At MovingWorlds, we’ve helped people volunteer over a 1/2 million dollars worth of professional skills during international volunteering engagements. In doing so, we’ve specialized in helping people make the most out of these trips. Here are two easy and free ways that you can adopt to help you reach your goals while volunteering overseas:
1. Find a Personal Coach
One of the most underutilized, easy, and free resources is a friend who can act as a type of “coach” to help you have a powerful trip. You don’t need anything formal, but it is important to find someone who knows about you, the trip you’re taking, and why you’re taking it. This person will be an invaluable resource to you while acting as a sounding board for ideas, holding you accountable on things you commit to, and helping you problem solve around any number of challenges that may arise on your trip. Here are some thought-starters to help you find a coach, and engage in a meaningful partnership:
| WHO – A work mentor, motivated friend, colleague, family member, or existing sports or business coach.
| WHAT – Share your personal goals (like what you hope to learn, experience, and try). Also share the project and goals of the organization you’re going to support.
| WHEN – Start coaching sessions as soon as you start planning your trip so your coach can help you focus your intention. Stay engaged with your coach after you to return to support you as you assimilate back to your home culture and way of life.
| HOW – Depending on length of trip, we recommend you setup a periodic Skype call or email where you share your experience, and how you’re tracking towards your goals. In addition to talking about challenges related to the work, also share personal highs and lows.
2. Document Your Journey in a Public Place
Whether it is through Facebook photos, an email list, or your own blog, writing about your experience is a great way to pause, reflect, and document the experiences you have and the things you learn through them. Not only does writing help you retain information – to teach is to learn twice – but the act of writing, especially of things you are grateful for, is actually proven to increase your satisfaction and experience.
Here are a couple samples of some of our Experteers:
- Upload Facebook photos with beautiful captions
- Write individual posts on an existing blog. Here is a sample from Jamie who spent almost 3 months in South America: 10 weeks in 70 words
- Setup a new blog for your Experteering adventure, like this one from an Experteering couple, Dan and Lynn who are on year two of their Experteering adventure
- Post Twitter updates of things you learn, like this from Liz who supported startups in the Middle East on a two week trip
In summary, we found that people have the best experience when they clearly set their intentions for engaging in international volunteering, have a real person to turn to for help, and document their progress and experiences. If you want more tips for volunteering overseas, check out our popular article: 7 things I wish I knew about international volunteering before spending a year doing it.