Do more, see more, be more: 5 Benefits of volunteering abroad

Interested in experiencing something new this summer but not sure where to start? In this blog post, our new Programme Officer for short-term exchanges at UNA Exchange draws on her own experiences of volunteering abroad and highlights why you should consider doing it for yourself.

Bethan pictured with her team after a team building activity in Harare, Zimbabwe
Bethan pictured with her team after a team building activity in Harare, Zimbabwe

By Bethan Julia Williams

There has been a huge increase in the number of young people choosing to volunteer abroad. This has sparked many conversation, with the benefits of volunteering abroad widely pondered and preached. My peers often ask me, why did you volunteer in another country? What did you gain? Was it worth it? My answer every time- Absolutely. Here I reflect on my experiences of volunteering as a peer educator in Zimbabwe, to give insight as to why I am so passionate about the benefits of volunteering and why I think you should try it too!

    1) Experience

  • Volunteering abroad allows you to experience living and working in a brand new country and environment
  • I lived with a host family and was welcomed into a fantastic family and community
  • I was able to immerse myself in a new culture and learn a new language
  • 2) Perspective

  • Volunteering abroad offers an alternative way of viewing the world, and yourself
  • I learnt that there is no better way to learn than to do and to actively seek the answers to the questions you don’t yet know
  • I learnt that sometimes I do things wrongly without even questioning and take for granted what I should value most
  • 3) Skill

  • Volunteering abroad allows you to develop your skills and gain new ones along the way. It might be relating to a subject you have studied or hope to study at university, or maybe something that just lights your fire!
  • I became more independent and learnt how to cook traditional dishes and wash my clothes by hand with instruction from my amazing host Mamma
  • I had the opportunity to facilitate a session and make an ‘inspire tree’ with 200 school children on International Women’s Day
  • 4) Impact

  • Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to yourself and others. So often we hear people say ‘I want to make a difference’.
  • Volunteering abroad should always be a two-way exchange and never a one-way transaction. My experience definitely impacted me as an individual and, my hosting community too
  • I developed a deeper understanding of my place in the world and my responsibilities as a young person in leading change within international and community development
  • As a result of my teams facilitation, the young people in my host community were empowered with more knowledge on their rights and how to exercise them
  • 5) Voice

    Sharing your experiences upon your return is just as important as living them in the first place. With storytelling comes insight and hopefully, conversation. It doesn’t matter how you share the stories of the experience, skill, perspective and impact you gained from volunteering abroad- what matters is that you do!

  • Use your voice to tell your story, or a story from someone you met whilst volunteering
  • This enables a conversation, keeps your experiences alive and allows others to access to the information and insight you have gained
  • So there we have it, my top 5 benefits of volunteering abroad. My experience was the start of what I hope will be a lifelong engagement as an active global citizen. It allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to the future for myself and others and inspired me do more, see more and be more. What could it mean for you?

    Interested in hearing more about how you could volunteer abroad this summer? Why not visit the ‘project search’ on our website to see what you could do, see and be: Click here

    *Note – Volunteering abroad is a fantastic opportunity and one I would encourage every individual to try. However it is important to go abroad for the right reasons and do your research to ensure both you and the hosting community gain from your placement activities.