High School Abroad

Why You Should Volunteer Abroad in High School

Photo of Sarah Talty
Sarah Talty

Sarah is a freelance journalist based in beautiful rainy Ireland. She studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain.

10 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad in High School
Photo by Alec, Madagascar Island of Diversity Summer Abroad Alum

If you love both helping others and traveling, why not combine your passions on your next trip overseas? You don’t have to be in college or an adult to volunteer abroad, there are lots of great volunteer programs for high school students.

Volunteering as a high school student is a great way to see the world as a teenager and give back at the same time. This experience will not only enrich your life with the new skills you learn and give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, it will set you apart from your peers when applying for jobs and colleges.

When I was 17 years old I traveled over 5,000 miles from Ireland to volunteer abroad in Kolkata, India. I was there for over two weeks and it still remains one of the best things I ever did! India was a whole other world compared to Ireland, a whole new culture to immerse myself in and learn from. I gained so much life experience volunteering and learned many lessons I still draw on today. I would fully encourage everyone to volunteer abroad in high school!

In case you’re on the fence, here are some reasons why volunteering in high school will serve you well -- and serve the world.

1. You’ll Help Others & Make a Difference

The number one reason to volunteer is to help make a difference in the world. We are all citizens of the world and the responsibility is on all of us to make it a better place.

Some people do this in little ways by doing things like recycling and giving money to charity. As a teenager, it can be easy to volunteer inside your community. By volunteering abroad in high school and actually heading out into the world and volunteering you can see first-hand what your efforts can do outside of your community.

2. You’ll Gain a Better Perspective on the World & How Fortunate You Are

As a high school student sometimes we can be so busy focusing on ourselves, trying to get through high school and into college while balancing after school activities and friends, we become sheltered to the bigger issues in the world.

Being a high school student volunteering abroad can set you a great perspective on life at a young age. We tend to think about all the opportunities we have, such as access to a good education, are the norm but they are not. You will be so much more grateful for everything you would have previously taken for granted.

While volunteering abroad the phrase ‘first world problems’ takes on a whole new level. If the people in places you’re volunteering had half of the ‘problems’ we complain about on a daily basis, they would consider themselves the luckiest people in the world. There is a whole different world out there and millions of people who would be happy to be in your shoes.

3. You’ll Immerse Yourself in a New Culture

10 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad in High School: Immerse Yourself in a New Culture
Photo by Cesar, USAC Thailand Alum

Volunteering abroad can be a great way to learn about a new culture. Thanks to the Internet, we can learn about a new place and culture in a matter of seconds, but actually immersing yourself in it is very different.

Going somewhere that is out of your comfort zone can help you grow as a person. Seeing new cultures for yourself can give you a more rounded view of a place and its people, as well as cutting out any stereotypes you may have held due to ignorance.

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4. You’ll Acquire a New Language

In high school most of us are required to learn a second language, whether it be Spanish, French, Japanese. Volunteering abroad can be a great way to learn a new language or else practice one you’re learning in school -- sometimes you can even use your new knowledge skills to test out of lower level classes into ones that help advance your language skills.

Immersing yourself in a language is a great way to better understand one you’ve been learning or a new language. This is a great by-product of volunteering abroad.

5. You’ll Travel with a Positive Impact

Increasingly, we read headlines about how travel and tourism are bad for the environment, local economies, and even local people. By volunteering abroad in high school, you’ll turn your travel into a force for good. Your volunteer trip is one you don’t have to feel guilty for booking.

It can be hard to convince your parents to let you travel abroad without them, they will be a lot more lenient if you are heading off with a group to give back to society. Also even if you work your hardest to contribute, I promise volunteering abroad will always give you back so much more than you give. At the end of the day, it is an invaluable experience. It will be one of the best things you did in high school.

6. You’ll Develop New Skills & Find a Possible Career Path

10 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad in High School: Find a Possible Career Path
Photo by Krystina, Pod Volunteer Animal Rescue in Thailand Alum

High school is when we explore our interests, strengths, passions, and hobbies to see what our best career path would be. Volunteering can teach you things you never knew about yourself when you have to rise to a challenge.

Certain situations while volunteering will force you to act quickly, compassionately and often without thinking. You may discover you have great problem-solving skills, you really enjoy working with your hands or solving disputes between people. You will be having completely new experiences so it’s only natural you discover more about your own abilities. This can only help you discover new strengths and help you decide on a career path. It’s a great reason to take the opportunity to volunteer when you’re young in high school.

7. You’ll Strengthen Your College/Job Applications

Volunteering experience looks great on college applications and job resumes. It shows you are a compassionate, hard working person and you can also draw on all of the skills you have learned while volunteering. It is very impressive for a potential employer or college, to see that you took the time out of your busy high school life to participate in something bigger than yourself.

Also when you’re writing college admission essays it can be great to draw on your volunteering experience. Your time and life lessons learned while volunteering abroad can be a great way to stand out in your personal essay and hook their attention.

8. You’ll Gain Maturity

Some high school students take a gap year in between high school and college to mature and reflect. Your volunteering abroad experience is like a gap year crash course. It can really help your self-confidence in your abilities to do something so big and you can be very proud of yourself. Volunteering abroad opens your mind to issues that might not have affected you before and this growth matures you.

When the rest of your peers are going to parties and worrying about homework, you’ll be doing humanitarian work and worrying about issues like poverty, clean water, animal welfare, or environmentalism. Your maturity will skyrocket -- even more than you can imagine -- by volunteering abroad in high school.

9. You’ll Forge New Friendships

10 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad in High School: Friendships
Photo by Gweneth, Youth International Gap Semester Alum

Volunteering abroad bonds people very quickly. It’s great to join a group in your high school or town, which is planning to volunteer abroad. The bond you form with this group makes total sense because you’re all having a brand new experience and facing new challenges together. You rely on each other for support and advice and then when you’re back home you have them to talk about.

Even if you go alone, volunteering abroad is very popular worldwide so you’re bound to meet other volunteers from other countries. As well as learning about different countries you have friends around the globe that you can go crash with when you’re traveling in your twenties.

10. You’ll Foster a Lifelong Love for Volunteering

It’s great to get a taste for volunteering when you are young in high school. Then when opportunities to volunteer arise in college or in your twenties you’ll be more likely to grab them because you now know all of the wonderful benefits volunteering brings.

Hopefully this convinces you that not only is it possible to volunteer abroad in your high school years, but you can do it in amazing destinations around the world and grow and learn a ton in the process. The only questions left are: where will you go and what good work will you do?

Need a little inspiration? Here are some of the most popular high school volunteer programs to get you started: Try participating in conservation research in Madagascar with Operation Wallacea, supporting children's education in Tanzania with GLA, or working with sea turtles in Costa Rica with Global Works!