1) There are more options in the summer. This may seem hard to believe, but summer isn’t the most popular time to study abroad if you are planning on crossing the equator to do so – the North American and European summer is the South American and Australia winter. If you can put away thoughts of working by day and lounging on the beach in the evening, you’ll find that there are tons of choices for work abroad jobs, since the number of jobs often outnumbers the number of applications.
Particularly true in education jobs or other jobs with children, since schools are still in session in the “summer months” while many potential volunteers are off on summer break. If you’re interested in working with children as a volunteer overseas, the North American summer is a great option.
2) Many jobs offer time off for service. Worried about leaving your job? In this economy that’s certainly a valid concern. But what many people don’t realize is that a short-term work or volunteer experience abroad can actually make you better at your job.
Why? Working abroad helps your sharpen your flexibility, organization and adaptability skills, not to mention giving you (in some cases) familiarity with a foreign language. If you choose a volunteer abroad opportunity that relates specifically to your current job (and if you work in any type of administration, finance or health profession there are TONS), your trip abroad is really just a more adventurous type of professional development. It may even fast track you to a promotion or increased responsibility.
So check in with your human resources department, or your supervisor. Find out what the company policy is about time off for service. Perhaps your company gives you one day off a month to volunteer – can you take all of those days at once? How much vacation time do you already have? Don’t let time be the reason you don’t go abroad.
3) Going abroad does not have to be expensive. Don’t get me wrong – there are many volunteer abroad opportunities that charge high fees, on top of airline tickets and room and board. But if money is something that is holding you back from pursuing a volunteer opportunity abroad, there are many free and low-cost volunteer opportunities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that won’t break the bank. Many organizations host volunteers without placement agencies – and it’s the placement agencies that usually charge fees for training, placement and in-country support.
We’ve featured a number of free and low cost organizations for volunteering abroad, but if just the cost of airfare and room and board is too much for your to handle financially, check out the WorldTeach guide to fundraising, which is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen for creative fundraising ideas.
4) Language fluency is not the (only) key to success. Contrary to what most people may say, not knowing a language doesn’t always completely hinder work abroad. Of course, immerse yourself in a cultural experience involves becoming familiar with language, customs, food – all of it! And while many work abroad jobs would enjoy hiring someone with a working knowledge of the native language, they are also looking for an ability and willingness to learn, openness and professional skill. Languages can be learned – work abroad jobs (like those in your home country) are about the whole person, not just one skill.
If you would feel more comfortable with knowing how to give directions or order food in a foreign language, there are many low cost solutions like Rosetta Stone (find a second hand copy or buy with a friend) language swap partners (Craigslist lists many people who are looking to sharpen their English in exchange for an hour long conversation in their native language), local community college classes or free podcasts.
5) 2015 is your year! As someone who quit her job to move abroad, I know how difficult the decision can be. There are so many reasons not to do it – commitments, finances, obligations. But guess what? Those things will always be there, and you’d be surprised at how little things actually change when you move away to work or volunteer abroad. Sometimes you just have to decide that this year is your year to do something that you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s a volunteer vacation with Global Volunteers in China, work camp abroad, or a three month work project – decide that 2015 is the year to do it.