What are the reasons to volunteer abroad for college students? Well, to gain a well-rounded education, you need to leave the classroom. Beyond those four walls, you will find different perspectives, be inspired to learn about new cultures, languages and ways of thinking - all of which will shape your own mindset, ambitions and entire life. So whether you are looking to add to your resume or push yourself outside of your comfort zone, volunteering abroad is a decision that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
Whether you’re looking for summer volunteer programs for college students or winter break opportunities, there’s a powerful experience waiting for you. Volunteering abroad as a college student will have a profound impact not only on you, but also the community you’re based in. When you volunteer abroad with IVHQ, our local team will ensure you are matched to a placement which will allow you to make a valuable contribution to your host community, while you work alongside local people and other international volunteers. IVHQ offers international volunteer programs for college students in more than 50 destinations worldwide. In each country, college students can participate on a diverse range of meaningful projects and with 300 project options in total, the opportunities are endless.
What’s more, we get that college students don’t tend to have a whole lot of money to spare. Our affordable volunteer programs are not only cheap, but they’re value for money. IVHQ volunteer programs start from as low as $20 per day including accommodation, making them affordable and accessible for volunteer college students.
What you need to know about volunteering abroad as a college student:
- Why are service trips for college students important?
- How many students volunteer abroad with IVHQ?
- Six ways to incorporate volunteering into your studies
- When can I volunteer abroad as a student?
- How to find the best service trips for college students?
Affordable international volunteer opportunities for college students in 2023 & 2024:
- NGO service trips for college students
- Teaching volunteer opportunities for college students
- Medical and Healthcare volunteering for college students
- Childcare project volunteer trips for college students
- Environment & Conservation service trips for college students
Why are service trips for college students important?
When we asked our volunteers how the experience of volunteering abroad impacted them, 83 percent said their sense of perspective had changed, while 94 percent agreed that volunteering abroad had made them more resilient. 44 percent strongly agreed that their career aspirations had changed for the better. To find out more about how volunteering abroad will impact you, read Why Should I Volunteer Abroad?
When volunteering overseas as an undergraduate, you can use your time abroad to complement your studies, grow your resume and gain hands-on experience in your chosen field. But more importantly, you’ll be using your break to make a positive difference in communities in need. Experiencing volunteer work abroad will make you more open-minded, improve your understanding of the world, let you experience cultural immersion firsthand, build your language skills and even change the course of your life!
As a college student arriving at your volunteer program, you will quickly forge a bond with the other international volunteers as you roll up your sleeves together and get stuck into your project, while traveling in your downtime and sharing plenty of laughs in between. Many of our college student volunteers travel independently, pushing them out of their comfort zone and growing their confidence. Remember, while you may be traveling solo, you will never actually be alone, and many of your fellow volunteers will become friends for life. You’ll also form strong connections with the local people you’ll be supporting and working with at your volunteer placement.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to grow your career and don’t think that volunteering is the right option for you, then consider an internship with our sister organization. Intern Abroad HQ provides flexible and affordable internship opportunities with clearly outlined learning objectives for professional development and service learning.
How many college students volunteer abroad with IVHQ?
In the last year alone, 5,000+ college students have volunteered abroad with IVHQ. This means you can set off knowing that you will have a meaningful travel experience, as you are immersed in the local culture and have the opportunity to spend your weekends exploring with like-minded students.
We take the hassle out of the process by arranging everything, as part of your fully hosted experience abroad. This includes your airport pick-up, accommodation, meals and orientation, and provide you with access to a volunteer travel expert and 24/7 in-country support. And yes, your parents can even give us a call to talk through the ins and outs of your volunteer abroad program and ask any questions.
Six ways to incorporate college volunteering into your studies…
- Use your experience as the basis/subject for independent study, or your thesis
- Use the program as an internship, or to boost your resume
- Use the program for an alternative break. Consider winter, spring or summer volunteer programs for college students
- Volunteer as a group with your student organization
- Use the program to satisfy community service hour requirements for a scholarship or membership
When can I volunteer abroad as a student?
Volunteer trips for college students are available year-round; however, if you want to align a volunteer abroad program with your study break, you can take an alternative spring or winter break with IVHQ. An alternative break means you will be contributing to a meaningful project, meeting people from across the globe and exploring a new country! Check out our recommended programs for alternative winter breaks or alternative spring breaks.
We also have customized 1-week and 2-week alternative break programs available in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru and Romania. These programs incorporate the perfect mix of volunteering, cultural immersion and tourism activities and have been designed by our Groups specialists and local teams to ensure that you are making a positive impact in a short space of time. Whether you are looking to sign up as an individual or with a friend, you will not be alone on one of these small group tours. If you want to learn more about any of these alternative break programs and find out how to sign up, get in touch with our Groups team here.
