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General Tips for International Volunteers

Going on an international volunteering trip can be a very enriching and rewarding experience both in terms of personal and professional growth. International volunteering programs can groom you into a more tolerant and flexible individual and develop skills like leadership, initiative, empathy and confidence. You can ensure that you make the best use of your international volunteering trip by following these simple tips:

1) Choosing the right program: There are many different volunteering programs ranging from educating children in underprivileged communities, building temporary shelters following a natural disaster to helping patients deal with disease. Make sure you choose a program that is in line with your aptitude and your interests so that you may participate fully.

2) Do some research on the local community: It helps if you do some background research on the community you will be visiting and the kind of help you will be providing. Remember you are going into a foreign environment and although your trip coordinator will give you all the assistance you need there is no substitute for individual initiative and research.

3) Make a sound plan: Make sure that you chalk up a comprehensive plan for your period of stay. Talk with your coordinator to be clear of your schedules. This will help you to make room for sleep, traveling and fun.

4) Brush up on your core skills: Before leaving on your international volunteering trip take some time out to brush up on the core skills you will be utilizing there. Are you going to teach English to young children? Get hold of some interesting story books and develop some language activities. You might get very little time to do these things once you land at your destination.

5) Be prepared: You obviously know that you are going to spend time in underprivileged communities. You are going to see a side of life that is quite different from what you might have been used to. Be prepared for sights that might be unpleasant especially if you are volunteering for a medical aid program.

6) Stay open to differences: remember that you will be going into an environment that is very different and people may treat you in a manner that you are not used to. At times this will be enjoyable but at times you will feel offended. Keep an open mind and think of it as a learning experience.

7) Work it out: Be ready to help out with daily chores and troubleshooting problems. Make sure that you participate actively in all the planning and implementation of programs and activities.
8) Keep your cool: The international volunteering program will also be an emotional trip. You will experience excitement and thrill along with insecurity, homesickness and fear. As you continue you will also encounter unexpected situations that will test your patience and willpower. Remember to stay calm and composed in stressful situations at all times.

9) Learn about the community: The international volunteering is supposed to be a learning experience for everyone. So make sure that you learn as much as possible about the issues and problems facing the community. Make sure that you keep a journal or log of your experiences and reflections and have discussions with your team members.

10) Develop personal skills: International volunteering programs are a great opportunity to acquire skills that will prove valuable when you want to get admission into universities or when you are looking for a job. Learn how to work with others in a team setting. Take initiative and accept responsibility. All of these skills will be helpful later in life.

11) Have a good time: Learning to develop yourself is important but do not forget that you are there to enjoy yourself too. Take time out to relax and make new friends. Catch in some new sights and sounds so you take back home pleasant memories of your stay.

Source: www.CrossContinental.org