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7 Reasons To Volunteer Abroad

Each year we ask us the same question “What should I do in this summer?“

We make several plans, do a lot of internet research, apply and eventually end up doing exactly the same as the summer before. This year do something different. Here are several reasons why I believe you should decide to go on a volunteering internship and have the summer of your life.

1. Exploring

Volunteering gives you a chance to explore new countries and cultures in a different way than by just travelling and sightseeing in these countries. Doing a volunteer internship shows you the country from inside out, allows you to get to know the culture, locals and their habits. You will see places and areas you would never have the possibility to go to as a tourist. Some people might have travelled the country but in doing a volunteer internship, they sometimes feel they’ve been here for the first time.

„Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.“ (Robert Frost)

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2. Connecting

Meeting many new and different people is another great aspect of volunteering. Working with young people from all over the world is a big advantage nowadays. This diversity can help you improve your soft skills and give you the opportunity to make friends across the globe. Sometimes, it’s hard to get in touch with local people as a foreigner, but as a volunteer it will be impossible not to get to know them. Another positive aspect is that for your future career, it’s important that you have the skill of adapting to different environments and work in a team with diverse people.

3. Communicating

 By communicating with people you might even soon call your friends, you’re able to improve your language skills or even learn a few words in another language. And we all know that improving language skills, especially English, is always “the yellow from the egg“.

4. Doing amazing things

 We don’t want to forget why we volunteer. Besides many positive aspects, the most important thing is that we can make a difference by helping: helping children learn English, contributing to the environment or helping the locals. For you it’s just a few weeks of exploring and helping, full of new challenges. For them it could be a life-changing interaction. Always be aware what you are able to do and change just in helping step by step.

“The world is changed by you, do something awesome!“ (Kid President)

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5. Getting to know… You

 Just dare and you will see soon that you will learn so much more about yourself than you’ve ever imagined. By volunteering you will experience so many new things and challenges. By doing so, you will truly reach and extend your limits. But in the end you will feel absolutely nothing but self-fulfilment when you look back at what you were able to do in a few weeks.

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6. Learning

After working several weeks on amazing projects and in NGO’s, you will not only improve your soft skills but also gain valuable knowledge and practical experience – for example entrepreneurial experience, which can be helpful for your personal and professional life. Volunteers don’t do it for the money; they do it for the impact.

7. Getting off the couch

Going abroad for several weeks and working there is always a challenge for oneself. You have to step outside your comfort zone and be dare, because nothing will happen if you don’t take the first step. It won’t be always easy, speaking of cultural differences and cultural shocks (be excited for our next blogpost) but you just have to break down barriers. There will always be obstacles or challenges in your life and no one can prepare you for them, but in learning how to overcome them, you will get a feeling that you’re unstoppable. So go outside, dare, challenge yourself and get the hell out of your comfort zone!

And always remember when volunteering:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“ (Neil Armstrong)

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Thomas stepping out of his comfort zone while volunteering in Ghana

Author: Julia Wünscher

8 Travel Must-Haves on your trip

It’s always hard to decide what you need to take with you on the trip. Most of the time it seems like you need to take every little thing that you have at home. You never know what is going to happen, right? But it ends up with you paying at least 50 Euros for the overload and you are shocked, because you still had a lot to put in your luggage! You haven’t even packed your favorite blanket and a full-sized pillow! And how about a full-sized umbrella? All right, let us help you to make your trip easier and joyful and not to stress out about unnecessary things.

First of all, please forget about the full-sized umbrella! Who are you, Mary Poppins? There are also free blankets and pillows aboard and in a train (just don’t forget to ask a conductor), so you better leave this stuff at home.

Now let’s pack your bag all over again!

1. Camera

A camera is one of the most important things you will need on your trip. You will want to picture all memories you are going to have during the exchange program. After the trip you can print your photographs, put them into a frame and use them to decorate your room. A good motivation to improve your photography skills! Your little pieces of art might also be the souvenirs from your trip, just use them as a postcard. Save money and don’t fill up your luggage with little statuettes of Christ the Redeemer (Brazil) or The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italy). Don’t forget an extra battery. It would be really frustrating, if your camera would turn off in the middle of the Rio-de-Janeiro parade or the Venice carnival.

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2. Comfortable sneakers

Invest in a comfortable, good quality pair of sneakers. Make sure they have good breathability and water-resistant material would also be a nice addition. Hint for the girls: You don’t need to bring five pairs of shoes; sneakers go with everything!

3. Mini sewing kit

Sewing kits can be very useful for wardrobe malfunctions, missing buttons or even for the things completely unrelated to clothing such as a quick repair of a tent or jewelry quick fix. You will realize the importance of this little lightweight travel sewing kit after fixing your favorite t-shirt for free.

4. Medicine

Don’t forget all medicines that you usually take. Just in case ask your local doctor to write a recipe in English and put a stamp on it, so you won’t have a problem buying the medicaments you need abroad. It’s important to take the medicine for food poisoning, especially if you are going to a country with totally different food cuisine. Don’t forget band-aids for small cuts and wounds. If you’re heading to a tropical place like Costa-Rica, mosquito repellent is also a good idea.

