10 Most Important Things You Can Learn While Volunteering Abroad

Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Non-Profit, World

By Riyanka Roy

“It’s impossible to be involved in all situations, but there’s no excuse not to be involved in something, somewhere, somehow, with someone. Make an ounce of difference.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

Have you ever imagined how wonderful it would be to travel to a different country and teach little children there? Or may be help the staff to paint a school? Or helping the mahouts to clean and feed the elephants?

While charity and donations are bygone things, more and more millennials are taking up the path of volunteering. Spending your valuable time for serving a community and sharing your love with someone is the most precious thing to do, and soon you’ll realize that you are gaining much more than you are giving.

Here are the 10 most important lessons you can learn while volunteering abroad:

1.Little things can make big differences.

One common question that might strike anyone and everyone is – “Will I be able to make a difference?” Well, all of us are capable of making that difference. No matter how small your contribution appears to you, it can actually make a big impact in someone else’s life. If you join a teaching program in Ghana where the little ones can learn the basics of English, you’ll play an important role in crafting their base for learning English, and that isn’t something small. Spending time with elephants and helping the mahouts or playing with kids at an orphanage – nothing really is small as long as you are dedicated to what you do. If you can just smile, you can encourage someone who really needs it. Volunteering abroad will help you to learn that it doesn’t take much to add sunshine to someone’s dull day.

2.You will learn to be more empathetic.

When you get engaged with a project that aligns with your areas of interests, you’ll feel a kind of emotional attachment with the people you work for. Their problems will appear to be your problems and you’ll try to resolve them in the best possible manner. For example, if you volunteer for football coaching, you’ll be equally delighted to see your students scoring a goal as they would be. Or maybe, a sick child will make you impatient enough as if you are his parent. No matter what the situation is, you’ll definitely learn to be more empathetic towards people.

3.The more you adapt, the more you’ll be enriched.

While on a volunteering journey, you will surely not get the facilities that you otherwise enjoy at home. In most cases, you’ll have to live with a local host family and live the way they do! You will probably have to share your accommodation with your fellow mate, who has nothing in common with you. You might just get a mattress to sleep on, local food that’s completely opposite to what your taste buds are used to, and a bucket of chilled water to take shower – adapt to the situations and you’ll thoroughly enjoy your journey. It’ll break you and make you better than you were before. All that you’ll face, will eventually enrich your journey.

4.What you consider to be necessity is actually luxury for many.

Once you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll realize that a lot of things which you consider to be necessities, are actually luxuries for many and they are quite happily living their lives without access to those things. For example, taking a hot water shower or having 24/7 access to WiFi might be things you can’t live without, but a volunteer vacation will change your requirements for good. You’ll learn to live a much simpler life where the social networking world doesn’t intervene in your day to day life and you’ll feel healthier than you were ever before. Your hosts will make you realize that the mantra to good life doesn’t lie in the hands of material objects.

5.Firsthand experiences are always better than lessons learnt from books. 

After you reach your volunteering destination and spend some quality time with the locals, you will soon start realizing that your history and geography lessons missed out a lot of things! You’ll come to know a land differently, and every little thing about the lifestyle of those people – for example, their festivals, their choice of art and music, their dating style and wedding rituals, how their society has taken the present shape, their cooking habits and much more. Living and interacting with the local folks on a daily basis will help you learn more than you did in your class lessons. First-hand experiences are always more enriching and effective.

6.People will respect you more if you speak their language.

While many people at your volunteering destination will be well versed with English, you’ll still earn some brownie points if you can converse in the local language. Not knowing the language has its own pros and cons. On one hand, you’ll know the beauty of conversing through emotions and body movements, on the other hand, there will be awkward situations where neither you would know what to do not will they know how to respond. Thus, it is always advisable to learn the language. It would also make your hosts feel that you are making genuine efforts to connect to them. If you go for an English Teaching Project in Bangkok, for example, you can ask your students to teach you Thai in return of learning English from you. This would be an effective act of engagement.

7.Your ideas will get wings when merged with others’ ideas.

On a volunteer trip, you will meet like-minded people from all across the world, and get to share your ideas. There might be ideas that you have had since long but never understood how to make them work. Those ideas might finally get wings with a little help from your fellow mates. You should know that each one who’s a part of this noble deed has something unique in them, and each of them has the potential to make a mark in your life and vice versa. Make the most of the time that you have at your disposal and give proper shapes to your ideas.

8.When you get to know a community, they also get to know about yours.

The journey is not just about your venture to know about the host community, but it’s a two-way thing! While you get to know their culture and customs, they also get to know about yours. To put it more precisely, you are the representative of your community in a larger world. Therefore, your acts should be sorted enough, so that you don’t pass any wrong message to them. While you ask them about their history and traditions, share your side of the story as well. In most cases, your host community will comprise of people who are less privileged and perhaps they have never know or heard about the world the way you’ve seen it. Give them a clear picture of the world outside their circle, broaden their horizon.

9.Material objects can’t be a source of eternal happiness.

 Were you sad when you lost your favorite pen? Or you stopped fitting into your favorite dress? Or when your father refused to buy you the latest iPhone? Once you go through the volunteering journey, all of that will seem vague to you, and you’ll no longer find any meaning for the desire of those material objects. The entire process will change you for good and you’ll learn that happiness comes from the little things in life which probably money can’t always buy. A hug from an orphan or a word of blessing from an old man would seem more precious to you than any material object. You’ll learn to value the intangible things that can last forever.

10.Sharing a smile is the best thing you can do. 

As you’ll learn the value of little things, you’ll also know that smiles are universal. If you can’t give enough, you can just share smiles and that would be enough. In fact, you can make it a practice to make people around you smile every day, and soon you’ll realize that their joy is making you happier as a person. Eventually, that would have a big impact on the people as well as on your life.

While all these might seem to be easy lessons to learn, let me tell you that they aren’t as easy as they seem to be. But, once learned, they can totally change your life.

Volunteering abroad will inspire you to make better choices every day because you’ll see how even your smallest actions can create a ripple of change that makes the world a better place. You’ll grow as a person and start respecting every individual, irrespective of their differences. 

If you are convinced about the benefits of volunteering, then put a pause to your procrastination and decide how you want to contribute towards making the world a better place. And through that process of outer journey, what lessons you can learn to make life better for you.  

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