How to Get the Best Out of Volunteering Overseas

Volunteering overseas can be one of the most enriching experiences of your life. It provides the opportunity to connect with local communities, learn about new cultures and ways of life, and make a positive impact. Volunteering with children overseas can be particularly rewarding, as it allows you to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable members of society. However, to ensure that you get the best out of your volunteering experience, it’s essential to approach it with the right mindset and preparation. In this post, we will share some tips and advice on how to make the most of your volunteering experience overseas.

Approaching Volunteering with Children Overseas

Working with children requires a high level of responsibility and patience. When volunteering overseas with children, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of cultural norms and the language spoken in the country you will be visiting. Research the country’s customs, traditions, and values to avoid unintentionally offending locals or causing any misunderstandings. You should also be prepared to adapt to the new environment and be open to new experiences.

While volunteering may not require professional experience, it’s important to have a genuine passion for working with children and an understanding of their developmental needs. If you lack experience working with children, consider taking a course or volunteering locally before embarking on your overseas volunteering trip. You may be required to create lesson plans and classroom activities, so research a bit before your trip and have an idea of some classroom games and activities you will carry out.

Dealing with Culture Shock

Culture shock can be a challenge when volunteering overseas, but it’s also an opportunity to learn and grow. To prepare for the cultural differences, it’s essential to read about the country’s customs, traditions, and values before you arrive. This will help you understand the local perspective and adapt to the new environment.

Be open-minded and flexible, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice from the local coordinator or fellow volunteers. Embrace the new experiences and try to learn from them, even if they may seem unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first. Being able to adapt to new and challenging situations is key to making the most of your volunteering experience overseas.

Getting the Best Out of Your Experience

To make the most of your volunteering overseas experience, it’s important to set clear goals and expectations. Understand what you hope to achieve through your volunteer work and discuss these goals with your organisation and team. Setting clear goals and expectations can help you stay motivated and focused, and can also help you measure the impact of your volunteer work.

Stay organised and plan your schedule to ensure that you can make the most of your time. Make connections with locals and fellow volunteers, and take the time to learn from them. Participate in local activities and events to fully immerse yourself in the culture. You will find that by engaging with the local community, you will have a more meaningful and impactful experience.

Many of our programs have a homestay option for accommodation, which is highly recommended if you would like to feel like a local and see another, more authentic, side to the country. The local families are all experienced in hosting international volunteers and will make you feel like part of the family!

with Kenyan hosts

Here are some additional tips and advice for volunteering overseas…

Keep an Open Mind

One of the most important things you can do when volunteering overseas is to keep an open mind. You will likely encounter new cultures, perspectives, and ways of life that may be different from what you are used to. Embrace these differences and be open to learning and growing from them.

Be Flexible

Volunteering overseas can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be flexible and adaptable. Plans may change, schedules may shift, and unexpected challenges may arise. Be prepared to go with the flow and adapt to new situations as they arise.

Respect the Local Culture

When volunteering overseas, it’s important to respect the local culture and customs. Take the time to learn about the traditions and values of the community you are working with, and show respect for their beliefs and practices. This can help you build trust and establish meaningful relationships with the local community. Most programs include a 1 day orientation which will explain the basics, or you may want to take up the orientation week, which is available in certain destinations. This is a great way to learn a lot more about local life and can help you feel more comfortable and settled before your program starts.

group with monk

Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is key when volunteering overseas. This includes not only communicating with the local community, but also with other volunteers, staff members, and project coordinators. Be clear and concise in your communication, and be open to listening to others’ perspectives and ideas. You may find that your confidence in speaking with people will grow, and this can be so beneficial for once back home.

Embrace Challenges

Volunteering overseas can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. Rather than avoiding challenges, embrace them as opportunities for growth and learning. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things, even if they may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar at first.

Make Meaningful Connections

One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering overseas is the opportunity to make meaningful connections with people from around the world. Take the time to build relationships with the local community, as well as with other volunteers and staff members. These connections can be a source of support, inspiration, and lifelong friendships.

participant laughing

Phan Thiet College

Practice Self-Care

Finally, it’s important to prioritise self-care when volunteering overseas. This includes taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Make sure to get enough rest, eat nutritious food, stay hydrated, and take breaks when needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support if you need it.

Preparing for Volunteering Overseas

Volunteering overseas is an exciting and rewarding way to give back to the world and learn about new cultures and perspectives. However, it’s important to prepare thoroughly for your experience to ensure that it is both safe and impactful. In this article, we will discuss some of the key steps you can take to prepare for volunteering overseas.

Research Reputable Organisations

The first step in preparing to volunteer overseas is to research reputable organisations and programs. There are many organisations that offer volunteering opportunities abroad, but not all of them are created equal. Look for organisations that have a track record of success and are transparent about their work and impact. Read reviews from past volunteers and ask questions about the organisation’s mission, goals, and approach.

Consider the Logistics

Once you have identified an organisation that you are interested in working with, it’s important to consider the logistics of your trip. This includes things like travel arrangements, visas, vaccinations, and insurance. Make sure that you have all of the necessary documents and vaccinations before you depart, and that you have a plan for transportation, lodging, and meals while you are overseas.

train travel in India

Prepare Financially

Volunteering overseas can be pricy, once it all adds up so it’s important to prepare financially before you depart. Consider the costs of travel, visas, and any other expenses that you may incur while you are abroad. Look for opportunities to fundraise or apply for grants or scholarships to help offset the costs.

Learn about the Culture

One of the most important aspects of preparing to volunteer overseas is learning about the culture and customs of the country you will be visiting. Take the time to read about the history and traditions of the country, and learn some basic phrases in the local language. This will help you to connect with the local community and show respect for their culture and customs.

Understand the Challenges

Volunteering overseas can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. It’s important to understand the potential challenges you may face, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness. Take the time to prepare mentally and emotionally for the challenges ahead, and be open to seeking support from fellow volunteers or local resources if needed.


Volunteering overseas can be a life-changing experience that allows you to give back to the world while also learning about new cultures and perspectives. By approaching your experience with an open mind, preparing thoroughly, and taking care of yourself and those around you, you can make the most out of your time abroad.

Remember to consider the unique challenges of volunteering with children, including the need for proper training and supervision, as well as the potential for emotional and cultural barriers. With the right mindset and approach, however, you can help make a positive impact on the lives of those around you.

As you plan your volunteering experience, be sure to research reputable organisations and programs, and take the time to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. By doing so, you can ensure that your experience is safe, meaningful, and impactful, both for yourself and for those you seek to help.

Volunteering overseas is a journey, and like any journey, it requires careful planning, a positive mindset, and a willingness to learn and grow. By following the tips and advice outlined in this article, you can help make your volunteering experience one that will stay with you for a lifetime. To find a program you can make a difference on, search all IVI volunteer programs here.

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