7 things volunteering abroad teaches you

Many volunteers come through the doors at Khaya, and each of them leave our projects and our country, equipped with valuable life skills and experiences. The many things they learn whilst volunteering with us helps to shape their thinking and look at the world in new ways.

Volunteering abroad can have a positive impact on your future career choices and help you make new friends. We asked a few of our volunteers what key things volunteering abroad has taught them and what you can gain if you take the chance.

1. You develop an attitude of gratitude

Volunteering in South Africa at a Township project is an eye-opening experience. You learn to value the things that you have and take nothing for granted. Understanding that there are people in the world who have very little, even the basic necessities essential for daily living, changes your perspective and helps you live with a grateful heart.  You will learn to appreciate that happiness is more than the environment in which you find yourself, as some of the people you engage with daily in the township have an innate sense of joy and happiness that comes from their souls, rather than their circumstances.

2. You find career direction

The mundane routine of everyday life can stifle motivation when it comes to your studies and career. Volunteering overseas can help you escape the daily grind, take a break, self-reflect and discover fresh sources of inspiration as you explore a whole new world of unique experiences. Interacting with people from different cultures and acquiring skills or developing existing ones, opens your mind to new ways of thinking and may unlock a career path you may not have previously considered. Pursuing a passion that you discovered whilst volunteering will ensure that you enjoy a career that will be both deeply rewarding and satisfying.

3. You stand on your own two feet 

Travelling abroad and volunteering overseas forces you out of your comfort zone. Being in a new country and navigating a foreign landscape is not a simple task, especially if you face a language barrier as well. Your volunteer organization will prepare you for the important things, but you will have to learn how to manage simple day to day tasks by yourself. You will learn to depend on yourself and make decisions and choices without the guidance of others. As you become more self-sufficient, you find that your confidence grows and you realize that you are indeed more capable than you thought and you can take on the world!

4. You learn a new language

In a world where globalization is becoming an ever present reality, being proficient in another language is very beneficial. Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to learn a foreign language first hand from the people who speak it. Language opens you up to a transformative experience by immersing yourself in another culture which helps you become a sensitive global citizen. Language breaks down cultural divides and misconceptions and the ability to converse with people in their mother tongue allows you to absorb the history and mind-set of the people around you. This not only helps you to connect with people on a deeper level, but it helps you to challenge your own prejudices and beliefs, making you a more empathetic and understanding volunteer and person. 

5. You savour time alone

Back-to-back activities won’t always be part of your day as a volunteer. You will often find yourself alone with free time on your hands. Being alone in a strange country is not necessarily a bad thing. Aloneness is different to loneliness. You can use this time to read a book, explore the streets of an unknown place, or have a much needed rest. This time can also be used for introspection, to think and reflect on how much you’ve grown and learned whilst volunteering and travelling overseas. Learning to introspect is a powerful way to assess who you are and where you are going in life. Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to check out from the world and check in with yourself, to recharge you batteries and spend quality time with yourself.  Learning to enjoy your own company is a wonderful adventure of self-discovery.

6. You discover that the World is a good place

You may have heard people say that they have “lost their faith in humanity,” but volunteering abroad makes you realize that smiles are universal and that good still exists in the world. In a foreign country where you may feel out of place, you notice the small kindnesses and warm gestures of your fellow humans a lot more. It’s comforting and serves as a reminder that you are not alone and that we are all somehow connected in this journey called life. You realize too that there are a lot of people just like you with a heart for making the world a better place and that small acts can have a big impact.

Travelling overseas also exposes you to the beauty of a new country and you may be surprised by the sense of wonder that you discover from exploring a different place.

7. You make new friends - for life!

Learning to get along with as well as getting to know people whom you never met before in your life is a rewarding experience.  Volunteering abroad at different projects forces you to engage with people from all walks of life. Even though you may find that your backgrounds, personalities or interest may differ, a shared activity or common goal allows you to connect with people who have the same purpose as you do. It is a great way to make new friends or strengthen existing relationships with other like-minded people. You will often find that the bonds of friendship forged on the soil of a foreign country, transcends time or place and turn into lifelong relationships.

If you have been thinking about travelling overseas to volunteer abroad, the best advice we can give you is to just do it. It will be a richly rewarding experience. You will change the world, one small act at a time, and change yourself in the process.  

 

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Fundraising to volunteer abroad for free
Volunteer World
WYSE Travel Confederation
SAYTC - South African Youth Travel Confederation
Khaya Volunteer Projects application
Lilizela Provincial Visitor Experience Award

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