Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures is an amazing way to broaden your horizons. As a student, you may have some time to travel during school breaks.
Combining volunteering with travel is a great way to help communities in need while also gaining valuable skills and experiences. Here’s a guide on how to find incredible volunteer opportunities as a Nigerian student traveling abroad.
Why Volunteer Abroad as a Student?
There are many benefits to volunteering during your travels as a student:
- To Gain New Perspectives: Immersing yourself in a new community and culture while volunteering is an eye-opening experience. You’ll gain insights into different ways of life and new perspectives on the world.
- For Building Your Skills: Volunteering abroad allows you to develop important skills like problem-solving, communication, teamwork and resilience. These experiences look great on a resume and can open doors in your future career.
- To Do Meaningful Work: Volunteering with impactful organizations allows you to make a tangible difference. You can work on issues like poverty alleviation, wildlife conservation, education access and more.
- To Enhance Your Studies: Experiential learning outside the classroom deepens your academic knowledge. Volunteering complements what you study and exposes you to new concepts.
5: For Growing Your Network: Volunteering allows you to meet other like-minded students and locals working towards social causes. These can become valuable connections.
How to Find Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
Here are some top ways to find amazing volunteer gigs in your destination country:
Use Volunteer Matching Platforms
Various online platforms connect volunteers to verified organizations around the world. Check sites like:
- Volunteer Forever
- International Volunteer HQ
Browse volunteer projects by location, area of interest and duration. Read reviews from past volunteers to gauge program quality.
Search Volunteer Directories
Numerous sites compile and categorize volunteer opportunities in one place. For example:
- UN Volunteers
Filter by country and find listings from NGOs, nonprofits and social enterprises seeking volunteers.
Check Out Work Exchange Programs
Work exchange programs like WWOOF and HelpX allow you to volunteer a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. This can help you travel and volunteer on a budget.
Look Into Religious Service Programs
Faith-based organizations like the Mennonite Central Committee, Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps offer structured international volunteer programs focused on social justice.
Contact Local NGOs Directly
Research NGOs and nonprofits with community initiatives in your destination country. Reach out and ask if they accept international volunteers. Small local groups may not advertise widely.
Talk to Your University’s Study Abroad Office
Speak to the study abroad advisor about service learning programs or research/internship opportunities with an NGO abroad. Some universities have partnerships in place.
Check Embassy Pages
Your embassy in the destination country may list grassroots NGOs seeking volunteers on their website or have an education advisor who can point you in the right direction.
Use Your Network
Ask professors, friends and family if they have any contacts who work with reputable volunteer organizations abroad. Personal referrals go a long way.
Search Local Centers
In your destination city, check community centers, libraries, hacker/maker spaces and coworking spaces. They often post regional volunteering opportunities.
Look on Help Exchange Sites
Websites like Help Stay and WorkAway have hosts providing food and lodging in exchange for volunteer help with various projects.
Key Tips for Volunteering Abroad
Here are some top tips to make your experience abroad safe, meaningful and productive:
Research the Organization Thoroughly: Vet organizations to ensure they are legitimate and ethical in their practices. Look for reviews, testimonials, governance transparency and registration as a nonprofit.
Define Your Goals: Determine what you hope to gain from this experience and the impact you aim to have. Communicate this clearly to the organization.
Handle Logistics in Advance: Figure out visa requirements, immunizations, insurance coverage, local currency, packing list and airport transfers. Being prepared will allow you to focus on your service work.
Learn About Local Culture and Customs: Study up on the dos and don’ts, etiquette, language, history and values of the local community you’ll engage with. This shows respect.
Budget Accordingly: While some volunteer gigs provide housing, others don’t. Factor in expenses for food, transport, supplies and cultural experiences too. Have some buffer savings.
Pack Proper Gear: Find out from the organization what type of clothes, footwear and equipment you’ll need. Pack light and include some work gloves!
Exude Flexibility: Be open-minded when assigned tasks or shifted around roles. Adjusting to different environments or new tasks is part of the experience.
Integrate into Local Life: Maximize your cultural immersion by living like the locals. Take public transit, shop at markets, eat local cuisine and explore on foot.
Observe More Than Doing (at First): Take time to observe how the organization functions and community dynamics before diving in. Get the lay of the land.
Collaborate Closely with Locals: Work alongside local staff and community members. Listen more than speaking and learn from their solutions.
Share Your Expertise Too: While being humble, also offer your skills, enthusiasm and critical thinking to bring value. It’s an exchange.
Be Safety Conscious: Research unsafe areas to avoid, learn emergency numbers and check in with family back home. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
Reflect on Your Actions: Journal about your voluntourism experience and how you can make the next one even more meaningful. Welcome constructive feedback.
Top Volunteer Abroad Programs to Consider
Here are some excellent volunteer abroad programs to check out in 2023:
1. Cross-Cultural Solutions
What they do: Provide volunteer service across 9 countries in areas like education support, child development, and health.
Program benefits: Flexible 1-12 week programs. Provides housing, meals, insurance, airport pickup and local staff support. Can customize placements to skills.
Good for: Solo travelers and groups seeking immersive cultural exchange.
Cost: Varies by location, around $1650 for 1 week.
2. International Volunteer HQ
What they do: Offer over 150 different volunteer projects across 34 countries in teaching, wildlife conservation, medical care etc.
