The value of volunteering when studying abroad
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The value of volunteering when studying abroad

The value of volunteering when studying abroad

University is a melting pot of socializing, studying, partying and budgeting. It’s a time to embrace the freedom of adulthood without having to worry about losing your job or any other tiresome adult problems.

It’s easy to get swept up in the flow of university life when you arrive at your new home. There are always new plans to make or gossip to catch up on. As you sip your Starbucks on your way to the next lecture, the world outside can feel a million miles away from the buzz of campus life.

Everyone says university is the best time of your life, and they’re probably right. You have the most free time you’re likely to ever have in your life, and the freedom to fill that time with whatever you like. When you’re not cramming for exams, of course.

Although you have assignments to meet and lectures to attend, you can take a day off just because you feel like it, you can create a work schedule that fits around your work patterns and you don’t even need to file official days’ leave to take a holiday.

When studying abroad, this time is best spent meeting people from different cultures, exploring your new environment and learning about your favorite subject.

But as the hours slip by while you chat with your friends, there’s a whole world of worthy causes outside your student flat. 

And if you take a step back from university life, you can see yourself not only as an international student but as a member of a new community. You are part of an influential group that has educated perspectives and free time.

By engaging with social projects and volunteering opportunities in your new community, you can gain worldly experience while contributing to the growth of a society. You can help a lot of people with few hours of spare time – and you will even find it helps you too.

University is a lot more than an academic education.

You are learning how to be independent, how to time-manage and how to be (somewhat) responsible. These are skills that will shape your life in the years to come, like a blueprint on how to live.

Exploring your surroundings beyond your campus will prove invaluable to developing your perspective. It will deepen your knowledge of your society making you a competent individual rather than merely a student.

Offering your time and effort is also a fulfilling way to make the most of your university experience. Some of your fondest memories are likely to be made during your university days, and do you really think you’ll remember that Netflix binge in years to come?

Slipping through university and into the graduate employment market can be an entirely impersonal and corporate experience. But if you want to give meaning to your studies, you can carve out your own journey with social involvement.

Of course, voluntary work is usually unpaid. And if there is one thing students are lacking, it’s money. If you are giving up your free time and working, you might think its only fair you get paid for this.

But maybe change your perspective a little and think about it this way: as a university student, you’re receiving an education that is inaccessible to many people around the world. In fact, disparity in access to higher education due to income, gender and ethnicity remains a global problem.

A recent Unesco policy paper that looked at postsecondary education worldwide between 2000 and 2014 showed in the world’s poorest countries, only 8 percent of young adults enroll in college. In the world’s wealthiest countries, however, that figure is nearly 10 times higher at 74 percent.

That’s in higher education alone. More recently, the Unesco Institute for Statistics released data that said a staggering one-fifth (263 million) of the global population of children, adolescents and youth were out of school in 2016.

So you may be struggling to afford rent now, but by volunteering, you can help people who can’t even afford a meal.

And it’s a win-win deal too.

The experience you gain from volunteering will show future employers you are caring, proactive and passionate. You are demonstrating that you care about your community and are willing to go the extra mile to help others.

An internship may give you skills in an industry, but voluntary work shows you have the work ethic to help regardless of money. It will give you lots to talk about in job interviews, and help you to stand out from other applicants.

Most universities have a variety of social campaigns to get involved in from environmental action to offering elderly people companionship. Beyond a university’s walls, every community has work to be done, whether it is litter picking, scrubbing off graffiti, mentoring young people or building new homes.

And if you’re the sort who prefers to go the whole hog, then you could even consider starting your own social enterprise. Pick a cause you’re passionate about, research it well, establish a plan of action, think about funding, build a solid team of helpers and you’re ready to get it off the ground. It’s going to be plenty of work but the skills you gain from leading such a project will last you through your career, and likely through life.

So, if you want to make your study abroad experience more than just a blur of lectures and laughs, volunteering might give you the fulfillment you’re longing for. Plus, it’ll give your CV a much-needed boost.

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