If this is your first time volunteering abroad, no doubt you are excited! But, you are probably nervous too. You might have questions and concerns regarding your first-ever volunteer trip abroad to Jamaica. How to volunteer is probably among them.
We hope this guide will provide you with some answers about volunteering abroad, ease your concerns, and offer you insight into this growing trend. Hopefully, it will leave you feeling empowered with information on how to volunteer successfully on your first time volunteering abroad.
Let’s start with answers to some of the more common questions we receive and which you probably have too.
Why Volunteer Abroad?
Of course, there are several reasons why people volunteer abroad. But, I want to share with you some of the top reasons and benefits of volunteering abroad.
- There seems to be a shift worldwide, with more people wanting to reach out and help others. For some, this shift comes later in life as an adult, but time and family constraints may hold them back. If you are a young person, volunteering abroad offers you the opportunity to fulfill this need and desire without those responsibilities and obligations holding you back.
- Volunteerism offers you the possibility of not only stretching your horizons but expanding them to unlimited proportions.
- You will tap into different cultures and learn that we are all the same inside. All cultures have feelings, wants, needs, and desires. Most importantly, we all have dreams.
- Volunteering abroad gives you a sense of purpose and allows you to create possibilities for yourself and others, such as:
- Making an impact by using your skills to benefit others;
- Making a difference in a community and in the lives of others;
- Changing a life – how powerful is that?
- Saying something to someone that he or she will remember for the rest of their life;
- Giving someone a chance at a better life;
- Putting smiles on the face of orphans or children from some of the most impoverished communities.
These are but a few of the benefits you offer to others while volunteering abroad. Moreover, you also reap the rewards as you get to:
- Travel to a foreign country;
- Meet new and exciting people from different cultures;
- Make new friends and build new relationships;
- Build your CV and stand out from the crowd;
- Gain a whole new host of skills and experience;
- Learn a new culture from music and dance to language, history, and food;
- Make lifelong connections and build professional ties; and
- Reap the rewards of satisfaction that can only come from giving back to others.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Volunteering abroad is indeed an incredibly fulfilling experience you don’t want to miss out on. I want to ensure you make the most of your first time volunteering abroad experience, so I’m sharing with you five tips you should bear in mind.
5 Tips for Every First Time Volunteer
1. Be prepared.
If you are like most individuals, doing paperwork and taking care of the tedious stuff is not much fun. However, this tedious stuff could be what prevents an emergency. For example, you must have the contact number/information of the individual retrieving you from the airport. This person will be your first contact when you arrive. Also, keep a separate list of emergency contacts on paper in case your phone gets lost, stolen, or broken. Trust me; you don’t want to be in another country when this happens.
2. Be very clear what your intentions are about this volunteer trip.
If you are going because you want to immerse yourself in another culture, let that be your primary experience. If you desire to reach out and help children in another culture, then keep that as your main goal. When you arrive knowing your main intention, it makes the transition for yourself and others a lot smoother. If you feel uncertain, then chances are the individuals you are helping will feed off that uncertainty.
3. Don’t be too rigid.
It’s essential to keep an open mind along with an open heart. Things will most likely not be the same in the host country as it is in your hometown. However, keeping an open mind and an open heart will allow you to say, “My first time volunteering abroad was amazing.” Being flexible is the cure to overcoming discomfort in your new surroundings. Adapt and go with the flow, and you will have an easier time.
4. Don’t be afraid to learn something new.
As your first time volunteering abroad, you may be so accustomed to doing things according to your culture that you fail to understand how someone from another culture does things. Don’t assume your way is right, and don’t make anyone else’s way wrong either.
Take this opportunity to embrace the experience you are about to have. This is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, make new friends, and cultivate life-long relationships, all the while making a difference.
How to Pack Like a Volunteer Pro
While packing may not seem like a big deal, it is helpful to know how and what to pack for a volunteer trip abroad. Here are some packing tips to get you started:
- Concentrate on the essentials first;
- Don’t overpack;
- Look at where you will be staying and see what you have access to;
- Pack in layers;
- Check the country’s climate;
- Stick to basic colors and bring accessories to change it up;
- Pack a few of each – pants, skirts, shorts, and mix and match them;
- Don’t forget comfortable footwear;
- Pack necessary project materials, aids, and equipment; and
- Remember your emergency meds like asthma inhalers, insulin, or epi-pens along with everyday medications.
Top 5 Engaging Ways to Immerse Yourself in your Host-Country Culture
You know that you will volunteer abroad to help others, but there is so much in it for you too. Here are some ways to savor every moment during your first time volunteering abroad experience:
Eat and Enjoy
There is no better way to dive into the culture of another country than to sample their food. Hit the streets and eat as the locals do. Try different foods and sample new things. The worse thing that will happen is that you might find some foods you don’t like while falling in love with others.
Of course, you need to dress according to the role you will play while you are volunteering. As this will be your first time volunteering abroad, you want to check with a program coordinator of the organization you are volunteering with to ensure you dress according to the country’s customs.
For example, if you are teaching, you need to align with how other teachers in the country dress. However, there is a more fun side to dressing alongside the culture you visit. Find out what the different headpieces mean or if the colors they wear have any significance. Be sure to try on some new jewelry or color you never would think of wearing back home.
Learning to speak the language can be so much fun. While you may feel apprehensive in the beginning, use it as a learning experience. The more things you overcome that make you nervous, the more things in life you will try. What better way than to learn the language of another culture?
Mix it Up
What does it mean to mix things up? It simply means to have some fun while learning what makes other cultures smile. Attend various music festivals, craft fairs, marketplace events, and even attend worship. Cultural immersion is one of the top reasons for volunteering abroad, so mix it up!
Keep an Open Mind and Heart
By embracing another culture wholeheartedly, you show respect for that culture. Keep an open mind and heart and let in some of what makes that culture’s heart sing.
With the tips and pointers contained inside this guide, you will be well on your way to preparing for the most exciting, exhilarating, and memorable adventure of your life! One day, you will have a story to tell – My first time volunteering abroad was nothing to fear.
Get our full checklist for all the volunteering 101 you need before setting off for your trip. Go HERE and submit your contact info so we can send it right over.