How to Become an International Volunteer

    The main goal of ​​carrying out any kind of international volunteering activity is to collaborate in different programs and projects, while providing aid to those who most deserve it by searching for the appropriate and efficient ways to improve their conditions, depending on their needs and capabilities. 

    However, there are certain advantages when it comes to volunteering abroad such as having the possibility to travel to some of the least visited places in the world, learn first-hand about unknown cultures, and gain valuable business experience, as you help others in the process. 

    How to become an international volunteer 

    Every country or volunteer agency functions like an independent business and may have a particular criterion when electing volunteer candidates. Even so, there are some basic steps at the moment of choosing and enrolling in one of several international volunteer programs available worldwide.  

    You should start by making sure you have all the proper legal documentation like a valid passport and visa, as well as mandatory requirements such as vaccinations and shots. Another critical action you must take is to do proper research on the many international volunteer program options, to select the one that the best suits you. Then, you should fill out applications truthfully to avoid future complications and, finally, be patient when expecting an answer since the evaluation process usually takes time.   

    Types of organizations that offer volunteer programs

    As mentioned previously, there are numerous organizations that offer a wide range of international volunteering programs in different fields with subcategories within them as part of their business. Below you will find a broader categorization of institutions and some of the volunteer projects they offer to facilitate research and lead you to more specific programs: 

    • Government (volunteer placement as part of an education program)

    • NGOs or non-government organizations (creative technology volunteer program)

    • United Nations (global talent pool with different volunteering projects)

    • Greenpeace International (volunteering through activism)

    • Peace Corps (volunteering for American citizens in third world countries)

    • Red Cross / Red Crescent (volunteering in countries that have been affected by        war)  

    • Religious organizations (institutions like the Salvation Army offer volunteering programs to provide assistance with disasters).

    • Volunteer agencies (volunteering opportunities all over the world in regards to conservation, charity, agriculture, and many other fields)

    • Medical volunteer agencies (healthcare related volunteering in underdeveloped countries for physicians, nurses and medically trained professionals). Housing for travel nurses can also be part of the volunteering.

    It is worth noting you should keep in mind that there is a possibility to volunteer abroad for free as part of a sponsorship program. Nevertheless, in almost every case volunteers are responsible for taking care of their own expenses like air travel, stay, and meals so it is advisable to do proper research on this matter and make sure your budget will be able to cover any other needs you could have while volunteering abroad. That should also include possible fees from the organizing group since it is actually a kind of business for them.

    International Volunteer

    What type of attributes do you need to do volunteer work?

    Although it is true that volunteering abroad represents an opportunity for participants to grow, travel and learn about new cultures, it also requires volunteers to be able to focus on the main task at hand, which is helping others.

    Being part of an international aid program, either at a local level or abroad, takes a particular set of attributes and attitudes from volunteers for the experience to be successful for them, the volunteer organization or agency and, more importantly, the individuals or areas in need of assistance. A good business ethic, adaptability, resourcefulness, and a willing attitude are among the important soft skills any volunteer should have and develop.  

    In addition to possessing business related interpersonal skills, it is fundamental for anyone going overseas with the intention of volunteering to be passionate about what they are doing but also sensitive to other traditions and cultures. Having compassion and developing a sincere empathy towards the less fortunate is already a way of volunteering in itself, and it can be tremendously gratifying for all the parties involved. 

    What can boost your chances of being accepted at volunteer projects?

    A number of volunteering organizations may require applicants to have some sort of business experience or background for potential candidates to become eligible for their volunteer programs, especially in projects that take place abroad because of international regulations and specificities.

    There are variousl agencies and institutions that may not demand volunteers to have such prerequisites as a means to attract more collaborators. However, even in those cases, having previous experience in a related business field or academic qualifications like a degree in international studies, can greatly increase your probabilities of finding an international volunteering project that might be in high demand.

    Here is a list of different academic, professional and legal statuses that are sure to boost your chances of getting accepted into an international volunteering project you could be interested in:

    • Educational qualifications
    • Previous volunteer experience
    • Business or professional background
    • Having a clean criminal record
    • Previous international travel
    • Being fluent in more than one language
    • Recommendations and references


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