Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

5 Mistakes to avoid while volunteering abroad

Foreigners make mistakes while abroad, but each country is different and mistakes are not regarded as the same. While we are all human and we make mistakes most of the time, there are some mistakes that we can avoid. There are some mistakes although done subconsciously should be avoided as it affects your relationship with the people you are with and your stay in the country. The most common mistakes made while abroad are: not having insurance; not being aware of the travel policies; behaving like an arrogant tourist; not being cautious on how you address others; not being respectful to the laws; showing off; and not apologizing when you have made a mistake. As a foreigner it is best to try and avoid problems as resolving them is not easy and will make you feel victimized. The mistakes to avoid are:


While you are volunteering abroad, for a long period of time like for one month to three months you should watch your budget. It is not a short vacation where you can spend as much as you want and go back home and recover from the damage. Avoid overspending by travelling to every tourist hotspots; visiting the neighboring countries; going out to every night to pubs and restaurant; buying too many curios and souvenirs. In some occasions there have been volunteers who buy property too soon and their available budget is significantly reduced. When you are overseas, you will be on a budget and being wise with money will lead to you enjoying your vacation better. You can save money by curtailing your expenses and by making money abroad through blogging, digital nomading and having a creative online store.


Trusting people is important for friendships, but it is harder while abroad. Not everyone is trust worthy but when you are abroad you are more likely to be taken advantage of you. The local people will look at you like an ATM machine and try to take money from you. Also the other foreigners who are with you will try to take advantage of you. When you ask for advice from these people some of them will not give you the best advice for one reason or the other. Do not accept any advice you are being given whole heartedly, ask for a second opinion to make a better decision. When dealing with money issues be very careful especially with boy or girlfriend romance. You may be given the wrong advice from the people you ask not because they are malicious but because they had a different experience from you. They will be giving you advice based on their experience.


Some volunteers who are abroad spend a majority of their time communicating with their friends and family who are at home. They spend so much time communicating with them so that they don’t experience the life abroad. Due to the advent of technology keeping in touch with people is not hard. You can talk to your friends and family through facebook, twitter, Skype, Emails and many other resources. But spending too much time with your home friends will lead to you missing out on your new friends and your experience. This is especially common to volunteers who get homesick. Keep in touch with your family and friends but don’t get carried away and do it too much.


Some volunteers leave home with a predefined perception of what they are getting into. Some think the luxuries they have left behind will be found where they are going. When they arrive in the host country and they find the conditions are basic they are normally disappointed. Also when they go work in their volunteer programs they have expectations to how the work will be and the working environment. While abroad you should have an open mind and you should be flexible to the new environment and conditions. To prevent to have high and or too low of an expectation, you should ask around and talk to people who have gone where you are going. You should research the place you are going to on the internet and find out as much as you can.


As a female volunteer you are at more risk than male volunteers. When you are abroad avoid wearing flashy and attractive jewelry that would make you stand out. You should also dress appropriately to avoid offending the people with whom you are living and working with. Avoid travelling to high risk areas and try to always travel in group. You should let your embassy know you have arrived in that country and the things you will be doing.

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