Volunteering & Internships Abroad Guide for Students by Karen Marquis

Regardless if you would like to study abroad because your course is dealing with a foreign language or Political Science or you would like to take competitive internship opportunities, it is not an easy choice that contains several challenges. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one can see that 21.6% of undergraduate students in the United States are still uncertain about what major to choose. It has also been discovered that about 75% of college students are prone to changing their major choice at least once, which makes studying abroad or choosing volunteering activities even more appealing.

It helps students to explore new cultures and participate in those programs that may be unavailable in their home countries, which is why we can see so many foreign exchange learners. According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the existence of global-service learning paves the way for learners to understand those large structural forces that constitute social problems by offering transformational learning experiences and letting students process information and learn differently. If we turn to the American Freshman statistics, nearly 74.6% of freshmen considered helping people in need.

In terms of reasons to choose a foreign internship or volunteering, about 92% of students want to gain life experience and grow personally, 85% of students would like to travel and experience other cultures, and about 48% of learners are there to volunteer. One of the reasons why this practice is becoming even more popular is the cross-cultural exchange and the open-minded attitude of modern students who can and like traveling. According to another research conducted by the WYSE, the millennials are more generous about their time, funds, and serving others, which shows that about 81% of them have volunteered, which is more than what we had for generations that came before.

The Top Reasons to Volunteer or Intern Abroad  

Of course, we all have different things that motivate us for a particular internship position abroad, yet we can list several solid reasons why the majority of students decide to take a leap. Of course, going overseas is always a new experience, which is obvious but some people just like to see things outlined to feel confident, which is what we’ve done below:

  • These Competitive Markets! We all know that if you have studied abroad and taken time to gain some foreign country experiences, your chances of getting employment increase. The majority of HR agents are looking for those students who are experienced and can adjust to various international projects.
  • Learning a Foreign Language. According to research by Georgetown University’s healthcare specialists, learning a foreign language helps to develop certain brain patterns and increases the cognitive functions of a person. It will also help to consider various freelance jobs while one studies.
  • The Socio-Cultural Factor. Once a student turns to volunteering and various internships with a humanitarian element to them, it becomes a great way to pay back to society and serve both young and old all over the world. It does not have to deal with environmental issues alone because you may also help victims of domestic violence, assist children with special needs, or simply volunteer at the summer camp.
  • Increasing Problem-Solving Skills. According to a study conducted by INSEAD experts, people who choose complex volunteering learn to cope with various challenges differently, which means that they expand their outlook and learn how to think outside the box without bias and stereotypes.

Most importantly, you have a great chance to implement your skills and knowledge beyond your comfort zone and the local community. You will encounter various people from all over the world, will challenge your vision, and finally connect the dots between theory and practice. We all have our reasons, yet such experiences help us to grow both personally and as professionals.

The Differences Between Internship, Volunteering & Studying Abroad 

INTERNSHIPS
ABROAD
FOREIGN
VOLUNTEERING
STUDYING ABROAD 
The purpose here is to let students or those who have graduated recently test their skills by gaining some international work experience. You may choose among free or paid internship opportunities depending if you deal with NGOs or programs that are funded by the governments or various institutions related to your subject.Volunteering relates to experiences that help students meet their vision of helping others. It brings invaluable soft skills and serves as a great addition to your resume. You may start volunteering at foreign colleges and universities as an exchange student or turn to government-based agencies or private companies to become engaged.Since some programs like Oxford’s Data Science or Music Classes at Berkeley are unique, students turn to foreign studies to earn their college credits. It also provides a great cultural experience and helps to travel and study at the same time by learning how to cooperate and take part in international projects.
DURATION OF EXPERIENCE
In most cases, your internship course will last between three and twelve months depending on what responsibilities you would like to take. It will also depend on your academic position, which means that if you are still a student, some additional rules may apply.

While it will always vary from case to case, your international volunteering programs may last for seven days if it is something with a tight schedule. Likewise, it can last up to two years if you are involved in humanitarian aid courses. The lengthy programs, however, are mostly aimed at recent graduates as an additional educational experience.

The majority of students studying abroad will have their programs last for one or two semesters. The only exception would be earning a degree at some international school, which will be equal to any local college experience.
SCHOOL CREDIT ELIGIBILITY 
Double-check this aspect with your college if some additional funding is available for internship programs. In case there are no intern abroad options, some schools can provide credits that may be transferred if you have approval from your source institution.

The majority of volunteering options do not provide any academic credits per se. You can find a school program to come along that would help you to earn some credit as you volunteer.

Studying abroad is almost always offered with academic credits coming alone. You can turn to the Office of International Affairs and Study Abroad officers to see how your credits can be managed.

