An article from Student Traveler´s webpage

Why would you ever work for free

By: Eric Tiettmeyer

Volunteer Abroad

Why would you ever work for free? It seems everyone who has, loved it. Is it for you, and if so, what should you do?

The thought of working for free in another country seems to surprise many college students who are asked about it. “Why volunteer abroad,” they ask, “when I can easily get a paid job?” That is easier said than done, of course. Although a paid job abroad can be an excellent way to fund an extended travel excursion as well as gain professional experience, it also requires significant effort to land such a job. Researching positions, sending resumes, and hardest of all, figuring out international hiring laws and regulations make a job search abroad very difficult. In Europe, for example, members of the European Union are given preference when applying for a job, making an applicant from the U.S. fight an uphill battle. People interested in working abroad often turn to volunteering instead of searching for paid positions.

While many people envision volunteering abroad as working two years in a developing country on basic necessities, there are a variety of alternatives and opportunities worldwide to fit any person’s motivations. Volunteers circumvent the difficult legal battles and paperwork hassles of permanent hires by going through volunteer organizations that have already established ties with host countries. Opportunities exist to enhance your professional skills while volunteering, much like an internship. Volunteers usually have flexible schedules that allow personal exploration of a region. Volunteers feel it is one of the best ways to interact with a community in an environment where one feels they are making a difference. Probably the single most powerful aspect of volunteering is that while one does not get paid in cash for work, experience and satisfaction never have poor exchange rates.

The reasons for working abroad in a paid or unpaid opportunity vary from person to person. However, for the most part, a large motivation is to incorporate a love of travel. According to Ron Krannich, author of Jobs for People Who Love to Travel “Rather than seek just any job, they want jobs that enable them to pursue a unique and enjoyable lifestyle where travel plays a central role.” With that in mind, the motivations to go abroad should not land someone in a full-time job without the flexibility to travel. Clearly though, the choice to volunteer abroad is more complicated than that. Below are five motivations and advantages to volunteering abroad.

1. Helping out. The desire to help other people in an immediate, hands-on experience is the root from which all volunteer efforts grow.

2. Flexible schedules. Because many students work abroad as an excuse to travel the world, volunteering usually offers more flexibility. Paid jobs abroad are not much different than in the U.S.- 40 hours, 5 days a week. For the avid traveler, this puts a damper on expected travel time.

3. Integrating with the local culture. Volunteer opportunities offer unique experiences in working with local residents. Whether the volunteer position is in a humanitarian environment or not, you are likely to work with a diverse group during your stay. According to Sunil Oommen, formerly of Cross Cultural Solutions, “Volunteering is about learning culture sensitivity and learning other cultures. You discover the true treasures, which are the people.” In addition, volunteering abroad opens a unique window on your own culture and challenges the way you’ll see it upon returning.
When faced with no first-world luxuries such as running water, electricity, most people come to appreciate what they have at home. However, one also comes to appreciate the sophistication and education locals have, which begins to erase stereotypes. According to Kate Shackword, of Operation Crossroads Africa, volunteering makes people “look at the roots of their miseducation.”

4. Easy placement/paperwork. Volunteer organizations are likely to place you in a safer, more organized opportunity than what you may find searching for a paid job or volunteering on your own. Because they take care of all the placement, it’s easier for the volunteer to adapt to a new culture rather than deal with the bureaucracy and politics of working abroad.

5. Volunteering pays, sort of. Volunteer organizations, usually acting as non-profit organizations, do charge participant fees to go abroad. This often confounds a potential volunteer who holds the attitude, “I’m working for free already, why should I pay?” But if one looks at the overall costs for travelling abroad, as well as the services, connections and opportunities offered, volunteering fees may be worth their weight in gold