Volunteering overseas can be an incredible experience for people of all ages, but for under 17’s, it can offer a unique opportunity to develop skills, broaden their horizons, and make a real difference in the world. Whether through a school or community group or as an individual, overseas volunteering can provide many benefits for young people.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why overseas volunteering can be such a rewarding experience for under 17’s, as well as some tips for choosing the right program and making the most of your time abroad.
Develop cross-cultural skills
One of the most significant benefits of overseas volunteering for under 17’s is the opportunity to develop cross-cultural skills. By living and working in a foreign country, young people can gain a deeper understanding of different cultures, values, and customs. This can help them become more empathetic and open-minded, as well as develop skills such as communication, adaptability, and problem-solving.
For example, a volunteer may find that the way they approach problem-solving is different from the way people in their host country approach it. This can challenge their assumptions and help them develop a more nuanced perspective. Similarly, learning how to communicate effectively across language barriers can be a valuable skill that young people can take with them into their future ventures.
Build self-confidence and independence
Overseas volunteering can also be an opportunity for under 17’s to build self-confidence and independence. Being away from home and familiar surroundings can be challenging, but it can also be a chance for young people to push themselves out of their comfort zones and develop new skills.
For example, a young person may be responsible for leading a class of children or learning about teamwork on a construction program, which can be a great opportunity to build leadership and communication skills. Similarly, navigating a new environment and culture can help them become more self-reliant and independent.
Make a real difference
You will be able to work on projects that have a direct and positive impact on local communities. For example, a young person may volunteer on a project that helps improve access to clean water, education, or healthcare. This can be incredibly rewarding and give them a sense of purpose and fulfilment. We can learn a lot from the people we help, just as much as we ourselves can educate local communities, so it is a two-way cultural exchange.
Learn new skills
Volunteering overseas for under 17’s is a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills. Whether that’s learn construction techniques, local farming methods, gaining teaching experience or how to communicate with people from all over the world, you will no doubt come back with some newfound knowledge.
Meet new people and make new friends
For high school students wanting to volunteer overseas, the majority want to know whether there will be others joining them. Whilst the number of volunteers across our projects will vary, there will likely always be at least a few volunteers on a project at one time. This can allow you to meet new people and make new friends from all over the world. This can be a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and make connections with people who share similar interests.
Tips for choosing an overseas volunteering program
If you’re considering overseas volunteering for under 17’s, it’s important to choose a program that is safe, well-organised, and appropriate for your skills and interests. Here are some tips to help you choose the right program:
Do your research
Before choosing an overseas volunteering program, it’s important to do your research. Look for programs that have a good reputation and positive reviews from past participants. You should also research the location and make sure it is safe, and meals and accommodation are provided. At IVI, all our programs include 24/7 support, meals, accommodation, airport pickup and orientation.
Consider your skills and interests
When choosing an overseas volunteering program, it’s important to consider your skills and interests. Look for programs that align with your interests and offer opportunities to develop new skills. For example, if you’re interested in education, you may want to look for a program that involves teaching or tutoring.
Consider the length of the program
The length of the program is also an important consideration. Consider how much time you’re willing and able to commit to the program, as well as how much time you’ll need to adjust to a new environment. Sometimes it may take a week or so to get settled in your new destination so the longer you can volunteer the better. This allows you to really get stuck in and to give back more on your project as you will begin to see the areas where help is need most and have a better understanding of how to assist.
Look for support and training
It’s important to choose a program that offers support and training. Look for programs that provide orientation and training before you leave, as well as ongoing support while you’re abroad. This can help you feel more prepared and confident in your abilities.
Consider the cost
The cost of the program is also an important consideration. Some programs may be more expensive than others, and it’s important to consider all the costs, including travel, spending money, and program fees.
Making the most of your overseas volunteering experience
Once you’ve chosen an overseas volunteering program, it’s important to make the most of your experience. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time abroad:
Embrace the culture
One of the best ways to make the most of your overseas volunteering experience is to embrace the culture of your host country. Take the time to learn about the customs and traditions, try new foods, and make connections with local people.
Keep an open mind
It’s important to keep an open mind while you’re abroad. Be open to new experiences and challenges, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This can be a great opportunity for personal growth and development. Volunteering can be a culture shock at times so allow yourself time to adjust.
While overseas volunteering can be an amazing experience, it’s important to prioritise safety. Make sure you’re aware of any potential risks and take steps to minimise them. This may include avoiding certain areas or situations, following safety guidelines, and staying in communication with program staff. Read the welcome pack thoroughly and do your own research on what to expect.
Reflect on your experience
Take the time to reflect on your overseas volunteering experience. Think about what you learned, the impact you had, and how the experience will shape your future. This can be a great opportunity for personal growth and development.
Overseas volunteering can be an incredible experience for under 17’s. From developing cross-cultural skills to making a real difference in the world, there are many benefits to volunteering abroad. By choosing the right program and making the most of your experience, you can gain valuable skills and memories that will last a lifetime. So, if you’re considering overseas volunteering, take the time to do your research, consider your skills and interests, and embrace the adventure that awaits you.