Important Steps to Volunteering & Internships Abroad 

Without a doubt deciding to become a volunteer abroad or engage in a foreign internship experience is never easy and must take some consideration and analysis. Here is a list of what must be done as you make your big decision:

  • Decide What You Would Like. As simple as that, being an intern is not the same as volunteering, yet the major difference is knowing what outcome you would like to achieve. If you are looking to get better at your future job, an internship would be a safer choice. If you want to polish your social skills and learn, choose to volunteer.
  • The Location. For example, if you are good at speaking German, you can consider Germany, Austria, or Switzerland as a country that will host you. As a volunteer, you may choose more exotic locations that have been affected by natural disasters.
  • The Time Factor. It will always depend on your time, funds, and resources. If you are not sure about your program, think about joining something that lasts for a month or two weeks even because it can help you get the taste of things.
  • Calculate Available Funds. The most crucial factor here is funding and knowing if you can handle it with or without additional financial support or scholarships. The challenging part is that most short-term opportunities will not support you financially, which is why one must either fund it on their own or turn to various scholarships for foreign students.
  • Consulting Your School’s International Affairs Officer. Do not ignore this part because checking with a person who knows the details of most programs can help you coordinate things. It is also a person who will provide the hosting country or institutions with your resume and information. It will also help you secure various competitive internship options.

Finally, remember about immunization cards and the list of necessary documents that must be translated and prepared in advance!

Volunteering or Internship Foreign Programs List 

Here are some volunteer opportunities to consider:

Love Volunteers. It offers 41 options in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Oceania, and South America. It provides life-changing intercultural experiences mostly in developing countries with a focus on education, music, and sports. 

A Broader View. You can travel as a volunteer by serving people. It offers 24 different countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America. 

Fronteering.  If you would like to focus on wildlife and environmental issues, it is a safe choice. It provides 14 locations in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America, South America.

Global Service Corps. It has both internships and volunteering locations in Cambodia and Tanzania, including orphanage care and English teaching. 

GVI USA. You can choose 15 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America for both volunteering and internships. From public health to animal care, it has it all. 

Projects Abroad. It has great social projects that you can mention in your resume. You can choose among 31 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania. 

CISAbroad. The programs include 22 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and Latin America. Great internship options at the world’s top companies. 

Working Abroad. You can find great opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Amazing environmental internship opportunities. 

Global Crossroad. It has one of the lowest weekly volunteering prices that you can afford. Choose among 18 different countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  

Global Leadership Adventures. It focuses on educational programs and offers chances in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, and South America.

IES Abroad. Consider it for internships in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Cape Town, Dublin, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, Salamanca, Santiago, Shanghai, and Sydney.

Maximo Nivel. Great internship and volunteering programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. 

United Planet. It offers study abroad and volunteering options in 35 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Latin America, and North America.

World Internships. Amazing internship chances in 16 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. 

Cross-Cultural Solutions. They offer both internships and volunteering opportunities in Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco,  Peru, Tanzania, and Thailand. 

Global Experiences. Check it for competitive internships in Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, London, Milan, Paris, Shanghai, and Sydney.  

Global Volunteers. One of the most reliable networks focusing on 18 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. 

International Volunteer HQ. If you would like to volunteer in 30 different countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Oceania, and South America, do not miss it. 

Naturally Africa Volunteers. It has both internships and volunteering programs revolving around Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania. 

United Way. Join this NGO and volunteer in 40 different countries in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

Make sure to contact your local university for available options since it may provide you with additional funding options and resources!


General Resources to Consider For Your Abroad Experience

Here are some useful resources you must consider as you search for the best options:

Back Door Jobs. Lots of short-term volunteering and employment positions for college students.

Go Abroad. It has numerous reviews that will help you to learn more about over 17,000+ internship programs.

Go Overseas. It helps to connect students to various opportunities in Africa, Australia, North America, and Europe.

Idealist. A great database that covers over 120,000 NGOs that require volunteering services.

Centro Studi Italiani TM. There you can find some links to start your exploration of activism and volunteering around the world.

International Volunteer Programs Association. It has accreditation for foreign volunteering and internship positions, which is why we recommend checking it out.

Network for Good. Check it for finding charity and volunteering programs based on location, your college major, and interests.

Transitions Abroad. It has lots of helpful tips and information for those who would like to volunteer abroad, find a good program, or start with a competitive foreign internship program.

Most importantly, remember that you can do anything from teaching to helping the elderly. Your internship opportunities will work best if they are related to your university course and meet your skills. Nevertheless, you can also try something new and simply travel the world by learning about certain cultures and social groups. Explore the resources, seek help, ask your college advisor for assistance, and pave your way to success and inspiration!

Link to Karen’s guide with resources for students who decide to take part in volunteering and internships https://edubirdie.com/blog/volunteering-internships-abroad

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About the author: AMN