In the rat race to finish at the top of your class and become a leader in your industry, it’s easy to lose sight of the values found in any effort or experience that doesn’t directly move you closer to those goals. You’ll hear plenty of reasons why a summer internship is the best thing for your career, but you’ll have a harder time finding someone to urge you to go off the beaten path.
What many fail to realize is that the road to success is rarely straight. Furthermore, what those around you may prescribe as the best ways to advance your career may not be the best for you in particular.
After all, your goal shouldn’t be to pass through your educational and professional experiences like a piece of equipment on an assembly line. You should aspire to become an individual, and to do so through a background that distinguishes you from everyone else.
That’s where volunteering abroad as a teen or an adult can be a great asset. This form of volunteer work can be scary, and it’s not without a significant commitment on your part. But the experiences you’ll gain, and the skills you will learn, will set you apart from many other people pursuing your line of work. Here are five specific benefits you can reap while doing good in another country.
1. Skill set development
Volunteering often takes you out of your comfort zone, demanding you to perform tasks that you might not choose for yourself. In some cases, those skills may directly relate to a hobby or professional goal you harbor. In other cases, you might never intend to dig a ditch again in your life. Even of those skills seem useless, the fact that you’ve made efforts to develop them will reflect well upon you and teach you that you can triumph over adversity.
2. Better communication skills
Life in a foreign land can create numerous communication barriers. The positive side to this is that, over time, you will find new ways to become a better communicator — even with people who don’t speak your language. That will help you in your professional life, where communication is one of the most valued skills employers look for.
3. Improve your manners
Immersion into a different culture will quickly teach you how to adjust your manners to be culturally sufficient. This process will also raise your awareness of your manners domestically, increasing your cultural awareness and making you a better-mannered individual in both countries.
Shared experiences with other volunteers will create numerous networking opportunities. In some cases, those connections could end up opening doors for you upon your return home, giving you potential employment opportunities and references who can vouch for your character.
5. Gain perspective
For most volunteers, the experience donating their time and efforts in a foreign country is one that helps them understand what they really want from life. It could help you put your career aspirations into perspective with other aspects of your life, such as having hobbies, starting a family or achieving other goals. Volunteering can be an eye-opening experience that helps you better understand what you really want from life.
In the end, you will want to choose a volunteering opportunity that fits your interests and comes at the right time in your life. But don’t discount the potential for your experiences to reshape your long-term goals and your view of the world. In most cases, such changes in perspective are what indicate a truly valuable time spent abroad.