Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lessons learnt while volunteering abroad

“You are not in Kansas anymore.” Is a famous quote from the story the wizard of Oz. It’s the same feeling most international volunteers feel when they are volunteering abroad. However much a person has travelled and places a person has been to, there are always new experiences and new lessons to be learnt while you are abroad. At home we get used to the way things are and how they should be. When we go abroad everything changes, for example if you are used to eating using forks and knives, there are other places like in Africa where they mostly use their hands to eat. In Japan and china people use mostly chopsticks for their meals. As an international volunteer you will see how people do things differently and since you can’t change them you will have to change yourself and adjust to the new conditions. Here are a couple of lessons you will learn while you volunteer abroad

About yourself
When you are volunteering abroad, you will get to have a new cultural experience and see how that part of the world is. You will see their traditions, customs and their beliefs. When you are exposed to their virtues, values and vices you get to appreciate your culture more. You will see how different your culture is from theirs. While you are abroad, you will learn new things about yourself that you didn’t know. You will find out how you don’t so many things. You will learn to be more flexible, and it will be easier for you to adjust to new conditions. You will learn how to get by with less and make the most of what you have. You will be able to come up with creative solutions and out of the box like thinking to solve problems. At the end of your volunteer work you will be more mature and more adept to understanding situations. Generally you will become a better human being and learn to be patient in order to get along with people

If you want to learn a language properly, going to a country that speaks the language will be the fastest way to do it. If you want to speak Spanish, going to Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries will help you grasp the language faster. Being there will give you a chance to learn and practice the language. When you are in third world countries you will be able to pick up other local languages that are spoken. For example in Kenya they official language is English but they also speak Kiswahili and when you volunteer in Kenya you will be able to pick up the Kiswahili language as well. Learning to speak various languages will put you in a better position and you will be able to work anywhere while at the same time travel to any part of the world.

While you volunteer abroad you will always be conscience of your safety. You would have known how to keep your important things safe from being stolen and how to keep yourself from harm. You will also know how to avoid problems that could comprise your safety. For example as a lady you will know it’s not advisable not to wear too much jewelry as they will attract negative attention. Also you would know which clothes that would offend the local people. Being abroad teaches you how to interact with local without leading to disputes and also helps you in problem solving.

There will always be good and bad days wherever you are. Good days are awesome especially in a new place. Bad days are much worse while you are abroad because you don’t know how to react in such situations. A bad day could be like when you lose important documents or have a bad encounter with one of the locals. In such occasions you will learn ways to solve your problems and moving on. One of my favorite ways is stepping back, laugh at the situation then you will be able to come up with a solution. Smiling with people also helps to solve problems that you could be having with people. As foreigners travelling in a country it is best to stay positive even though our situation could be dire.
Document your experience
Volunteers keep blogs, websites, journals, photos and videos to document their travel experience. Later on in life many past volunteer wish that they took more photos or wrote more to remind them of their experience. Doing all this will be great especially if you are telling your friend s about your trip abroad.

For more information and great deals on volunteering in Africa visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org/kenya.aspx

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