Volunteer Abroad

How to Volunteer Abroad as a College Student

Photo of Eva Wieners
Eva Wieners
Topic Expert

Eva is a German writer and geographer, currently living in Nepal with her daughter Miriam. She has worked and volunteered in South America, Europe, and Asia for more than a decade and loves to travel.

How to Volunteer Abroad as a College Student Hero - Rebecca, IVHQ Cusco
Photo credit: Rebecca, IVHQ Cusco Alum

Spending time as a volunteer abroad while you're in college can be an enriching experience. You can experience a different country and culture while at the same time, learning things that can potentially be beneficial for your college program. You can use your free time and gain a lot of practical experience, that will be beneficial for your career in the long run and will be a lot of fun in the short term.

Next to all these benefits, having spent some time in a volunteering project abroad as a college student will also look very good in your resume, as potential future employers will see at first glance that you are a someone who is willing to work for the greater good and has a social conscience.

To help you chose the right program, we have put together the most critical steps for you to take when you want to volunteer abroad as a college student.

Step 1: Choose the Right Time to Volunteer Abroad in College

Volunteering Abroad as a College Student - Ashley, IVHQ Bali
Photo credit: Ashley, IVHQ Bali Alum

Before you do any further research, you should start thinking about the right time to volunteer abroad in college. While it is possible to take a gap year from college if you feel burnt out or have lost your motivation, there is also the possibility to fit a volunteering sting right into the vacation time.

Make sure though that you schedule this phase into a time where your workload is not high, and you will not have any assignments during your vacation time. You don't want to freak out about internet access and writing term papers when you really just want to enjoy your time in your volunteer abroad program during college!

Maybe it makes more sense to volunteer abroad during your first years of college, where the tension is not as high as shortly before you graduate and you will have a little bit more leeway to plan your stay.

Step 2: Browse Programs that Fit Your School Schedule

Volunteering Abroad as a College Student - Brianna S., VA Corps South Africa
Photo credit: Brianna S., VA Corps South Africa Alum

Once you have chosen the timeframe in which you want to volunteer, you have to find the perfect fit to spend your time volunteering abroad as a college student in the best way.

We suggest you start browsing our database for the programs that best fit your school's schedule to find the one that would be the best option for you. Also, consider that not for every country the summer months are the best time to visit, so take that into consideration when choosing a program. Some projects also only accept volunteers that commit to staying for more extended periods, so make sure that the time you can give is enough.

Get in contact with potential projects early on to make sure that they tick all your boxes and that they have space for you – you will not be the only college student looking for a way to make their holidays more meaningful.

Step 3: Choose Programs that Compliment Your Academics

Volunteering Abroad as a College Student - Britania, IVHQ South Africa
Photo credit: Britania, IVHQ South Africa Alum

When you want to volunteer abroad as a college student, it makes a lot of sense to choose a program that compliments your academics. Some programs will even let you collect credits in an abroad project, as you will gain practical experience.

When this is not the case, you should still choose a project that will help you to become more successful in the future, and that has some connections to your area of study. This way, you can also use your volunteer stay abroad during your college years to score points with your future employers.

For some cases, it is more complicated than for others to find a good fit, but when you do your research to find out what will be your detailed tasks in the projects, you will probably find some connections that can link your studies to your volunteer work abroad during college. Many programs let you work in a variety of projects that will make this process easier.

Step 4: Figure Out the Financials

Volunteering Abroad as a College Student - Kayla, IVHQ Bali
Photo credit: Kayla, IVHQ Bali Alum

As with every stay in a volunteering project, figuring out the financials is one of the most critical steps. While not all projects that accept volunteers are expensive, there are still costs like transportation, visa, health insurance, etc. that need to be covered.

Research early on if your college might be able to support you. Many schools have programs that give out scholarships to students who want to use their vacation time to do something good and to volunteer abroad. If this is not the case, try to involve your friends and family to support you, as they will probably be thrilled to see you further your own education while at the same time giving back to communities in need.

You can also see the money paid for a volunteering stint in a project during college as an investment in your future career, as this will help you in the same way an internship would.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Time Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering Abroa as a College Student - Amy R., VACorps South Africa
Photo credit: Amy R., VACorps South Africa Alum

After all this research and trying to line up different interests and requirements, don’t forget the most essential step of the process – enjoy your volunteering time abroad as a college student.

When you approach the project with a learning mindset and are open to the new things that will come your way, you will surely have a fantastic time that will shape the future of your career as well as your outlook on life.

It is a very smart decision to use the time in college to make some experiences that are out of the box and will impress future employers at the same time while having experiences that will impact you for a long time. Having a good time while volunteering abroad will only make you more successful and will boost your experience!