Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top 5 things international volunteers miss about home

“When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you are having an adventure you wish you were safe at home” – Thornton Wilder. After staying for some period of time volunteers start to miss home. Even though they are used to the environment they are in and they are comfortable, after sometime volunteers start missing home. There are moments when they sit back and realize how much they miss home, the little things and the big things that they took for granted. That is when they feel they should start packing and take the next plane or bus home. It doesn’t matter whether the volunteers are in developed countries or third world countries. It reaches a point when they want familiarity and the comforts of home. Here are a couple of things volunteers who are abroad are going to miss:

Family and friends

Family and friends include spouses, and kids; close and distant relatives; boyfriends and girlfriends; best friends and acquaintances; and pets. Volunteers all get used to family being close to them. Even though the volunteers have moved out of their home or they are in college or university. The idea of family being a few hours away is a comfort to many. While the volunteer is abroad they miss the company of their friends and family. They feel at a loss when they miss out on events that shape the lives of their friends and families like weddings, birthdays, holidays, funerals and hospital visits. However many new friends the volunteer will make while they are abroad, they will not come close to the friends they had since childhood. Some volunteers have tight knit families and they miss the family members from the grandparents to the aunt and uncles. Even with the advent of new technology that keeps people connected from facebook to Skype it’s not enough to really keep in touch with somebody.


While volunteering abroad in an exotic country the volunteers will have the pleasure of eating delicious food. They will be able to eat the local delicacies in the restaurants, streets and home cooked meals. The meals unique to a country cannot be properly duplicated. Although they have the benefit of the local meals the volunteers will still miss food they were brought up eating. Apart from those, there are recipes in which the volunteers’ mothers used to make that can’t be found in the host country they are in. In addition there are brands, types of food that the volunteer is used and it’s made differently for example whole wheat bread. The biggest challenge is if the volunteer is a vegetarian meaning that they won’t have much of a variety to choose them.


Experiencing new cultures is one of the highlights of volunteering abroad. It’s great to see how other people observe certain holidays, and how they carry themselves from day to day. Although there could be some parts of the local cultures that the volunteers find hard to deal with for example in some African countries they still practice female genital mutilation. In addition when the volunteers are in another country they get to appreciate their local culture and customs. Like how when the volunteers are at home they know how people would behave in certain situations like helping someone when everyone else has ignore the sick person. At home people could open doors for women, pull out chairs, smile at strangers, and give up their seats to the elderly and pregnant women, while abroad the local people won’t do the same things.

Public transport

When the volunteers are at home they are used to the public transport. They are used to using public trains, buses and taxis. Sometimes the volunteers have the luxury of owning their own cars meaning they can go to anyplace they want very comfortably. When they go abroad the first thing they get to see is the public transport. They get to see how different it is from their own. With the public transport come road signs that are sometime difficult to discern.


While doing volunteer work abroad, the volunteers will be staying in a homestay, group home, hostel or dorm they will be sleeping on strange beds. They long the opportunity to sleep on their own, comfortable bed with sheets nobody else has slept on. With their own bed comes privacy which is hard to come by while they are volunteering abroad.

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