Don’t just visit, volunteer

There are several reasons why you might find yourself sitting alone at Slocum’s Bar and Grill one night this semester. One could be that you are horrible to bowl with. Maybe all of your friends are studying abroad and you can’t. If it’s the second reason, you’re not alone.

Many students at the College may find it difficult to fulfill graduation requirements at international universities. However, going abroad can be a worthwhile experience, even if the credits do not count towards graduation.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to studying abroad that will still give you the great experience of being in another country.

In many countries, volunteer opportunities exist. Groups, like the Peace Corps and Ameri-Corps can be joined for periods of two or more years.

However, not all programs require as much of a time commitment. Before you start searching for a program, decide how long you’d like to go awayfor and in what country you’d like to work.

When deciding on a country, details to take into account are language spoken, political situations and climate.

Most programs don’t require you to be fluent in the language of the country where you will going. But, adjusting to your new home will be much easier if you can speak the language, even a little.

Some programs offer language courses for an additional charge or you can always go somewhere where English is spoken.

Another important consideration is how much you will be spending on this trip. Programs range from around $800 to approximately $3,000, depending on how long you want to go for.

Although it may seem strange that you will be charged for the service you are providing, it is important to remember that the program fees usually include housing, food, support phone numbers and sometimes evenhealth insurance.

These are services that would not be free whether or not you went with a program. Unfortunately most programs do not include transportation in their fees so be conscious of these costs when picking your destination.

To start, you can enter “international volunteer programs” into any major search engine online. Remember to have a good idea how long you would like to volunteer for.

Many programs offer either short term commitments such as two to three weeks, or a long term commitment of one or more years. Only several, however, offer four to six month opportunities.

If you want to be abroad for just two or three weeks words for words such as “work camp” and “work vacation”.

These programs usually offer more vacation-like living conditions.

Often they will offer more time off from your assignment and will accommodate friends, couples or families that want to travel together.

These programs are often more expensive – usually costing about $2,000 for the whole trip not including airfare. Although that’s a lot of money, it’s still costs less than most international vacations.

If you would like to go abroad for about a semester, look for descriptions that offer job placement or teaching opportunities.

These kinds of programs usually entail living with a host family or in a dorm situation and maintaining one assignment the entire time as opposed to several different cities and assignments.

Finally, if you are interested in a commitment of a year or more, expect a different kind of involvement.

These programs often require prerequisites such as drug tests, proof that you are fluent in the language of your destination, interviews and follow-up work.

While these programs require greater commitment, they are an excellent way to jump start a career in teaching or public service.

While you may have been looking forward to partying, traveling and taking it easy while making your parents foot the bill, volunteering abroad might be just as challanging as studying abroad.

You will still be given free time to travel. And you may be living with other volunteers who want to have a good time.

You might still have time to relax even if you are teaching a class of second graders or setting up a sanctuary for leather-back turtles.

So, when you’re practicing your bowling game or perfecting the art of crossword puzzles while your friends are all abroad, check out some sites like, and

Now you have no excuse to say you’re stuck in New Jersey. Volunteer!