It may only be February, but summer is coming and college students everywhere are trying to decide what to do with their time off before it’s too late. Maybe you’re watching your friends find places to stay in Los Angeles for an internship or maybe they’re trying to get a vacation rental in New Orleans to party on Bourbon Street. And while that sounds fun, perhaps you’re looking to do something with more of an impact.
The answer? We recommend an experience that is equal parts rewarding and exciting — volunteering abroad. Together with the global vagabonds at AllTheRooms we’ve found the coolest volunteer experiences abroad for college students. Check them out below.
GoEco Indian Road Trip
Those with a serious travel bug may like this option. The first three weeks of the program are completely dedicated to traveling through India. Beginning in Delhi with a Shimla mountain trek and continuing on to Jaisalmer with stops at the Taj Mahal and various places in between, volunteers are introduced to India. Soak up the globally-known bustling cities, as well as the culture of smaller towns off the beaten path. Once the road trip is over, participants then dedicate their time to the volunteer program, which includes the “Slums Outreach Program,” renovating schoolhouses, or contributing to animal welfare.
SCUBA Certification and Marine Conservation in Belize
Want to spend a few weeks in paradise and do some good? This Belizean-based opportunity with Kaya Responsible Travel is the ideal volunteer getaway. Beginning with a PADI certification for scuba diving, volunteers also do research and work in conjunction with local fisheries. The goal is to monitor the health of the world’s second largest coral reef. Focuses include shark and fish specie identification, the negative introduction of alien lionfish, and watching lobster populations. The program takes place on a private island off the coast of Punta Gorda. There are both 5-8 and 2-4 week options.
CHI’s World Explorers Brazil
This opportunity — which takes place in rural Brazil away from the lively cities like Rio de Janeiro — is sure to give volunteers a taste of local culture that many tourists never get to access. Available in 2-12 week increments, volunteers are paired with a Brazilian family and, in exchange for food and housing, teach the family English for a minimum of 15 hours per week. CHI is known to have great volunteer support and can help facilitate trips into cities.
GVI Volunteer Teaching Opportunity in Cape Town
Another teaching opportunity, this one takes place in the Rainbow Nation of South Africa. Although English is an official language of South Africa, its not the only one. In fact, South Africa has 10 other official languages which means not everyone is fluent in English. This program places its recruits in one-on-one situations or in small group classrooms to assist local children with both reading and conversing in English. Not to mention, the program takes volunteers on day trips including Nelson Mandela’s former prison on Robben Island, the views atop Table Mountain, and to Stellenbosch for a few sips (or more) of local wine.
French Family Homestay and Teaching with ALIORE Worldwide
Similar to the CHI’s World Explorers Brazil program, this experience in Montpellier, France is a cultural exchange that places volunteers in a family’s home, providing English lessons in return. Montpellier is a wonderful place for a college student to spend a summer. Firstly, about a third of the city’s population is comprised of students. Secondly, the city is one of the most multicultural and diverse in the country, enabling volunteers to understand and see the changing landscape of French culture. Lastly, Montpellier is only minutes away from the Mediterranean Coast — you can’t beat that.
IVHQ in Beautiful Antigua, Guatemala
Long established in countries like Costa Rica, International Volunteers HQ more recently undertook a partnership in Guatemala. This program, located in historic Antigua, is unique in that volunteers can assist for as little as two weeks or as long as a full year. Projects facilitated by IVHQ in Guatemala include construction and renovation projects, childcare in orphanages, and caring for animals.
Volunteer Adventure with Maximo Nivel
Receiving high score reviews from past participants, Maximo Nivel is one of the most celebrated volunteer organizations catering not only to college students, but also high school students, graduate school students, and professionals taking a break from the daily routine. Their “Volunteer Adventure” program places volunteers in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. To start, the program begins with six days of traveling before settling into a work role for the remainder of the two-week trip. Work placements include construction, teaching, conservation, and healthcare, while activities include zip lining, visiting a volcano or waterfall, and taking boat rides.
Ghana Summer Program
A country reaping praise for “what a West African country can look like” with a stable democracy, Ghana is both a safe option and a destination where volunteers can be exposed to the palpable energy of Ghanian people and places. Volunteers spend most of their three weeks in a traditional community educating children, assisting mothers, improving hygienic practices, and fundraising for supplies. Participants also get time to explore nearby national parks, beaches, and lively cities.
Volunteer in Sri Lanka with PMGY
Sri Lanka has been able to open its doors to travelers in the last decade and tourists have been rewarded with friendly interactions and beautiful scenery. However, there is still work to be done in the country. Placed in the coastal town of Ambalangoda, volunteers can work as teachers, in childcare, or contribute to turtle conservation.
About Zack Davidson: Zack is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for salsa music and a passion for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms — the world’s first vacation rental search engine — you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature, or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.