Volunteering abroad allows students to share their time and skills while helping a community and gaining a cross-cultural experience. UWL does not have affiliated volunteer abroad programs, but we can provide information to help you identify resources and tools that will help you determine which program is the best fit for you and for the community that you hope to serve.

International Volunteering Program Association

The International Volunteering Program Association (IVPA) is a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting awareness and access to quality volunteer abroad programs. They offer a list of standards that will help you determine the quality of a program. Use these standards as guidance when looking for an international volunteer opportunity. 

UWL Peace Corps Prep expanding section

If you are interested in volunteering abroad for an extended period of time, you might want to consider the Peace Corps. As a UWL student, you can begin preparing for this experience through the UWL Peace Corps Prep program.

Program Considerations expanding section

Expectations

It is important to take some time to establish realistic expectation for both your personal expectations and for the volunteer program. One of the key elements of a good volunteer program is that the project addresses the actual needs of the community, so you may not always be placed on the project of your preference, but on the project your help is more needed. It is also important to be aware that you may not make an immediate impact that is visible while you are there, but rather in the long term.

Program Fees 

Oftentimes people are surprised to learn that volunteer organizations charge program fees. It is important to understand that everything that goes into hosting and supporting an international volunteer cost money. Therefore, the fee you pay helps mitigate the costs of in-country assistance, programmatic support, food and accommodation, airport pickup, and more. Make sure to ask what is included in the program fee and what additional expenses can be expected. You can also ask the organization for a breakdown of how your program fee will be used.

Program Length 

Programs may last from a week to a few months. Since volunteer programs are almost always unpaid, consider how long you can afford to be abroad without an income. Visas may also restrict the amount of time you can spend in a country.

Support 

Are you an experienced traveler or traveling abroad for the first time? Based on your own comfort level, consider how much support you will need before and during the experience when choosing a program. For example, think about how much support you need with the process in general, the visa process (if needed), language translation, arrival, and transportation.  

Accommodations 

Housing options vary and where you stay may affect the level of language you will need, and the cultural immersion you will experience. Programs may offer homestay or they may group volunteers together in a home, apartment, or hostel. Make sure you understand what kind of accommodation is offered in the program before you commit.

Volunteer Colleagues 

Ask about with whom you will be working. You may be volunteering with other U.S. volunteers or volunteers from around the world. Your volunteer group may consist of students or non-students. Or you may work more with community members, which in some cases will require language proficiency.  

How to Get Started expanding section
  1. Reflect on your goals and expectations. What are you hoping to gain/give with this experience? How much support you need?
  2. Review the IVPA list of standards so that you know what to look for in a program.   
  3. Start your search for volunteering opportunities with providers UWL already works with on education abroad programs as many of them also offer volunteering opportunities. Since volunteering abroad is a non-credit experience, IEE will not endorse providers or be involved in the process.
  4. Search for programs using other search engines. 

Resources

Why You Should Pay to Volunteer Abroad

5 Inspiring Reason to Volunteer Abroad

5 Types of Volunteer Programs & How to Pick the Right One 

 

Disclaimer: Providing information about international volunteer opportunities does not constitute an endorsement by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse or International Education & Engagement. International Education & Engagement is not an agent for these programs and does not guarantee their quality.