Volunteering Abroad for First Timers!

Volunteering abroad is a unique and rewarding way to make a positive impact on the world. However, it can be overwhelming and stressful to navigate the logistics of volunteering in a foreign country for the first time. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a helpful guide and advice to help you prepare for and implement a successful volunteering abroad trip.

Preparing for Volunteering Abroad

Choosing a Program

The first step in preparing for your volunteer abroad program is to choose a cause that aligns with your interests and skills. At IVI, we have many programs to choose from, each with its own set of goals, values, and focus areas. To choose a program that’s right for you, start by considering the following:

·        Your Interests: What causes are you passionate about? Are you interested in working with children, animals, or the environment? Do you want to focus on education, healthcare, or community development? Is there a particular destination you’ve always wanted to visit which you could combine with volunteering? By narrowing down your interests, you can find a program that aligns with your passions and skills.

·        Your Skills: What skills do you bring to the table? Do you have experience in teaching, construction, or healthcare? Are you fluent in a second language? By identifying your skills, you can find a program that allows you to make the most significant impact and learn new skills.

·        Program Details: Once you’ve identified your interests and skills, research different programs and organisations to find one that matches your goals and values. Consider factors such as the type of work you’ll be doing, the location, the duration of the program, and the cost. Look for programs that offer comprehensive support, including accommodation, meals, and transportation.

Applying for a Program

Once you’ve found a program that you’re interested in, you’ll need to apply. The application process takes around 5-10 minutes. You will need to fill in the online application form, as well as a CV or resume for certain projects, and a letter of motivation or reference. Be sure to pay attention to the application deadlines and requirements, as well as any visa or vaccination requirements for the country you’ll be volunteering in.

Preparing for Travel

After being accepted into a program, it’s time to start preparing for travel. This includes obtaining any necessary visas or vaccinations, booking flights, and arranging travel insurance. It’s also important to research the culture and customs of the country you’ll be visiting, as well as any safety concerns or travel advisories. We need your flight details as soon as possible before arrival, to arrange the necessary transfers to the project.


Depending on your destination, you may need to obtain a visa before traveling. Visa requirements can vary depending on the length of your stay, the purpose of your visit, and your country of origin. Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you’ll be visiting to determine visa requirements and application processes. Sometimes visas can take weeks to arrive, so make sure you leave it plenty of time to apply for one before your trip.


Some countries require certain vaccinations or medications before entry. Check with a healthcare professional or travel clinic to determine which vaccinations are required or recommended for your destination. Again, give plenty of time for this as some vaccinations require two does over a number of weeks.


When booking your flights, consider factors such as price, travel time, and layovers. Look for flights that arrive on the Sunday during the pickup window times to get your transfer to the accommodation included.

Travel Insurance

It’s important to obtain travel insurance to protect yourself against unexpected medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost luggage, and this is a must for volunteering with IVI. Look for a policy that provides comprehensive coverage and meets the requirements of your program.

Golden Pagoda - Group photo

Packing for Your Volunteer Abroad Experience

When packing for your volunteer abroad experience, it’s important to be mindful of the climate and culture of the country you’ll be visiting, as well as the type of work you’ll be doing. Consider packing comfortable and practical clothing, as well as any necessary equipment or supplies for your volunteer work. A full packing list and advice will be sent to you in the welcome pack.


Depending on your destination, climate, and the type of work you’ll be doing, consider packing lightweight and breathable clothing, as well as comfortable and durable shoes. Avoid packing clothing that is revealing or inappropriate for the local culture. It’s also a good idea to pack a waterproof jacket, even in warmer climates, as rain can be unpredictable!

Equipment and Supplies

Depending on the program you’ve chosen, you may need to bring specific equipment or supplies for your volunteer work. For example, if you’re working in healthcare, you may need to bring medical supplies, scrubs or equipment. If you’re teaching, you may want to bring educational materials or books. Check with your program coordinator to determine what you’ll need to bring.

Culture Shock and Adjusting to a New Environment

Volunteering abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging to adjust to a new culture and environment. It’s important to be aware of culture shock and take steps to cope with it.

Culture shock is a feeling of disorientation and discomfort that can occur when you’re in a new and unfamiliar environment. Symptoms can include homesickness, anxiety, and depression. To cope with culture shock, consider the following:

·        Be open-minded and flexible: Keep an open mind and be willing to adapt to new and different customs and ways of life. Remember that cultural differences are what make travel and volunteering abroad so enriching and valuable.

·        Learn the language: Even if you’re not fluent in the local language, learning a few basic phrases can go a long way in communicating with locals and showing respect for their culture.

·        Connect with locals: Make an effort to connect with locals and learn about their way of life. Join a language exchange group, take a cooking class, or attend a cultural festival.

·        Take care of yourself: Volunteering abroad can be exhausting and overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. Take time to rest, exercise, and eat healthy meals. Make sure to prioritise self-care.

Volunteering abroad can be a life-changing experience, providing opportunities to make a positive impact on the world and learn about new cultures and ways of life. However, preparing for and executing a successful volunteer abroad experience can be challenging and overwhelming, especially for first-time volunteers. By following the tips and resources provided in this guide, you can prepare for a successful and rewarding volunteering abroad experience.

Remember to choose a program that aligns with your interests and skills, prepare for travel and culture shock, and prioritise self-care. With the right mindset and preparation, your volunteering abroad experience can be the adventure of a lifetime.

Take a look at all of our programs and find one to suit you.

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