While it is important to volunteer overseas with the intent of making a difference in the lives of other people, one cannot ignore the positive effects of such an experience on the volunteer. Going to a different country to help other people can lead to a greater appreciation of your life, as well as other people and cultures.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Five ways volunteering overseas will change you (for the better!)
Appreciation of the beauty of diversity
If you’ve grown up in a rural environment with little diversity, you may experience culture shock on your first volunteering trip. This is because you’ll meet people from different cultures who probably look and act differently. The food may be different, and there may be language barriers that make it harder for you to communicate. However, the most important thing when traveling to a different country to volunteer is to go with an open mind. After a while, you’ll learn to appreciate the differences, and you’ll gain a more global mindset. You may even come out of the place with new skills, such as how to cook traditional delicacies or build a traditional home. This experience will threaten any pre-conceived notions and stereotypes you had about other countries and cultures. Your appreciation of the different cultures you meet on your travels will make you a true global citizen.
2. Gratitude for what you already have
It is easy to forget just how blessed you are, especially when you take everything around you for granted. However, volunteering and helping the less fortunate can give you a new appreciation for the things you have. There are parts of the world where piped water is still a pipe dream. There are other places where people don’t get to eat three solid meals a day. Simple pleasures can be hard to find in certain parts of the world. However, you’ll realize that most of these people are extremely grateful and positive, despite their circumstances. This will change your mindset, and give you an attitude of gratitude. It could also make you committed to changing the lives of people who do not have all the things you enjoy, whether at home or abroad.
3. Life-long friendships
Anyone who has volunteered overseas can tell you that boarding a plane to go to a new place and saying goodbye to your family, whether for three weeks or thirty weeks, can be hard. However, they can also tell you that saying goodbye to the people you’ll meet and the friends you make can be heart-wrenching. Local hosts are always willing and ready to welcome volunteers and ensure they feel at home. You may meet other volunteers from all over the world with similar goals and aspirations. The people in the community are usually very friendly and warm, and you’ll work and live together peacefully and harmoniously. You are also likely to have a lot of fun during your stay in these countries. This experience will instantly change your concept of home, and redefine the term ‘home away from home’. At the end of it all, the hospitality and love you get from the place, and the friendships and memories you make, will stay with you forever.
4. Meaningful Experiences
Volunteering overseas makes you realize that tourism and making an impact can go hand in hand. This increases your commitment to making a difference while still enjoying the beauty that this world has to offer. Going to a new country will give you a hunger for exploration, as you’ll realize that there is so much to see out there. However, you will not be satisfied by just any traditional vacation, where you lock yourself in your hotel room or lounge on a beach. You’ll seek more meaning in all your travels, whether it involves interacting with the local people or going to more local restaurants. Instead of simply going to animal orphanages to look at animals, you can take part in wildlife conversation efforts to ensure future generations can also enjoy the area’s fauna. You can visit historical sites while taking the opportunity to learn more about a particular language in order to communicate with the locals better. Traveling while volunteering and learning more about a place ensures you make the most of your vacation.
Traveling to a new country and leaving the comforts of home will kick-start your independence. Not only will you be going to a place far from home, but you’ll also have to adapt to the new living arrangements without the support of your friends and family. This experience could push you further than you’ve ever gone and help you discover an inner strength you never knew you had. To survive in a new place, you’ll need to learn to interact with new people and even learn new skills and languages. Whether you are traveling alone for the first time or picking up a new interest, volunteering abroad will help you become more confident.
The volunteering experience will also make you more patient. If you are working with a language barrier, patience is necessary for effective communication. At the end of the experience, you’ll have gained a greater intercultural understanding. Whether you are working alone or with a group of volunteers, you’ll have to learn to listen to other points of view and learn the different approaches that people use when solving problems.
Volunteering abroad is a very humbling experience. It opens your eyes to how big the world is, and lets you realize that there are truly more than seven billion people living on this earth. It also helps you know that though you are just one person in a world with billions of other people, you can make a difference in the lives of your fellow humans. Volunteering can also change your perspective, and help you appreciate the things you take for granted. It can help you differentiate between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ while making it easy to appreciate even the little things. By changing the lives of other people, you’ll come out of the experience a changed person as well.