"I wanted to provide a rich experience for my nephew, Tate, who had just graduated from high school. I wanted him to have the richness of immersion into a culture that’s very different from ours in the U.S. Even though I gave Tate the choice of which country to go to, my only conditions were that whatever we did had an educational and a service component to it.”- Jeff Coffey, Ghana parks and conservation volunteer
Reading and exploring other cultures in books and other media is a great opportunity to learn, but there is just something about being immersed in the life of another country that is unlike any other way to learn. Jeff knew that he could help his nephew understand that. As a young person, this is the time to be adventurous. This is the time to get outside of your comfort zone and develop your perspectives of the world by traveling and volunteering through it. Between 16 and 19, you’re at a crucial point of being able to easily absorb information and be influenced by those communities around you. You’ve probably yet to develop deep biases or ingrained misunderstandings about other cultures and places in the world that adults can have. You’re also in a stage of your life where you still have long breaks from school and few financial or family obligations you can’t “pause.”
When you travel with a volunteer abroad program, you’ll have an independent experience with a knowledgeable support system to guide you on your journey. And you’ll find the best project placement for you will be based on your personality and skills:
Are You Patient?
A teaching project is perfect for young volunteers who like to work with children and have patience when helping others. This project is group-based––so you won’t be standing in front of students alone. You’ll work with teachers to be a classroom assistant, most likely teaching basic language and math skills to young students. You won’t have to have any certifications or previous teaching experience because you’re not the one leading the education. You’re the supplementation and extra hands teachers need to give students more interaction with those who can guide their studies. Depending on how you adjust and the classroom size, you could also work with students one-on-one.
A teaching experience could be the right fit for you if you might be interested in a career in education, childcare, or social sciences. You’ll learn to interact with young learners in a place where they are eager to grow and in-need of your formal English skills to further their own!
Do You Love Being Outdoors?
In a building and construction project, you’ll learn what it’s like to help build and rebuild communities in need. With orientation and instruction, you’ll get your hands dirty––creating a tangible product that will provide a home or community space for the people you work with. And you’ll also walk away with incredibly practical, handy skills to carry with you in your future, like using tools and small home repairs.
If you can’t get enough of nature, or think you might consider a career in architecture, conservation, construction, design, engineering, or city and community planning––a volunteer placement in construction might be for you.
Are You Athletic?
Sports education is a great place for young volunteers who are full of energy. You can channel this into teaching school-aged children about sports and healthy living. Sports education is one of our most active volunteer abroad programs, making it a fun environment for giving back and helping others. From teaching children games to helping them understand why an active life is so important, you’ll act as their role model.
This placement might be a great fit for you if you’ve thought about teaching/instructing sports, studying healthcare or fitness, or if you simply love to be competitive and active.
Find the Right Volunteer Abroad Organization
Volunteer abroad programs who cater to teens will have some flexibility and modifications in place for younger travelers. They will recognize that this could be the first time you’ve traveled solo, with a group of friends but no parents, or simply out of your home country. To help you adjust, they should have 3 main things:
A comprehensive orientation process in place for your first days in the country
Opportunities for you to meet local teens your age, possibly even working with them in what’s called a “mixed project”
Activities or tours to help you get to know the other volunteers better, explore the country, and see more of what the culture is really about
Daily supervision and monitoring at all times
Are you ready to experience the world around you first-hand? Here is your opportunity to understand the world from the inside, not by simply watching it on television or reading about it in a book or online. These volunteer abroad programs and projects should utilize your personality and help you accelerate your active, experiential learning.