All those experienced in studying and living abroad can attest to the fact that travel is an experience like no other. In living abroad you are immersed in different cultures, removed from your comfort zone, and allowed to create amazing connections with the rest of the world and its inhabitants. The experience of living abroad offers a feeling of adrenaline like no other as it makes you think and act in new ways—all while seeing the world from a new perspective.
Once an adventure comes to an end however, many of us are left wondering how we can maintain the same sense of amazement, or even take future experiences to the next level. Likewise, in today’s competitive world it is becoming increasingly more difficult to gain the attention of colleges and employers. Despite apprehensions though, there are still many opportunities to satisfy your hunger for seeing the world, traveling, and learning—all while adding to your resume and your ability to stand out in a crowd.
Taking travel to the next level:
1. Master a skill or learn a new one
Travel is one of the highest forms of education as you are constantly learning new things about yourself, other people, and the rest of the world. Volunteering abroad in particular is an incredible opportunity to add to your portfolio, especially as you learn while making positive change to your surroundings.
Nonprofits work in a plethora of causes supporting the environment, human rights, wildlife, etc. and for all their areas of operations, are in constant need of people with all types of backgrounds, skills, and interests. Develop your writing or photography skills by capturing beautiful images showcasing what the nonprofit does, sharing it with others and hopefully attracting more volunteers much like you. Use your business strengths to further that of the organization, or help them in creating new partnerships to do more good in the world. Learn or practice graphic design expertise to help with the nonprofit’s public relations and media. These examples are just a few of the many ways volunteers can pitch in and help to run a successful nonprofit. Nonprofit work is very much “all hands on deck” and volunteers are often encouraged to take on new projects through their own initiative. Your skills, knowledge, and expertise will be asked for in ways you never thought possible and the results can sometimes lead to new paths in your own life. By opening yourself to new experiences and fields, you may even develop a love for something you had never even heard of before.
2. Learn a language
Have you ever met someone and thought it would have been so much easier had you spoken his or her language? Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.
Volunteering abroad, be it in Latin America or elsewhere in the world, is the perfect opportunity to learn or improve a new language. For example, did you know that Spanish is the second-most common language natively spoken in the world, only topped by Mandarin? While some nonprofits require a basic understanding of another language asides English, many don’t. Language schools or just making friends in the city, town, or surrounding community, is a perfect way to learn as well. Learning a new language helps you develop people skills, makes you more appealing to a university or employer, and honestly? —makes you that much cooler at dinner parties.
Yo Voy a Ti is a cool nonprofit organization based in Bolivia and has a mobile school and football (soccer) school where volunteers work closely with marginalized children and teach them basic education, English, and sports.
3. Showcase your character, principals, and initiative
Remember how your college counselor would tell you about the importance of extracurricular activities? What you do with your free time speaks a lot about your character, principles, goals, and initiative. During high school and college, a great way to show what you are passionate about is through extracurricular activities. Dedicating time to work for a nonprofit while traveling the world is not only meaningful as you are adding manpower to a great cause, but it also showcases your willingness to be motivated in something that does not directly affect you, is for the greater good, and demonstrates your personal and professional skills.
Primeros Pasos’ is an incredible charitable organization making serious changes in the health and lives of communities in Guatemala. Some volunteer positions need a medical background while others just require the drive to help amazing people.
4. Discover a new career path
The question “What do you want to be?” for some can be rather daunting. Some people may not know, while other may juggle multiple interests in very different fields. Taking a week, month, or even a year to volunteer with an incredible nonprofit can be a great way to test the water in several different areas. Volunteering with a charity that works in healthcare and medicine might lead you to medical school or give you an amazing insight into what it takes to be a doctor or a nurse. Maybe urban farms or community development is something that grabs your attention and volunteering for a charity dedicated to developing these elements could be great experience before a PHD or masters program in urban development, urban farming, sustainable farming or community development. If politics or policy is in your future, organizations working in women’s rights, human rights, or LGBT rights can be a perfect fit. Volunteering abroad for a week, month, or year can give you a head start and experience in a new career for you to dive into.
ASVO is one of our favorite nonprofits in Costa Rica. They have projects and opportunities throughout the country in various areas of environmental and wildlife conservation. Live in paradise and change the world, what could be better?
Don’t keep wondering what to do after life abroad, work to make a new life abroad. Connect with unique volunteer opportunities around the world so that you can add to your resume, make a difference for others, and travel. Considering travel as a way of learning, think: if we could all travel with a purpose, the changes we could make for the world would be unimaginable. Join the global citizen movement today—go on an adventure while adding to your resume!
Having been born and bred in a culture of travel served as the catalyst to Blas’s addiction to a life of travel and language learning. After high school he packed his bags and lived for a year in Paris, learning the language and culture while seeing the rest of the European continent. During university Blas landed an internship in Italy that not only allowed him to learn Italian, but also have funding for further traveling. After completing his studies and the mandatory hours of volunteering that his Mexican university mandated, he developed a love for NPO’s and all the work they do. Together with his cofounder, Javier Barrera, Blas founded Trip180, an organization enabling people to discover the world, make a difference, and become global citizens.