Should I volunteer abroad?

Thinking of volunteering abroad? Alongside cultural immersion and making a positive impact to the world, a benevolent stint overseas brings with it a heightened sense of self. Here’s what to consider before you decide if you should volunteer abroad. 

A woman coordinating two volunteers

Want to complement your studies with purpose-driven travel? Or maybe you’re hoping to explore a career in community development and international aid?

Volunteering abroad can be a great place to start. 

Altruistic travel comes with a host of benefits, and not just for the cause you’re volunteering towards. Recent research reveals spending time doing things for the greater good can result in positive effects for volunteers too, from physical and mental health to social health and an increased sense of community. And that’s not all.

The benefits of volunteering 

You can immerse yourself in a culture

When you spend an extended amount of time in a foreign country, you’re able to gain a better understanding of its traditions, customs and way of life. This cultural exposure is a fantastic way to broaden your perspective while enhancing intercultural exchange. And you might be surprised by how easy it is to forge deep, long-lasting relationships with locals. 

You get to make a positive impact

Whether you choose to volunteer in community development or conservation—or somewhere in between—your efforts can have a lasting impact on the world around you. Volunteering overseas can be a fulfilling experience that allows you to challenge yourself and see the world from a new perspective while making a genuine difference in the lives of others. 

You grow as a person

Volunteering abroad can be a transformative experience that helps foster personal growth and skill development. It encourages adaptability, strategic thought, teamwork, and broadens cross-cultural communication skills. Not only are these skills beneficial for your chosen volunteer project, they’re invaluable life skills that can be applied to a wide variety of careers too. 

You can learn new skills or hone existing ones

For example, if you choose to volunteer in community development, you’ll have a chance to evolve skills such as cultural sensitivity, leadership, and problem-solving—while also gaining a new perspective on existing skills such as communication and collaboration. 

How to volunteer abroad ethically

Volunteering abroad can be an immensely rewarding, often life-changing experience. However, philanthropy on a larger scale can come with ethical concerns, such as perpetuating harmful stereotypes or creating dependency on foreign aid.

It’s important to do your due diligence and ensure you’re signing on with a reputable organisation with projects that have a genuine impact on the community or environmental concern they’re championing. 

What countries need volunteers the most?

What you do and where you do it is highly subjective and dependent on your personal values, interests, skills and the kind of impact you hope to have. 

With that in mind, there are a number of countries that consistently have a high demand for volunteers: 


India is a country like no other. With a colourful culture and a robust biosphere, it’s an enriching environment to offer your time. One that often needs a helping hand in both community development and environmental conservation.


A country rich in cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes, Peru has various volunteer options designed to preserve both.


Healthcare, community development and environmental preservation are the cornerstones of volunteering in Nepal. It’s also a destination that requires post-earthquake reconstruction efforts. 

Does volunteering make a difference in the world?

From supporting a community to bridge gaps in resources to putting on your wildlife warrior hat for a conservation project, volunteers can empower communities while working towards a better future for everyone. 

Here are some ways in which volunteering can have a positive impact: 

Meeting critical needs

Volunteers play a crucial role in addressing critical needs, whether that’s distributing medical supplies to areas in desperate need or disaster response. 

Community development 

Through supporting education, infrastructure development, or conservation projects, volunteers can empower communities while improving living conditions. 

Supporting local initiatives 

Volunteer work that bolsters local initiatives means you can help bridge the gap between concept and getting an idea off the ground.

Personal and social benefits

Personal fulfilment, self-discovery, improved mental and physical health, sense of purpose, and social connection are just some of the personal gains that come from volunteering. 

Volunteer opportunities for students

Students at every stage of life can reap the rewards of volunteering abroad. Whether you’re considering what to do in a gap year or you’re exploring community development courses and would like to make a difference while seeing a new country to complement your studies, there’s a plethora of volunteer opportunities for students available.

If community development or international aid is your passion, organisations like Global Vision Australia (GVI) are adept at helping students get amongst some of the most pressing issues overseas. From empowering women in Costa Rica to construction projects in Nepal, their programs are dedicated to sustainable ethical change.

When it comes to wildlife and environmental conservation, Projects Abroad can help you see the world in a new light. They’ve been around since the early 90s and offer projects that will see you delve into everything from the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands to conservation concerns for the Big Five in Africa.

No matter your study commitments, personal interests and study goals, volunteering can enrich your life, as well as others, in so many ways. Why not reach out to an organisation today? 

Keen to explore courses in community development while you’re at it? You’re in the right place. You can also ask a student advisor about the best course for you at the link below.

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