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Three Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering Abroad

Priscilla Du Preez CC0 via Unsplash.com

By  April 1, 2024

How joining a volunteering project can help to grow both personally and personally.

Whether you are looking for an effective way to save money while travelling or get experience in a new field, volunteering can be the right way to enhance your stay abroad and build new connections.

As I prepare to leave what has been my home for the past five months, it’s almost inevitable to reflect on my experience as a volunteer. Here are what I think are the top three benefits of volunteering abroad.

You get to do what you like (and forget what money wants)

There's a certain lightness in being part of projects where money isn't involved. It feels liberating, as no one expects you to do more than what you feel comfortable putting into the project. It’s a system based on a tacit agreement, built on the passion and personal interest of each one of the individual involved, rather than the compensation behind it.

This, of course, is strictly related to the type of project and the people involved, not all the hosts expect the same from their volunteers - the reason why is very important to carefully read the opportunity’s description and perhaps schedule a call before embarking on a new experience. 

Volunteering can help us better understand the value we attribute to what we do, where our passions lie, and how we can eventually turn them into a job.

In general terms, I strongly believe that volunteering can help to better understand the value we attribute to what we do, where our passions lie and how we can eventually turn them into a job. Sometimes it’s only when money is out of the equation that we manage to see things clearly and understand what really fulfils us.

You'll make deeper connections and build community with locals and expats alike

Part of this understanding process lies in the connections made during the experience. New environments and different points of view are incredible stimuli to rethink your situation and see things from another perspective.

Something I deeply enjoyed about my experience was the community around the project. It’s easy to connect with others when living under the same roof for days or weeks at a time, especially in a context where people share similar values. Learning about different paths and lifestyles can be incredibly beneficial to our personal growth, helping put things into perspective and find inspiration for new projects.

Connections are even more valuable in a foreign country, where getting to know locals is often challenging. Being part of a local project is the perfect way to burst the "foreign bubble." Your host will likely introduce you to their circle of friends, dispensing tips on lesser-known places to see and things to do in the area.

You may discover an interest or passion that you've overlooked

Whether it’s a farm, a restaurant or an independent publishing house, working alongside experts in the field is an incredible opportunity. Not only is possible to directly learn new skills from your host, but the rest of the community can be a valuable source of knowledge too. Fellow volunteers, friends, or other people involved in the project are all good sources of inspiration. Exchanging what you know and actively asking for advice can make the difference in getting to know a field you have always overlooked. Several times during my experience, I found that simply engaging in discussions with others and participating in new activities gave me fresh ideas for my own projects, sometimes not even related to the task I was doing. 

The idea is to put yourself out there and do whatever you can, stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s rare to be in the position of being able to simply try things out, without worrying too much about the outcome or finding ways to make it profitable. 

In my view, this is what volunteering is really about. It’s an exchange in which both parties put something of themselves, with no certainties on the possible outcome. It takes a certain amount of courage, and although things don’t always go according to plans, the payoff can be an incredibly enriching experience, offering plenty of opportunities for learning and growth, both personally and professionally.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad
Enrico Belcore

Enrico Belcore is a freelance writer, currently volunteering in the Portuguese Islands of the Azores. He deals with culture-related journalism, alternative lifestyles and travel. His work has been featured in Bridge, The Trip Magazine, Melograno and Fortelier.

Website: https://www.clippings.me/users/enricobelcore

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