Many people, college students included, dream about the opportunity to spend time abroad doing great service work. The problem is, most of the time it never develops further than just that, a dream. But what about for those students that do aspire to go overseas and devote their time to a cause? Recently we had the chance to sit in on a presentation by Zahara Heckscher, who has spent the last 20+ years of her life volunteering overseas. She was able to provide a number of quick tips for making a volunteer experience materialize. Here are her 10 main tips:
1. Do it.
There are always reasons why not to do something; commit to going abroad and half the battle is finished.
2. Study your motives and expectations.
As good as your intentions might be, you will not singlehandedly save the world. Figure out what specific goals you want to accomplish and set out to do so.
3. Do your homework.
The more advance knowledge you have about the area, the programs available, and the experience, the better prepared you will be to make a positive impact.
4. Don't rule anything out.
You might not find the perfect experience right away, but you could find an organization that really needs your assistance, a place in which you can make that impact you desire.
5. Volunteer before you go.
You're going to be able to offer so much more if you have volunteering experience here in the States. It doesn't matter where you volunteer, just get used to the environment.
6. Plan for your return.
You'll be getting a great experience; think about how you can take that experience and spread the word about it once you're back in the United States.
7. Study the language.
It's always easier to help when you can communicate, right?
8. Expect to make mistakes.
No one is perfect. Simply try to minimize the big mistakes and work to rectify the small ones that do come about.
9. Keep a journal
You'll want to remember your experiences and how you got them so that you can share with future volunteers.
10. Get your shots and take care of your health.
Make sure you have all the required immunizations necessary. If you are planning on going to less developed nations, bring extra medicine to help fight off illness while you are there. You can't be effective if you aren't functional!