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How international volunteering can add to your study abroad experience

According to the ICEF Monitor, an estimated five million students were enrolled on degree courses overseas in 2015. With this number more than doubling since 2000 and tripling since 1990, it is clear that international student mobility is on the rise.  So the question is: how can students achieve a competitive edge against those five million, in addition to the many more who have studied overseas in previous years?

Universities understand the struggle that students go through when trying to find work after graduating. As such, many institutions offer a range of extra-curricular activities so that students can make the most of their university experience and take part in various initiatives which they can include in their CV. From one-to-one careers advice to large-scale recruitment fairs, universities are doing everything they can to ensure that their students will find work after they graduate.

Volunteering opportunities are regularly advertised by universities in an effort to encourage students to take part in programmes where they can give back to the local community, but also enhance their employability prospects at the same time. However, some universities are taking this one step further and are now also organising international volunteering programmes, where students undertake projects during the holidays to volunteer overseas.

Volunteering has a number of benefits associated with it, from both an employment and personal perspective:

1) Gain vital work experience

Volunteer work is a valuable addition to any CV and is sure to impress during job interviews.

2) Develop ‘soft’ skills, such as communication, teamwork, and leadership

The skills you pick up while volunteering will prove useful once you embark on your future career, as they are the same ones you’ll need to succeed.

3) Make friends with other volunteers

Volunteering is a great way to make new friends, especially when you’ve just started your degree. You will also get the chance to expand your network of contacts, contributing to a more social and enjoyable experience at university.

However, unlike local volunteering, overseas volunteering adds an element of distinctiveness to the process and will ensure that you stand out against other candidates during the job application process. This is particularly applicable to international students – not only will you have the benefit of an overseas education, but this also gives another string to your bow by giving you the chance to experience a different country by working with locals there. Being exposed to new languages, customs, and cultures will help students gain a global perspective, which many employers are looking for in prospective hires.

By taking part in an international volunteer programme, students will find that they develop in more ways than they could imagine. Although universities aim to help students grow, they still have the comfort of rigidity and routine which students get accustomed to. Overseas volunteering, which usually takes part in under-developed countries, will open a student’s eyes to the real issues going on in the world around them and they will learn skills which will help them in the workplace, as well as in everyday life, such as independence, learning how to cope with difficult situations, and good old fashioned hard work. This challenging experience will help students build their resilience in a competitive environment and will definitely help them on their way to future successes.

Images via Shutterstock

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