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Student Volunteering: Go Abroad Or Stay At Home?

Whether you’re thinking of taking a gap year or are looking for something to do over the summer, there’s a good chance volunteering has crossed your mind. But, with so many causes to choose from, it can be hard to know which is right for you. The best place to start is by weighing up where you’d like to volunteer: would you rather stay at home, or go abroad?

Happy Honu

License: Creative Commons image source

Of course, there are benefits to both. You’ll probably have more options if you decide to volunteer in the UK, and would be more likely to find volunteer work that matches your interests — music, art and culture, sports and entertainment are all available at home, but you’d probably have difficulty finding that kind of volunteer work abroad.

And if you pick something that complements your degree, it’ll look fantastic when you start applying for jobs. You’ll have an advantage over other candidates if you choose something that’s relevant to the career you’re hoping for.

Which to choose?

Volunteering at home certainly offers more flexibility than volunteering abroad. You wouldn’t even need to take a gap year — volunteer work can easily fit around your studies, and you’ll have control over the hours you work, too.

But, if you’re hoping for something more adventurous, volunteering abroad might be a better option. It’ll cost more, certainly — with travel, vaccinations and insurance to pay for — but volunteering abroad can be an enriching, eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you’ll never forget. It’s a chance to make friends, broaden your horizons, and really make a difference to people in need.

If you look into volunteering abroad, you’ll find that most opportunities are in third-world countries like Uganda and Malawi, where you’ll be improving education, providing clean water facilities, and raising awareness about important topics such as HIV and gender equality.

Wildlife conservation is also very popular with students. If you’re looking to incorporate sand and sea into your volunteering experience, sea-turtle conservation in Greece or Malta would be right up your street. You’d have to arrange travel yourself, but finding a ferry is easy, and you won’t break the bank if you book in advance!

Do your research

There are so many volunteering opportunities — both at home and abroad — that you’re best off doing a thorough online search before making your mind up. Your university might be able to advise you, too.

Volunteering can be exhilarating, rewarding and challenging all at once. This can be a daunting prospect if you’ve never been abroad by yourself before, but don’t let that stop you!

And, if you’re really nervous, why not get a friend to join you? You could fundraise together, travel together, and after an experience as life-changing as volunteering abroad, you’ll probably be friends for life.

Type “volunteering opportunities abroad” or “volunteering opportunities UK” into a search engine and see where it takes you. You might find something in your city, or you might find something on the other side of the globe. Perhaps you don’t think volunteering is for you. And that’s fine — maybe it isn’t. But, until you’ve looked into it properly, you’ll never know!

By Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a freelance journalist based in Norwich, Norfolk.

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