Volunteer? 3 reasons not to volunteer abroad

Last summer I went to Georgia to volunteer in a project hosted by AIESEC. It’s been a very interesting journey with many ups, but certainly many downs too.

Volunteer in Georgia

Jop in Svaneti on a hike

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Volunteering abroad is not for everybody. It’s a challenging endeavour and through this post, I would like to share three reasons with you not to volunteer abroad.

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1. You want to know exactly what you’re up to

When I boarded the plane for Georgia I still didn’t know exactly what I was up to. I didn’t know where I was going to stay, I didn’t know when my project was going to start nor who I was going to teach. So, if you can’t handle uncertainty and want to have everything figured out, going on exchange is going to be hard. It was difficult for me, because usually I’m quite a planner and I try to have everything figured out beforehand. However, I trusted the process when I arrived at Tbilisi Airport and I was picked up by Tako from AIESEC in Georgia, who brought me to a flat where I was warmly welcomed by other exchange participants from all over the world.

2. You can’t handle setbacks

Before going to Georgia, I had been involved with AIESEC for two years already. We used to joke that whenever somethings misfortunate happened it was ‘part of the experience’. Well, it is safe to say that I experienced many of these moments. It ranged from a flat tire to not having electricity for two days to having a bat in my room (this was seriously scary!). Of course, experiencing these setbacks is frustrating, but it’s all about how you handle these setbacks and cope with them. I learned how to fix a tire, I had great long talks with my roommates when electricity was down and I we had great fun catching the bat. If you’re not open to setbacks, please don’t go on exchange.

3. You don’t want to go out of your comfort zone

During my experience in Georgia I had to step out of my comfort zone many times. Firstly, I had to teach English, which I had never done before. Secondly, I went on a very intense hike with more than 3 kilometres of ascent. Lastly, I lived with people from other cultures with customs very foreign to me. If you are not comfortable going out of your comfort zone I advise you to stay at home. But if you are looking to develop yourself, going out of your comfort zone is the easiest way to do this. And one of the easiest way to go out of your comfort zone is to go to a place what has no ties with home: no friends, no family, no work, no school.

So at this point it’s up to you. Are you a control freak? Are you crushed by setback? Do you want to stay in your comfort zone? Then I advise you not to volunteer abroad. But if you are looking for an amazing experience, in which you will explore a country as a local, make loads of new international friends and above all contribute then please, just do it!

This post was written by Jop Heuvelmans. Jop went on a voluntary project powered by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth. 

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