Voluntourism — that is, volunteering while living or traveling abroad — is quickly gaining traction among younger generations. It gives people a platform to explore the world, and allows them to positively impact communities while enjoying the experiences of another country. That being said, it comes with some downsides. It’s not the most economically convenient activity, and many people don’t have the luxury to travel halfway across the world.
So the question becomes: should I volunteer at home in the US or abroad? To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some pros and cons for each option. Scroll down to get the low-down on your volunteering options and start brainstorming your next project.
Reasons to Volunteer in the US
To Help Your Own Community
As the saying goes, “think globally, act locally.” Often, people feel overwhelmed when thinking of ways they can help out. With the daily deluge of less-than-inspiring news stories, a paradox often takes hold: so much needs to be done, so they end up sitting at home on their couch. Volunteering locally is a quick and easy way to nip that problem in the bud.
There are plenty of issues that need to be solved in our own communities, and doing so is an easy way to feel good about yourself and enact change. For a list of organizations in Florida specifically, check out AllTheRooms’ article on the best volunteer organizations in Florida.
Convenience and Cost
It goes without saying that volunteering at home in the US is significantly more convenient in terms of time and cost than volunteering abroad. You won’t require a flight, nor a place to stay or any real amenities. If you’re thinking about volunteering at a school, an animal or homeless shelter, the cost of doing so is definitely more appealing at home.
Another upside of volunteering at home is the capacity to enact change over a longer period of time. We all lead busy lives, especially students who may be juggling classes and work, so it’s possible you may only have a few hours per week to donate time. The good part about this is that you can volunteer over a long period of time and see the fruits of your labor.
In this same vein, you’ll end up establishing relationships that will develop over time. If you’re looking for another outlet outside of school or work, or if you’re tired of only meeting people at parties, volunteering in your local community is a great way to immerse yourself in a new community right down the street.
Reasons to Volunteer Abroad
To Learn About the World and Yourself
Volunteering abroad is a practice in education unlike any other experience. Of course, you’re going to learn an incredible amount about the specific organization and cause you’re working towards, but you’ll also be soaking in an entirely new culture. New social norms, new culinary experiences, new climates and architecture — all of this is kind of the unwritten benefits that come along with volunteering abroad.
Chances are, your self-perspective will change as well. Whether you’re a student trudging through the college experience, or a young professional navigating life, you’re likely having to focus heavily on your own needs, and your own life. Volunteering abroad will provide you with fresh new perspectives. It’ll shrink the ego, humble you a bit, and show you how many people are out there.
For some more help on brainstorming ways to volunteer abroad, check out this article on how to choose the perfect volunteer abroad program.
To Work Towards Unique Causes
There aren’t many places near home where volunteering at a sea turtle nursery or WWOOFing on a kiwi farm are real possibilities. One of the best parts about volunteering abroad is that it can bring you closer to unique causes you truly care about. Working with endangered species, teaching English, constructing much-needed housing — the list is genuinely endless when you start brainstorming the possibilities.
Also, one of the most rewarding times to volunteer is while you’re studying abroad. Check out this article on why you should volunteer when studying abroad for a more detailed rundown.
To Meet Lifelong Friends
Whereas volunteering at home may allow you to establish connections over a long period of time, there’s nothing quite like meeting and resonating with someone a continent away. Something about sharing an intensive, unique experience with someone tends to make for extremely strong relationships. Even if you go your separate ways after the program ends, you may very well end up with a pen-pal halfway across the world.
To Learn a Language
Taking classes is one thing, but for most people, language learning happens best by naturally immersing yourself in local communities. If you have a foundation in a certain language, volunteering is a great way to take your skills for a test drive.
To Make Your Resume Stand Out
It’s no surprise that students and young professionals with volunteering experience on their resumes dramatically stand out compared to other candidates. If the specific work you’re doing relates to your career field, even better, but just the fact that you took time to volunteer abroad shows you have initiative, follow-through, and are passionate — qualities most employers look for no matter the sector.
About Dillon DuBois: Dillon is a travel-hungry outdoor enthusiast originally from Encinitas, California. He recently moved to Medellín to begin his next chapter as a content writer for AllTheRooms. Besides writing, Dillon enjoys live music, fútbol, cooking, and backpacking.