Program benefits: Affordable programs starting at $180 for 1 week. Flexible timing and great for first time volunteers. Strong safety record.
Good for: People wanting short term voluntourism focused on childcare, sports coaching and community outreach.
Cost: From $180 to $2210 for 2 weeks depending on location.
3. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
What they do: Places skilled volunteers with NGOs across Africa and Asia for long term capacity building projects.
Program benefits: Custom professional placements aligned to your expertise lasting 6-24 months. Thorough training and support provided.
Good for: Seasoned professionals looking to leverage specialized skills such as marketing, IT, HR etc.
Cost: Fully funded volunteer placements including flights, insurance, visas, and a local living allowance.
4. Global Vision International
What they do: Offer 1-24 week volunteer programs focused on community development, wildlife conservation, and children support services across Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Program benefits: Flexible timing. Provides airport pickup, orientation, meals, housing, and 24/7 local support. Groups and individual placements available.
Good for: Great top-rated organization for first-time or solo volunteers. Very affordable.
Cost: From $945 for 2 weeks depending on location.
5. Habitat for Humanity International
What they do: Global nonprofit bringing volunteers and communities together to build affordable housing for families in need.
Program benefits: Well organized build trips from 1-4 weeks tailored to all skill levels. Mix of locals and international volunteers.
Good for: Volunteer groups, companies, families or students interested in hands-on building work.
Cost: Varies by trip length and destination, around $1000 for 2 weeks.
6. IBM Corporate Service Corps
What they do: Sends teams of IBM employees to emerging markets to work on economic and social development projects.
Program benefits: Use professional skills for high-impact community initiatives. Unique opportunity to join corporate-sponsored skilled volunteering trips.
Good for: IBM employees only. But a model other tech companies could emulate.
Cost: Fully funded by IBM. Participants get paid normal salary too.
7. Voluntary Missionary Movement
What they do: Places Christian volunteers in teaching, healthcare and development work across Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Program benefits: Meaningful spiritual experience. Long term placements (6 months to 3 years) with intensive cultural and language training provided. Previous experience not required.
Good for: Christians interested in an immersive faith-based service experience.
Cost: Self-funded but low cost as housing and food provided locally.
8. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
What they do: Links volunteers with organic farming hosts around the world to learn sustainable agriculture practices.
Program benefits: Gain hands-on farming experience and live an eco-friendly lifestyle with a farming family. Flexible participation from weeks to years.
Good for: Nature lovers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty and living off the land!
Cost: Participation fee of $50-$75. Room and board provided free by farm host.
9. United Nations Volunteers
What they do: Facilitates volunteer service around the globe in various development and humanitarian projects serving local needs.
Program benefits: Chance to contribute directly to UN initiatives. Prestigious experience with extensive volunteer resources and support provided.
Good for: Qualified professionals looking for field experience supporting sustainable development projects.
Cost: No program fees but volunteers expected to cover local living expenses, insurance, travel etc. Small stipend provided.
10. Peace Corps
What they do: Sends American volunteers abroad to work with communities on projects in education, health, economic development, agriculture and youth development.
Program benefits: Prestigious and immersive 2 year experience living abroad. All expenses covered and receive living stipend with full volunteer support network.
Good for: Recent college graduates with a passion for service interested in launching their careers.
Cost: No cost to participate but must be American citizen.
Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering Abroad
Here are answers to common questions students have about volunteering abroad:
Do I need prior experience to volunteer abroad?
Often not! Many programs are open to eager students without experience. But having some relevant skills around teaching, caregiving, construction etc can allow you to contribute more meaningfully.
Is it safe to volunteer abroad?
Absolutely, if you apply proper precautions. Stick to reputable organizations, get health/travel insurance, research safe areas, avoid risky behavior and listen to local staff. Use common sense and be prepared.
Can I volunteer abroad without a university program?
Yes! While university study abroad volunteering can provide structure, support and credit, you can easily volunteer independently through the many open application programs out there.
Do I need to know the local language?
Not necessarily. Many programs offer English instruction. But trying to pick up some basic phrases in the local language shows your sincere interest in connecting with the local community.
Will volunteering abroad help my career?
Absolutely! International volunteering helps build marketable skills like cultural fluency, adaptability, problem solving and leadership. It also looks impressive on a resume. But focus on impact, not just padding your CV.
How much does volunteering abroad cost?
Costs vary widely from $0 in exchange for room/board to over $2000 for fully-facilitated multi-week programs. Generally shorter stays are more affordable. Many religious and skills-based programs are self-funded.
How do I fund volunteer abroad trips?
Look into student travel grants, crowdfunding campaigns, scholarships and financial aid from your university. Volunteer stipends provided by host organizations can offset costs too. Travel hacking helps!
Can I volunteer abroad with a chronic health condition or disability?
Yes, just disclose your needs so organizations can best support you. Remote virtual volunteering also widens opportunities for those unable to travel easily. Focus on your abilities, not limitations!
What are the best destinations to volunteer?
Top picks include South Africa, Costa Rica, Peru, India and Thailand for their affordability, volunteer infrastructure and support for English speakers. But keep an open mind – choose based on causes, not just destinations!
Volunteering abroad as a student is an extremely rewarding experience. You get to immerse yourself in a new culture while giving back meaningfully. With an open and humble attitude, plus proper planning using the tips above, your international volunteer experience will surely be impactful both for the community and yourself!