You’re Forgetting to Do This One Essential Thing While Traveling and Volunteering Overseas

Mark Horoszowski

Mark is the Co-founder of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform connecting people who want to volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations.

We see it over and over again… people have incredible international travel and volunteer experiences, but they forget to do one essential thing: REFLECT.

Honest self reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success and freedom

-Trudy Vesotsky

Writing
Reflection is not only proven to enhance learning, but also to improve happiness.

Through reflection students analyze concepts, evaluate experiences, and form opinions. Critical reflection provides students with the opportunity to examine and question their beliefs, opinions, and values. It involves observation, asking questions, and putting facts, ideas, and experiences together to derive new meaning and new knowledge.1

 

When engaging in an international volunteer experience, or any international trip for that matter, try these 3 easy tips to reflect on your experience:

FIRST: Find a Format for Your Reflection

For both professional and personal reasons, you should consider keeping an online journal or blog to document your international trip.  As a professional, it will be an interesting portfolio and reflection of the things you learn; as an Experteer the act of reflecting will help you be more successful;  personally, it is an easy and rewarding way to keep everyone you care about updated on your work, experience, and adventures. Depending on your web skills, here are some recommendations:

Easiest A little more work The must customizable and unique
Use Facebook Notes and pictures with captions to document your experience. Setup a Medium or Tumblr account to easily write about and share your experience online. Build your own custom blog on WordPress so you can customize the format in which you write and publish.

SECOND: Use the 4C’s

Continuous, Connected, Challenging, and Contextualized reflection will help give you a framework for more powerful reflecting:

  1. Continuous in time frame – Keep active journal entries in your medium of choice. When you are not actively writing, think about the work you’re doing and how you might end up writing about it.
  2. Connected to the intellectual and academic needs of those involved – Think about the things you are trying to learn, and keep your reflections consistent with that.
  3. Challenging to assumptions and complacency – Be honest and open, and write down the highs and lows of your experience..
  4. Contextualized in terms of design and setting – Consider keeping a theme across your reflections, either personal or professional, and maintain that.

THIRD: Share It and Get Feedback

The  more you share your work, the better. Not only your highlights, but also the lows of your experience, the challenges you overcome, and the things you learn along the way. In addition to the obvious channels that you’ll want to share with, like family and friends, also share with strangers, fellow international volunteers, and alumni.

  • Struggling with a specific challenge? Post your question to a forum or LinkedIn group to relevant experts
  • Accomplish something significant? Email a global development organization or other relevant organizations to share your work
  • Have an interesting learning or thought-starter? Share it with past teachers and mentors
  • Have a cool story? Let us know at MovingWorlds and we’ll help amplify it
  • Looking for connections? Find other volunteers on travel forums, through travel bloggers, on Twitter, and other international online groups (i.e. Expat groups) and share your work

 

In Summary…

While you are traveling and/or Experteering, it can be tough to slow down, pause, and reflect on the work you are doing, and even harder to take the time to document your work with pictures and words. However, reflecting is an essential part of your experience. Documenting your work, and what you learn in the process, will not only help the experience be more impactful for you, but it will help others be successful, too.
1 The Importance of Reflection in Service-Learning: http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/documents/Complete%20Guide%20to%20Reflection.pdf

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