Maybe volunteering while studying abroad isn’t something you thought about until this post. I know I wasn’t thinking about it until a few weeks into being at the university I was studying at in Melbourne. I thought, “I’m abroad, how will I have time to volunteer?” We all know that volunteering is an incredibly meaningful experience, but how do you find time for it?
If you’re looking to have a bit of stability in the hectic and chaotic time that inevitably is study abroad, finding a weekly or bi-weekly volunteer opportunity is a great idea. It is also a wonderful way to connect with the local community. Apart from experiencing the Australian education system, through volunteering you will interact with locals on a different level, doing something meaningful for the community. It is such an interesting way to learn about the people, their values, and how they interact with one another.
I found my volunteer opportunities through the University of Melbourne. Make sure to attend your school’s club and activities fair, if they have one, because this is a great way to learn about all the opportunities for volunteering. I was interested in health foods, and found an opportunity to volunteer weekly at the student-run food co-op in the university’s union. This was an awesome way to meet like-minded people, serve the community some delicious, healthy food, and feel like I had some structure during my semester abroad.
The housing offered through TEAN in Melbourne also had some volunteer opportunities that I took advantage of. Through the student housing, I was able to participate in a local soup kitchen serving food to those in need at Sacred Heart Mission in St. Kilda. This was a truly humbling experience. There will be times during your period abroad, when you don’t want to do anything, when you don’t want to spend your money on some touristy thing. Volunteering is a great way to experience the place you’re living in, from a different perspective. You will engage in a different kind of way, and you will feel good about it. Trust me.
So, if you are looking for a little more than just the school and weekend travel, get involved locally. Seek out opportunities online in your city or town, participate in a soup kitchen, see what your school has to offer, talk to the local students, even talk to people you meet on working holidays, because let me tell you, they’re everywhere in Australia!
If you do decide to volunteer at least once while abroad, it’ll be worth it. It is a wonderful and enriching learning experience.