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Volunteering is a wonderful way to find fulfillment, help the environment and other communities, and make a difference in the world. Now imagine doing all those things while living on a beautiful tropical island in the South Pacific. Now presenting: Oceania. This region of independent nations and some territories, including (but not limited to) Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa, and Papua New Guinea, is home to some of the most beautiful and remote places on the planet. While they serve as great vacation destinations, they also offer plenty of volunteer opportunities!
Conservation: Despite Oceania's small size, it is quite ecologically diverse. There are mountains, deserts, tropical rainforests, and don't forget the Great Barrier Reef! Some of these islands have unique flora and fauna only found in this part of the world, so preserving biodiversity for the future is a huge concern and task. As a volunteer, you might be cataloguing fish in the ocean. Or you'll be working to preserve the reefs. No matter what you choose to do, as a volunteer, there will be plenty of opportunities to protect the environment in Oceania.
Education: If teaching is your gig, or you aspire to become an educator, Oceania is a great place to volunteer with an education focus. Teaching English is a popular option, and as ESL jobs are harder to come by here than in some other parts of the world, volunteering to teach English may be your best bet to educate while exploring this part of the world. Some programs will assign you to a specific school to teach various subjects. Some teaching volunteer positions require yearlong commitments, although there are plenty that are more short-term should you decide to stay for a couple weeks or months.
Sea Turtles: Sea Turtle Conservation is so popular and awesome that it gets its own category. These amazing aquatic animals can be found throughout Oceania, so you can volunteer to work with them in locations such as Australia or Fiji. Many sea turtle projects work to count and tag turtles as well as protect their nests after they lay eggs. If your dream is to help out turtles, like the ones from 'Finding Nemo,' this volunteer opportunity will be perfect for you.
Cost of Living: Australia and New Zealand are home to some of the most expensive cities to live in the entire world. According to the Mercer Organization, Australia has six of the top 50 most expensive cities, and New Zealand has two of the top 100. That being said, the other island nations and territories in the South Pacific have much lower costs of living, but it can still be expensive to get to many of these places depending on where you're travelling from.
Oceania Lifestyle and Culture: With so many countries, cultures, climates, and varying nature wonders, you'll find a great deal of diversity in these gems floating in the Pacific. Most island cultures bear influence from native cultures and European cultures. It is impossible to pin down one overarching lifestyle or cultural practice for the whole region, or even a whole country.
Languages in Oceania: You'll find that English is commonly spoken throughout Oceania, especially in places like Australia, New Zealand, and some of the American Islands. French is spoken on some islands that were former territories of France. There are many native languages throughout Oceania including Fijian, Gilbertese, Mashallese, Nauruan, Maori, Palauan, Tok Pisin, Samoan, Tongan, Tuvaluan, Bislama, and numerous others.
Questions to Ask: Which country do I want to volunteer in? What do I hope to do on this trip? What kinds of projects are best suited to my interest? Do I want to be in an urban, suburban, or rural area? How long would I like to volunteer for?
Travel junkie, film lover, rap enthusiast, and self proclaimed wine aficionado, Kylie Genter is a recent graduate of SUNY Oswego where she studied Communication. She studied abroad in both London and Cuba during her collegiate career. After conducting research on student study abroad narratives, she moved to South Korea where she now lives as an English teacher. When she's not writing or teaching, she's probably eating.
Photo Credit: Underwater Colors