A lot of people — especially young people — are motivated by the desire to make a difference, and do something important with their lives. And why shouldn’t you be? Wanting to make a positive impact, no matter how small, is an admirable goal. The challenge comes with figuring out how exactly to accomplish this.
Making a difference, doing something important— they’re phrases that are often associated with volunteering at home or abroad. However, if you want to maximize the good you do, it’s important to choose the right kind of domestic or international volunteer opportunities. It’s easy to find volunteer opportunities abroad through programs that are only surface level. This kind of experience has often been dubbed “voluntourism,” and as such, it is something that the best volunteer abroad programs will avoid.
But with all the programs out there for students in high school to volunteer abroad, how do you choose what’s best?
The best way to choose a gap year or volunteer abroad program? Make sure that you have the right priorities going into your decision making process. Be wary of any organization that promises you seemingly grand rewards like the opportunity to change the world or solve poverty on your trip. Center your volunteering goals around understanding the world’s problems, learning to see challenges and opportunities from a local’s perspective, and working together with communities on the issues that matter most to them. This is the type of work that will make the most potent difference.
Global Citizen Year prioritizes depth and connection to help our Fellows have the best experience possible. Just read a few stories from previous fellows to see why. What makes Global Citizen Year go beyond the best volunteer abroad programs is that we prioritize meaningful experiences, through the following:
Leadership Training You will become part of a select cohort along with fellows selected from the best and brightest of your generation, and together you will learn about leadership, and the difference between “real good” and “feel good” when it comes to making an impact. Your ability to volunteer, collaborate across lines of difference, manage projects and work with others will be hugely affected by this leadership training. As you travel with our volunteer abroad programs you will find yourself being built as you build others.
Immersion and Apprenticeship With Global Citizen Year, you will be fully immersed in a community in Africa, Latin America or Asia. You will be placed with a host family and be able to become a part of the local community, forming relationships that will last a lifetime. This is the kind of international volunteer opportunity that changes lives. Being able to really immerse yourself in the culture and connect with the people that your work and volunteering is for will teach you more about problem-solving and volunteer work than anything else.
A Lifelong Network In addition to lifelong relationships you will have with your host family and community, you will continue to meet with fellows and share your stories. You will have an entire network of alumni behind you as you start college; this community will be a huge support for you to lean on. Many volunteering abroad programs lack this focus on connection within the organization. Make sure as you volunteer overseas or elsewhere that you make connections that will last longer than the program does.
The best volunteer abroad programs are the ones that provide students like you with life changing experiences and work that has an impact. Global Citizen Year encourages students to think big and do something different after high school and before college. That year is all about incredible experiences and growing as an individual.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS FINISHING HIGH SCHOOL TO VOLUNTEER ABROAD
An Opportunity for Students Finishing High School to Volunteer Abroad
The best volunteer abroad programs after high school can present you with life-changing experiences, as well as opportunities to boost your personal and professional skill set, and beef your resume up in the process. Global Citizen Year offers students transitioning from high school to college the chance to:
Spend extended time in a new country.
Many volunteer abroad programs are only a couple weeks or maybe a couple of months. With Global Citizen Year, you’ll spend eight full months abroad in one of our destination options. Research shows extended travel time can have a beneficial impact on one’s personal growth and overall conscientiousness. The amount of time you spend on your gap year will allow you to more fully experience your host country — it gives you more opportunities to do activities, experience the culture, and learn the language.
Do more than volunteer.
To volunteer abroad in high school is self-satisfying, but if you do not find one of the best places to volunteer, it often fails to teach new skills. Global Citizen Year allows you to partner with a local organization and gain real work experience while developing the intangible traits that are valuable in college and the workplace — drive, curiosity and resilience. Make your work work for you. Get ahead with teaching, travel, projects and volunteer work that will really make a difference to your resume and skill sets.
Get ahead in college.
While some have mistakenly worried that a gap year will set them behind in their college career, the truth is that our alumni tend to graduate a year faster than the national average. Some studies show that ‘gappers’ even have higher GPAs!
Live with local residents.
With Global Citizen Year, you’ll live with a local host family that has been closely screened and trained by our staff. There’s no better way to become part of the community than by living in the community! Living with local families allows you to more fully understand each others’ cultures, and offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and perhaps pick it up quicker.
Acquire the necessary preparation.
All of our Fellows go through extended training prior to their departure. This time allows fellows to familiarize themselves with the country, culture and current events. You can feel secure as you get ready to jump into your new adventure. You are not required to know anything going into your program, but thanks to our training prior to your journey, by the time you leave for your destination you will be well prepared.
Create a project.
Global Citizen Year Fellows maintain a blog and are encouraged to document their time through posting photos and videos. The year culminates in an opportunity to share your story with the host organization and home community capturing your experience. Not only will your friends and family appreciate learning about your experience, but you will always have a resource to look back on and fondly reflect on your year abroad.
Make lifelong friends.
What better way to make lifelong friends than by embarking on a life-changing journey together? Global Citizen Year’s international volunteer opportunities give you that chance, and make sure you’re ready for the road ahead. Before you leave, and during your nine months abroad, you’ll find support and friendship from Fellows your age who are facing similar joys, challenges, and experiences.
To learn more about the Global Citizen Year experience, read some of the blogs posted by our Fellows. If you’re ready to pursue a Fellowship with Global Citizen Year, take the first step and request more information.
Sources: Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201309/extended-travel-affects-personality
HEAR FROM GAP YEAR STUDENTS AND PARENTS
Fellow / Senegal
— Elise Leise
In a world filled with complex global challenges, I hope to be part of a generation that refuses to give up so easily.…
Fellow / Senegal
New Continent, New Family
— Erik Oline
I turned around to the open arms of my host family (yes, all 23 of them)! The family farm is a little slice of heaven……
Parent / Brazil
Maturity & Perspective
— Shih-Hung Shieh
The Fellows mature into intelligent, compassionate, cosmopolitan citizens of the world, able to converse about global issues……
Fellow / Ecuador
Why I Came to Ecuador
— Henry Yeary
I wanted the world to slap me silly, sweep me up like a tornado and crash me down. I needed to live.…
Fellow / India
This is How I Will Save the World
— Indi Nunez
The world does not need us to save it; it needs us to understand it. Perhaps to help is not to give after all, but rather to empower……
Parent / Senegal
Real World Skills
— Pam Ricker (Jordan Ricker)
I am so glad my son has had this experience. It has given him more than the acquisition of two new languages……