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There are many ways for people to fulfill an inner desire to make the world a better place. For some people, it is enough to show up to the occasional 5K or write a check. There is another subsector of our society, however, who chooses to dedicate years of their life to assist in a much more demanding way through volunteerism abroad. This concept also exists domestically with nonprofit groups such as Americorps, but for people who want to take things a step further and dive into a completely unknown culture, there are international volunteer groups like the Peace Corps and the United Nations. It is very easy to only see the upside to a selfless gesture like this, but it is very important to not offend anybody or expose yourself to dangers while living abroad. This can happen unwittingly and is a perfect example of good intentions being misunderstood. 

Throughout the interview process, you will be asked a series of questions. There is also a written essay portion and a series of psychological assessments.  This is all carefully designed to match you with the best possible volunteer site. The more upfront and honest you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be for you. Once you have your assignment, it is common to have time to prepare before departure. This is to help volunteers tie up any loose ends, purchase necessary supplies, and educate themselves on their destination country. Most professional organizations will already have a playbook for the country, but it is always a good thing to accumulate your own knowledge. 

Although it seems irrelevant, it’s important to keep your ego separate from your work. It is very easy to convince yourself that you are personally doing more than you actually are. No matter how special you envision your purpose, Keep being self-aware to really understand your role while volunteering. Unless you are a qualified medical professional, carpenter, architect, or someone of value to the native population in a specific trade, you are there to follow the strict guidelines handed out to volunteers. These can seem limiting and frustrating, but they are in place for a good reason. Overstepping your bounds can lead to injury, mistrust, and a delay in projects that will end up defeating the whole endeavor.