5. Essential clothing

We strongly recommend taking comfy yet smart clothes that can be mixed and matched. Clothes may look light, but they are also bulky, so it is advisable to take a minimum and what you do take should be of decent quality and fit for as many purposes as possible.

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6. Wet wipes and Hand sanitizer

Wet wipes are good for freshening up after some hard travelling or hiking, if you can’t shower or getting some of the grime of world travel off you. Hand sanitizer also comes recommended particularly if you are eating on the go and this is one thing you might struggle to find abroad.

7. Pen and Paper

A pen is always great to have on international flights, since there’s usually a landing card to fill out. Throw in a pad of paper as well and you can use all that airtime to do some work, write letters, or even play Hangman with your seatmate.

8. Smart Phone

A Smart phone includes an alarm clock, a music player, a web browser, a translator and many other useful apps. You will be able to catch Wi-Fi everywhere. Well, do we even need to explain you the importance of it?

Remember, before you pack something ask yourself if you are really going to use it. Cover all possible scenarios and make a checklist of what you need, you may even realize that you’ll need to purchase a few items before leaving.

 

Hopefully, these quick tips will help you pack your bags more efficiently for your trip.

We wish you bon voyage and keep on traveling!

Author: Aigerim Mambetova

4 Reasons to Work in an International Team

10431305_2681127749925_4296718496242939197_o-e1426172758714-500x800Ten years ago, I never would have seen myself working outside of the United States, with people who didn’t speak English as a first language, in an environment where even ordering coffee would be a challenging experience. But when in university, I joined AIESEC, an organization that makes these things possible for thousands of students in the world.

Currently I am working in Vienna, Austria,  on a team of people from Luxembourg, Germany, Serbia, Romania and Spain; and last year in Costa Rica, I worked in a team of people from Estonia, Slovakia, Colombia, India, Egypt, and Costa Rica. I went from a relatively homogeneous part of the U.S. where the biggest difference between people was where they went to high school, to working in two different countries with two different teams where every single person speaks a different language. This has been a journey that certainly has its own breed of lessons, 4 of which I found to be the most important for professional and personal growth.

1. Understanding is a first step to emotional intelligence

Everyone knows that emotional intelligence is highly valued in the workplace and especially in leadership. What people may not know is that the process to developing emotional intelligence actually requires a lot of core interactions with people who may fundamentally think differently from you.

I learned this lesson during a fight with one of my colleagues. In our disagreement, I realized that neither of us was coming from a place of bad intentions, but that he and I were simply just products of the environments of our home countries and therefore have different perspectives on many issues. Coming to this realization was the first step to solving tensions and paving the way for future positive collaborations.

Of course, this requires setting aside your own priorities and viewpoints for the greater good. This is a humbling experience that cannot be learned in books. By interacting with more and more people who think differently from you, you are able to fine-tune your interactions with them, and propel yourself to proceed in a way that benefits everyone involved.

 2. You get to re-invent yourself in your new environment

Growing up, I was always lost with what to do with my life and how to do it. Now, I can consider myself to have a purpose in my life, the passion to do it, and the structure to get it done.

This is because I was able to learn from my teammates how to find purpose, how to prioritize, and how to take action. In meetings, personal interactions, and working on projects with my colleagues, I was able to see different ways of processing information, seeing what is important, drawing conclusions and in which manner to act based on these conclusions. This was extremely vital for me to challenge my own style of critical thinking and taking action and to constantly re-polish my own purpose, passion and plans.

The best part is that I could even pick out the commonalities of working styles between different cultures. I learned how to be goal-oriented and focused from my European teammates, I learned how to be persistent from my Asian teammates and I learned how to be passionate about my work from my Latin American teammates.

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3. Being a Global Citizen doesn’t only mean travelling

I would not consider myself a well-traveled person; I have been to only around 12 countries in my lifetime. However, I feel like I’ve been able to experience many more.

When the revolutions in Egypt were happening, my Egyptian teammate spoke of the youth perceptions there. When floods took over parts of Serbia, my Serbian teammates were checking up on their families and friends. When the Russian-Ukrainian conflict grew, my Estonian teammate also spoke of concerns in her home country.

Working on an international team gives you a front-row seat to these kinds of world issues. But beyond that, you also learn about the beauties of each country that may never appear in headlines, which brings me to my next point:

4. Challenge every assumption you have about society

Perhaps to many people on Earth, Colombia would be a drug-and-violence-riddled society, but I know differently from my Medellin-raised Colombian teammate. I learned about the smart and forward thinking of people who live there, with vast skills to improve their country and contribute to the world. Perhaps to many people, Romania is full of gypsies, but I know differently from my Romanian team leader. I learned that people care about their country, want to see it improve and are willing to be the generation who accomplishes it.

I am an open person who tries not to have preconceived notions about people based on where they are from, especially as an American-born daughter of Indian immigrants. But my personal interactions with my international teams further solidified my strong desire to always challenge the formed assumptions.

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Author: Harkiran Kaur