Whether you want to broaden your cultural horizons, step outside your comfort zone and experience unique opportunities or use your skills to help others, volunteering abroad can be an extremely worthwhile and rewarding experience. However, before you book your flights and start packing your bags, you’ll need to make sure you are properly prepared. Here are four need-to-know preperation tips to help you make the most of your volunteering adventure.
- Do your research
These days, there is an overwhelming number of agencies that set up volunteer placements overseas. Unfortunately, not all volunteer organisations are created equal. To ensure you don’t end up forking out enormous fees or get duped into a scam, it’s important to do your research. Before you sign up to a partner organisation, find out what their goal is, who you will be working with, where the money goes and what is included in the price. To get a better idea of what to expect, talk to people who have done the placement before you and read reviews of the programme.
- Stay safe and healthy
To avoid being faced with a medical emergency while you’re abroad, you should pack a first aid kit and any medicines you may need. Especially if you are volunteering in tropical or subtropical countries, you may also need specialist anti-malaria tablets such as doxycycline
. Depending on where you are travelling to, you might require vaccinations before you leave too. If you are unsure which medicines or vaccinations you need, visit a travel clinic or specialist online health site at least a couple of months before you depart.
- Pack the right supplies
You will also need to think carefully about the supplies and resources you may need to bring with you. After all, the last thing you want while you’re away from home is to find out that you haven’t got what you need. Whether it’s teaching in an orphanage or helping with a conservation project, find out as much as you can about what the project involves to give you a better understanding of the kinds of things you may find useful when you are there. While it can be tempting to pack all of your personal possessions, try to limit yourself to just the essentials.
- Learn the local customs
Getting to grips with local customs beforehand is something that is often overlooked by travellers. To help prepare yourself for living in another country, find out as much as possible about the area you are going to, including appropriate dress, etiquette and food and drink. It’s also a good idea to learn some of the local language, even if it’s just a few basic phrases. This will help you fit in with the local community, adapt to the culture and build relationships more easily.
By being prepared and organised before you leave home, you stand a much better chance of having a fun, enjoyable and fulfilling volunteering experience.