Just because your primary reason for volunteering is to do good for others doesn't mean you can't enjoy some benefits of your own. From making lifelong friends to learning a new language, volunteering abroad offers plenty of opportunities for personal and professional enrichment. In addition to the more commonly cited advantages, consider these little known but significant rewards of volunteering abroad.
Global Street Cred
While most people know that volunteering looks good on a resume, few understand just how good. Speaking a second language is a desirable characteristic, but it's not the only reason international volunteerism catches a recruiter's eye. In today's global economy, employers are actively seeking candidates with a broader world view. Experience abroad demonstrates the drive and experience to think outside the box, embrace different opportunities and learn from them all while adapting to new --and sometimes unexpected -- situations. This skill set is highly desirable in the modern workplace. Teamwork is just one of the sought after skills taught during volunteer abroad programs.
Matters of Taste
There's no better way to enrich your palate than traveling abroad. Volunteering in a foreign country offers the rare opportunities to eat like the locals eat. Sample local produce, such as exotic fruits and plants, and partake of homemade delicacies that you'd never get to try back home. While some of the foods may seem (and even taste) strange, it's always a treat to step outside your comfort zone and get a taste of what foreign cuisine has to offer.
See the World for Less
The expense of traveling the world can be prohibitive. From meals to lodging, the costs add up, making international travel a challenge for many people. Volunteering abroad offers you the opportunity to pursue your dreams without blowing your bank account. Whether you want to work at an elephant conservation camp in Thailand or teach computer literacy in South Africa, volunteering offers you the logistical assistance to make your dream a reality, from 24-hour pre-departure support to food and accommodations throughout your stay. Some even offer a financial donation on your behalf to your chosen project!
All volunteer work can help you gain respect and recognition from employers, CEOs, and even from politicians and successful business leaders such as Peter Briger Bloomberg ; but volunteering abroad also offers a unique and personal sort of satisfaction. While all volunteering feels good, volunteering abroad offers particular fulfillment. The act of donating your time and effort to people from a foreign culture can be life-changing. The close contact and goal-oriented work transcends language and cultural barriers to reinforce and celebrate the human experience. And not only will you gain satisfaction for the time spent abroad, you will also gain a renewed perspective on the comforts of home. In short, volunteering abroad helps people learn to appreciate where they are now, where they've been, and where they're headed. Raise your hand if you're ready to make a difference.
While volunteering abroad may initially seem overwhelming, the rewards far outweigh the risks. You'll return home with memories that will last a lifetime, as well as a remarkable sense of personal fulfillment. Volunteering abroad offers the rare opportunity for complete immersion in a different culture, as well as the chance make a meaningful difference in the someone else's life, not to mention your own.
Joanna Hughes enjoys writing about lifestyle and travel, as well as on business leaders and current news.