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The Ultimate Guide to an Internship Abroad vs Volunteering Abroad

Internship vs volunteering

Internship vs volunteering: Which one is right for you?

You’re approaching your break period and there are hundreds of options available to travel abroad and further your life experience and career prospects. Problem is, it can be hard to differentiate which opportunity is right for you. Like, am I better to intern or volunteer abroad? And, what’s the difference between the two opportunities?

The experts at IVHQ and IAHQ (read out about IVHQ’s sister company) have teamed up to provide you with a comprehensive guide on taking an internship abroad vs volunteering abroad. You might just be surprised which one is right for you…

What is Volunteering Abroad?

Volunteering comes in many different forms. We are all familiar with lending a hand within our school or sports club. There are consistent mutual benefits that are exchanged - all adding up to create a better community and a better you. Volunteering abroad is no different, you’re just adding to the experience by going global. You’ll have the opportunity to understand and collaborate across cultures, languages and ways of thinking to develop your global fluency.

As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll also work with local teams on volunteer projects that have a long-term community focus. Allowing you to make a positive impact whether you volunteer for 24 weeks or for short and immersive programs that can be taken from 1 week.

Internship vs volunteering - construction

As a volunteer what will I end up doing?

So why would you choose to volunteer abroad? Well, no matter your life situation or experience, volunteering abroad allows you to take your skills into a community that requires supplementary support across a range of projects. The best part about it is the shared exchange that takes place. Working in a foreign community allows you to expand your perspective on the world, learn from others and do your part to give back at the same time.

IVHQ streamlines this process once you’ve applied and registered to confirm your volunteer trip by placing you on the community project where you are needed most. Because of this community focus you can either choose your volunteer abroad trip based on a destination you want to explore or filter your options by the type of volunteer work you want to take part in. Here you can explore over 15 skill based project types or 50+ destinations around the world.

Living abroad as a volunteer

We wouldn’t provide you with the opportunity to go abroad without supporting you throughout your volunteer efforts. The moment you step off the plane, one of our local team members will be there to pick you up from the airport and take you to your accommodation, which consists of volunteer style hostels or local homestays (depending on the destination you volunteer abroad in). Day to day you will be supported by the local coordinator and placement staff while volunteering. They’re also super helpful when it comes to planning adventures in your home away from home.

Internship vs volunteering - living abroad

What are the key benefits of volunteering?

  • Helping on a positive community driven project
  • Global connection
  • Hands on experience
  • Collective involvement
  • Personal growth

What services are available with IVHQ?

  • 1 week minimum time commitment
  • Over 50 destinations
  • Over 15 skill and career based options
  • Fees from US$180
  • Tailored pre departure support
  • Included Accommodation - Meals* - Transport
  • Weekend travel and experience add-ons

*Dependant on destination selection

Internship vs volunteering - placement

What is an Internship Abroad?

When we think of a traditional internship, it can lead to thoughts of being office bound and working 9 - 5 within the confines of your hometown, while juggling all of your regular responsibilities on the side. Enter the wonderful world of an internship abroad. This is the opportunity to experience relevant and goal-oriented opportunities in an international setting, which builds your cultural intelligence, global network, employability, and even foreign language proficiency. You get all of this whilst having the incredible opportunity to explore the world around you.

What kind of internship can I take abroad?

Taking an internship abroad may sound daunting, but it’s easier than you think. IAHQ simplifies the process and provides you with all the support you need to secure your customized internship placement. This is based on the wide range of career field options that Intern Abroad HQ has available. Throughout your internship, you’ll also remain supported by IAHQ. We provide internships that are focused on soft-skill development, so they include an academic experiential learning framework. This covers weekly guided reflections, and each module is associated with themes, objectives, and skills related back to your career focus.

Internship vs volunteering - medical

Living abroad as an intern

Now that we have covered off the academic side of your internship, you’re probably wondering how we will take care of you whilst you’re abroad. Don’t worry, it’s all part of your internship package. Once in-country, your internship program includes accommodation (in homestays or share houses with other interns). You’re supported day-to-day by your internship coordinator, supervisor, and other on-the-ground team members who provide you with friendly ongoing guidance, plus help with scheduling extras such as tourism excursions or language lessons.

What are the key benefits of an internship?

  • Career readiness
  • Global networks
  • Cultural intelligence
  • Professional growth

What services are available with IAHQ?

  • 2 week minimum time commitment
  • Over 10 country options
  • Over 20 career focused fields
  • Fees from US$545
  • Tailored pre departure support
  • Guided reflection work
  • Accommodation - *Meals - Transport

*Varies between destinations

What’s the difference between internship and volunteer opportunities?

Now that we’ve established what volunteering abroad and internships abroad look like, we’ll make things a little clearer for you and contrast the difference between the two via this handy infographic:

Internship vs volunteering - volunteer

Internship vs volunteering - internship

Directly comparing a volunteer program to an internship

With the above information, we’ll help by putting this into a practical application and contrast between a popular volunteering program and a popular internship destination. That way you can see how your time abroad would vary.

Healthcare volunteering in Tanzania

  • Start Date: 1st and 15th Monday of each month - year round
  • Minimum Duration: 1 week
  • Registration + Program Fee: Starting from US$649
  • Inclusions: Airport pick up, Orientation, Meals, Accommodation
  • Optional Additions: Tours

Weekly structure and requirements:

  • 2nd year and above
  • 15+ hours a week volunteering
  • Shadowing local doctors
  • Work based in clinics and hospitals
  • Hands on work determined by level of study

Medical internship in Tanzania

  • Start Date: Starts every Monday - year round
  • Minimum Duration: 2 weeks
  • Registration + Program Fee: Starting from US$909
  • Inclusions: Learning Support Service, Airport pick up, Orientation, Meals, Accommodation
  • Optional Additions: Language lessons and tours

Weekly structure and requirements:

  • 2nd year and above
  • 25+ hours a week interning with experiential learning curriculum
  • Specialised department placement
  • Shadowing local doctors and nurses
  • Work based in clinics and hospitals
  • Hands on work determined by level of study

Internship vs volunteering

Do I have the option to volunteer and intern abroad?

Yes, you can do both. The option is completely up to you! Some individuals will take an internship and others will volunteer. The opportunity is also there to take part in both.

It’s the subtle difference in focus that separates an internship from volunteering, but there are some consistent benefits that are shared.


  • Cultural immersion
  • Personal and career growth opportunities
  • Flexible time commitments
  • Affordable options
  • Dedicated expert support
  • Proven safety record
  • Global community


So should I intern or volunteer?

If you’re looking to take an experience that primarily focuses on career development and exposure to your professional field, with the potential to gain credit or broaden your skills then an internship is what you seek.

If you’re looking to gain life experience in a less formal environment, immersed in a new culture, surrounded by like minded individuals set on self discovery and giving back, then volunteering is the right option for you.

For some it can be clear cut what direction they’re looking to go down. For others it can be one in the same, so there is no wrong decision in picking one over the other.

All this information is great! Now what?

If you’re thinking volunteering abroad is right for you, get in touch with our travel experts:

If an internship abroad is in your future, contact our internship experts:

Discover the full range of short term volunteer abroad programs with IVHQ, or apply today to take a meaningful volunteer trip with IVHQ.

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How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!