a local. Rather than working and then leaving, you could stay long enough to see some of your efforts come to fruition, and to understand your new community in a deeper way.
Why Volunteer Overseas?
Each international volunteer opportunity is unique—so it follows that the specific benefits of those experiences are also unique! That said, there are a lot of reasons to consider it, whatever type of project you end up choosing, wherever you go.
- Life Experience: It might seem obvious, but volunteering abroad could do more than expand your horizons in a personal sense. It could open you up to new experiences you may never have gotten. After all, how many people have travelled thousands of miles from home, to a new continent, to help kids learn to read, or build infrastructure, or care for the sick? Doing this may help you grow as a person and come into your own. It would also provide some great talking points for job and school interviews, demonstrating your skills, values, and experience in a unique and memorable light.
- People Skills: Living in a new place, becoming part of a new community, working alongside other volunteers to make a difference—each of these could teach someone a thing or two about interacting with others. But all rolled into one? As a volunteer, you’ll get to know people from all walks of life around the world, and work together with them for a common goal. The leadership and social skills you develop could serve you throughout your life, well after you come home.
- A Global Perspective: These days, the world is more inter-connected than ever. Living abroad, experiencing a new culture, could help you form a more global mindset—something that could be pretty useful, on the job and outside of it. Seeing the world from the perspective of a different culture may be enlightening. Not only might you better understand people from different backgrounds. You’ll also learn more about the world and your own culture, by seeing it through different eyes.
- Communication: Whether you volunteer somewhere that speaks English, or use the opportunity to work on your foreign language skills, living abroad could do wonders for your communication skills. After all, you’ll spend every day collaborating with people with a range of experiences, dialects, and perspectives. Through your volunteer abroad project, you could learn to communicate effectively with all kinds of people, and take those skills home with you when you go.
- Practical Skills and Knoweldge: Working on volunteer projects, you may have the chance to hone important skills for work and everyday life. Which ones? Well, that depends on your project! A variety of opportunities may be available in your field of study. For example, you could get teaching or medical experience, or practice building houses, or use your business education to help local businesses thrive. Not only could your efforts help to improve the lives of the people you work with. But you may also have hands-on experience to give you an edge with potential employers.
- Self Confidence: Of all the things you might take away from your experience as an international volunteer, increased confidence is definitely near the top of the list. After all, you’ll not only be living in another country for the first time, exploring a new place, and making your own way. You’ll also be doing crucial volunteer work to help people who really need it. That knowledge could inspire confidence in your own abilities for years to come.
Search for Volunteer Abroad Projects
Can't wait to start your volunteer adventure? Take the first steps toward volunteering abroad right here. First, think about what you’re looking for. Do you know what country or city you’d like to volunteer in? Then think about how much time you want to dedicate to it. Are you looking for a program of a few weeks, a year, or somewhere between? Next comes the type of work you want to do. Use all that information to narrow down your options. You can do that using the menu here. Then review the matching sponsored program listings. For more information, or to get in touch with them, click on the program name.
Featured Program Information
John Cabot University
Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI)
Connect-123 Internship & Volunteer Programs
Spanish Institute for Global Education
SPI Study Abroad
Lingua Service Worldwide, Ltd.
International Volunteer HQ
Global Services Travel & Tourism
Teach and learn with Georgia
Humanitarian Aid Foundation
International Seminar Series