You accept a huge challenge when you decide to study abroad. The environment is completely new to you. You have to meet new people, make friends, and start getting around the city like a natural. Let's not forget the studying. You're part of an entirely different educational system. The program is not necessarily harder than the one you faced back home, but the differences are confusing.
Why would you choose to volunteer on top of all this? Wouldn't the additional workload be too much? On the contrary. A volunteering opportunity will broaden your perspectives. It will make you a more aware individual. You'll get tons of benefits if you decide to volunteer while studying abroad. We'll list 7 of them.
1. You Make Friends
Let's say you choose to study in Japan. It's a completely different culture from the one you're used to. What will you do when you're not in class? Will you spend all that time in the dorm room? Will you wait for your classmates to approach you? Will you meet random people and invite them for a drink? Making friends is hard.
When you volunteer, you open up to great social opportunities. You meet people with similar interest and you already know what to talk about. By making contributions for a cause you care about, you're becoming part of a close community of people who support each other.
2. You Become Aware
Students are often being criticized about their lack of global awareness. They choose to study abroad, but they limit their lives to lectures, exams and parties. When someone mentions exploring the community, they instantly think of bars and night clubs.
You don't want to fit that stereotype of a foreign student who just hangs out with classmates and does nothing important. If you want to get chin-deep in the foreign culture, you should definitely volunteer. You'll find out about the problems of the community. You'll do something more: you'll help them overcome serious issues. Is there a better way to become part of a distant culture? Through volunteering, you're becoming a useful part of it.
3. You Improve Your Chances to Get a Job
Through volunteering, you're making professional connections before you even hit the job market. Any organization with a noble cause will look great on your resume. Hiring managers are not after recent graduates with great academic accomplishments. They want to hire people with exceptional problem-solving skills and awareness for community values. Those are the soft skills that volunteering helps you develop.
Mariliana Rogers, a hiring manager at CareersBooster, confirms that claim: "I can't say that the GPA of a recent graduate doesn't matter. When the candidate doesn't have much experience, we do take the academic accomplishments into consideration. If there's someone with volunteering experience, however, they usually get an advantage over the applicants who present nothing more than a high GPA."
4. You Practice the Language in Context
Many students who study abroad enter English programs. That's okay. There's no need to spend years learning the foreign language before you can become a student in the country of your interest. However, if you find yourself speaking only English and hanging out with your English-speaking friends, then you have a problem. You're not experiencing all benefits of being abroad.
Volunteering puts you in front of a big challenge: you have to learn the language. You won't be learning it by a grammar book. You'll be doing something better: understanding it from context.
5. You're Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
When you decided to study abroad, you already left your comfort zone. You were ready for challenges and you wanted to explore more of this world. You won't get to do that if you limit your life as a student to classes, studying, and spending time with classmates.
With volunteering, you truly get to experience the culture. You'll get to know the locals in their most natural surroundings. You'll face different issues and you'll be doing your best to help people solve them. You'll be extending your limits further with every single hour spent in volunteering.
6. You Get to Fight for a Cause You Care About
Saving turtles? Eliminating poverty? Water for everyone? Mountain conservation? Better education for poor people? Whatever your cause is, you don't need to start your own organization from scratch. You'll probably find a community of people who are already fighting for that cause. You'll support each other and you'll work towards making this world a better place.
Is there a more important reason for volunteering? Being abroad shouldn't stop you from fighting for the cause you believe in.
7. You Add a New Dimension to Your Studies
Whatever degree you're after, volunteering can always add a new dimension to your studies. If, for example, you're after a degree in marketing, you'll explore the needs of the community and you'll see what campaigns they react to. If you're studying to be a doctor, you'll see the problems these people are facing and you won't be caught by surprise when you enter the real world after your studies.
Volunteering is a great match with studying abroad. You surely have a cause you're passionate about. All you need to do is find a volunteering opportunity and engage.