Feel the fear and volunteer

I want to volunteer abroad but I’m scared! 

Take your time, do your research and speak to people you trust, says our elder.


Dear EWC

I’m currently at university and I was going to do a masters course next year but my friend asked me why I was going to do it and I don’t actually know because I don’t know what job I actually want to do. So, I’ve kinda scrapped that idea and now I want to volunteer abroad, like really badly. But my mom is obviously worried about Covid and once she mentioned it, I was too. I’m also worried about having to travel alone and I’m scared of flying but that’s beside the point. I’m worried if I don’t book it or do something I’ll lose the courage I barely have now… I also don’t know what to do with the rest of the year but I’m starting to think maybe I don’t need a plan which is scary but I really want to do this volunteering abroad. Any advice?


Paul-Dad replies

Thanks for writing to us. 

There’s a lot that I don’t know about you, but I’ll give you some advice as a caring Elder. First, your dream of volunteering abroad is admirable but needs some more thought and planning. Where would you like to go? What form of volunteering would you like to do? Where would you live? How would you pay your expenses? Would you have language skills in countries most in need of volunteers? Would you be available to fly to get there? Would you be in a place in which the personal safety of a single young foreigner would be an issue? Do you have a passport and any visas? Could you, or would you travel in light of current worldwide Covid?

I’ll also mention, as someone with quite a bit of volunteer experience, that volunteering is a bit more complex than it might seem to be for beginners. First, specific skills and training are most often wanted. If you’re a doctor, dentist, plastic surgeon, teacher, caregiver, farmer, builder, counselor, or skilled laborer, you might find special interest in your volunteer offer. Having a good heart, a degree, and a willingness for new sights and experiences may not be enough to especially excite those who seek new volunteers.   

Also, you’ll find that joining a new volunteer group is a lot like being accepted and comfortable in a new school, cafeteria, city, workplace, sports team, or club. In other words, you will find that the initial acceptance of a new volunteer into any group is not guaranteed. I was surprised to find that groups of volunteers are just like groups of people everywhere, there are always leaders, followers, jokers, clingers, friendlies, and sadly, bullies, backstabbers, and cliques. Don’t let this dissuade you from a lifetime of volunteering, but begin it with the knowledge that the dynamics of human groups will be present in full force.  

Please do some internet research on “volunteer opportunities abroad”. It may lead you to some specifics that fit your desires. It may also lead you to decide that this dream may require a bit more planning and preparation.   

Consider some volunteer experience at home. Check for “volunteers wanted” in your area online. Finding a volunteer fit isn’t easy, and expect some disappointments. Look at it like shopping. You don’t buy the first shoes you see at the mall, but it doesn’t mean you don’t keep looking. 

Check into career counseling services at your university. Do they offer testing and one-on-one (likely virtual) counseling on course and career choices? It’s probably free, and it sure couldn’t hurt. It may help you on your decision to proceed to grad school, or allow you to consider veering from your undergrad area of study.  

Good luck to you. Take your time, research, and talk to people you trust about your ideas and ambitions. Don’t feel bad or strange that you are unsure of your future, and a bit perplexed at this point of your life. Everybody feels that way at your stage of life. Don’t worry, you’ll find yourself and your path at a time and place that was meant to be. You’ll look back and realize that the journey, scary and confusing though it may be, was necessary in order to arrive at the right destination. 

Please remember that we’re always here for you and your friends at EWC. 

Article #: 470959

Category: Other

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