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What to expect when you join a volunteer program overseas

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: June 17, 2022

GVI’s volunteer programs are for anyone who wants to make a difference. They’re a chance for you to make an impact in areas of sustainable development – but they also have a major impact on you. 

Volunteer programs offer more than the chance to do meaningful work. Student internships and summer volunteer opportunities are also an opportunity to see the world, meet like-minded people, grow your independence and have fun. 

Joining a volunteer program also makes travelling overseas for the first time, to adventurous destinations, a lot easier. You’ll be given support from booking through to flying home again. Plus, living life on a volunteer base gives you a chance to really get to know what life is like in the local area. 

So, what is it really like to volunteer overseas with GVI? Here is what you can expect when joining a volunteer program. 


You’ll have a support team to answer every question you have



Taking the leap into an overseas adventure can feel daunting – naturally, you’ll have a lot of questions. Support for joining a GVI volunteer program starts well before you leave. Having GVI’s team on hand helps to take away a huge amount of stress. 

Between an information-packed webinar two weeks before you depart, to WhatsApp groups with helpful reminders and answers to your questions, the GVI support team is there to guide you through every step of your trip. 

You don’t need to worry about travel details – from what to pack, to what visas and vaccination requirements you need, the support team will have you covered. Which will leave you more time to connect with other volunteers before departure! On the pre-departure call, you can find out who is on your flights, swap social media handles and start to get to know each other.


And you’ll be welcomed by friendly faces as soon as you arrive



Landing in a new country is a sensory flood. Those first moments as you emerge from the airport and are plunged into new surroundings with new sights, sounds and smells, can be overwhelming. Being met by a friendly face makes the transition into your host country a lot easier. It’s also the moment when the adventure really begins. 

After being collected at the airport, you’ll be escorted to the base where you’ll be staying. You might be travelling by minibus, ferry, songthaew, taxi or any other mode of transportation. On the way, you might catch your first glimpses of jungles, cities or wildlife you’ve only ever seen in photos. 


A daily schedule means you’ll always know what you’re doing 



While you settle in, a daily schedule written up on a whiteboard helps you get the hang of life on base. You’ll always know roughly what’s on the agenda for the day ahead.  

Your daily schedule might include things like breakfast, a light hike, a theory study session and a few hours of practical work on your chosen project, followed by dinner and games on base. It might even include making weekend plans with your new friends around the fire. 

A debrief before or after dinner in the evening keeps you up to date with the next day’s activities. 


It’s not all hard work and no play



Although you might have chosen to volunteer abroad to tackle serious issues like gender inequality or the biodiversity crisis, student internships and summer volunteer opportunities with GVI aren’t all hard work. 

Games, nicknames, photo competitions, quiz nights and birthday celebrations; there is always something happening and laughs to be had while you’re on base. The GVI team organise a steady stream of fun activities which will help you to get to know your fellow volunteers even better. 


Your experience on base will be just as memorable as your time spent on your project



Whether you choose to volunteer programs in marine conservation in Mexico, student internships in community development in Cambodia or summer volunteer opportunities with elephants in Thailand, the base where you stay will be just as memorable as the project you take part in. 

From movie gardens set amongst tropical leaves, to well-stocked libraries and breezy common areas complete with cards and board games, GVI’s bases are set up so you have plenty of opportunities to relax and share time with your fellow volunteers. Some of your best memories will be from your time on base. 


You’ll get to experience local life



Joining a volunteer program isn’t like travelling through a country for a couple of weeks. With more time spent settled into one place, you’ll get a feel for the local rhythms, customs and ways of life. You’ll have time to shop at local markets, play sports with local kids and learn some of the local language. 


You’ll have plenty of time to explore



Joining a volunteer program is an opportunity to explore some of the most biodiverse and beautiful countries in the world.

Visit local lakes and waterfalls, see stunning beaches and hike up mountains. When you’re based in locations such as Seychelles, Fiji or Costa Rica, adventure opportunities are abundant. 

From stargazing to watching sunrises and sunsets over surreal landscapes, you’ll constantly be finding new reasons to be awed. 


You’ll form incredible friendships



Spending time with people from around the world, working hard toward meaningful goals and sharing plenty of downtime together, means you’ll create incredible bonds with other volunteers.

Whether sitting around a fire at base sharing stories about your best travel adventures and worst dates, or organising weekends away and nights out, everything you experience will draw you closer together. 

People who choose summer volunteer opportunities or student internships all share a similar mindset. You’ll meet people who are passionate about making the world better, embracing adventure, pushing their limits and learning new things, all while having a good time. You can expect to gain some fantastic travel buddies, whether for weekend adventures during your volunteer program or for future trips!


With group chats and reunions, the fun doesn’t stop once you leave



Volunteering abroad will have a lasting impact on you . As well as everything you learn and achieve in your time overseas, you will make life-long friendships. Many volunteers keep in touch via lively group chats once they leave and organise reunions in their home countries. 

So you can look forward to keeping in touch with other epic humans, and reliving some of your best memories with each other while on base. 

Volunteering abroad can be a life-changing experience. Start your journey now by exploring all of GVI’s award-winning student internships and summer volunteer opportunities. 

We understand that you may have questions about how COVID-19 will affect your travel plans. Visit our FAQs page which explains our latest safety protocols in response to COVID-19. 

Disclaimer The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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