Summer service trips for college students are another awesome option! Summer is 93 days long - that’s 2232 hours, or 133, 920 minutes. That’s a lot of opportunities to make a difference! How are you going to spend your next summer break?
How to find the best volunteer programs for college students
As with school, when it comes to volunteering abroad, research is important! You need to research the program and project you wish to volunteer on to ensure it’s going to be the right fit for you. We recommend that when choosing your volunteer project, you consider your skills and what is motivating you to volunteer abroad. Let this guide your research.
With 50+ destinations and 300 volunteer projects to choose from, there’s an opportunity to suit all educational backgrounds with IVHQ. And remember, the more you know about the program, the better prepared you can be and the more meaningful your time abroad will be for both you and the community that you are immersed in.
We’ve highlighted some of our most popular international volunteer opportunities for college students, so keep reading to find the perfect program for you…
NGO service trips for college students
NGO Support projects are perfect for students looking to combine volunteer travel with an internship, as working for an NGO will look great on your academic transcript and resume. Potential employers will be more than impressed with your initiative, creativity and experience from volunteering abroad. You can head all over the world assisting NGOs in need in Puerto Rico, Nepal Cambodia, Italy - Rome and Romania, just to name a few destinations.
Volunteering as a student on an NGO Support project is the perfect opportunity to use your experience and knowledge gained from your studies to support and further establish an NGO’s goals and community reach. Your tasks can vary and are dependent on the unique skills that you bring to the table. These tasks can include administration, research, proposal writing, teaching English and IT.
Volunteering abroad has been one of the most important choices I have ever made in my life. It changed my life forever; I want to work with NGOs more in the future. People often ask, “Why work for free? You don’t get anything.’’ I respond with, “Try it yourself and you will realize that you get a LOT.” You get something that cannot be described in words. Marton Mengerink - Working with NGOs in Vietnam - Hanoi
- How much? Participate on NGO Support in Ecuador - Quito for USD$270 for one week
- What’s included? In Ecuador for example, breakfast and dinner are included in the Program Fee, as well as accommodation, airport pick-up and 24/7 in-country support
- Must haves… Laptop, copies of your resume, an open mind and a good work ethic
Teaching volunteer opportunities for college students
Education is universal and the scope for a volunteer’s influence goes far beyond the classroom. When volunteering on Teaching projects with IVHQ, you will have the opportunity to either teach independently or provide assistance and support to the local educator in traditional classrooms, community centers, special needs centers or on tutoring programs. The students you’ll be teaching are eager to participate and learn, whether it’s English, other curriculum, sports or arts and crafts.
Many IVHQ programs have Teaching projects, which means teaching volunteers have a wide range of destinations to choose from.
To a university student, teaching abroad can be a learning curve that generates greater confidence, independence and understanding. Supplement your university studies and get prepared for Teaching English abroad by signing up to an online TEFL Course.
My time was definitely appreciated and it made me feel happy to know my students learned something from me. This was my first time working as a teacher, it was amazing to see my students learn from me every day, and it made me realize that I am needed and I can actually do something to make changes. This was a great experience, and I will definitely do it again. Ruobing Pan - Teaching in Sri Lanka
- How much? You can Teach English in Ghana for as little as USD$270 for one week
- What’s included? In Ghana for example, airport pick-up, meals and accommodation, not to mention the 24/7 in-country support
- Must haves… Good attitude, ability to persevere and be patient
- Not compulsory, but helpful… TEFL Certification, available at a discounted rate through IVHQ
Medical and Healthcare volunteering for college students
Volunteers taking part in Medical and Healthcare projects aid in treating and educating patients, providing basic checkups and treatment to members of the community. The communities where our volunteers assist are appreciative of the expertise, positivity and kindhearted nature of our volunteers.
Thousands of medical students turn to International Volunteer HQ to organize their medical electives abroad - not only will you have the opportunity to learn about medicine as a global entity and experience new cultures, healthcare systems and technologies, and see different conditions, you’ll be living and working alongside other international volunteers, and have the opportunity to travel with them during your free time.
For a medical group, volunteering abroad provides the ability to gain valuable experience and learning opportunities, and can even count towards course credit or service hour requirements!
As a group it was very easy to navigate IVHQ’s information to find the best fit for us. When we arrived in Guatemala, the on-site staff provided a unique volunteer experience for our group by setting up medical campaigns in different communities. Because of this, we were able to assist several community efforts while gaining multiple perspectives on the Guatemalan healthcare system, which was one of the major goals of our trip as an engineering healthcare student organization. While volunteering, I reaffirmed my passion for working with communities on improving healthcare; it was really inspiring to see the work the in-country team was doing. Erik Thomas - Leader of the University of Michigan - HEAL (Health Engineered for All Lives) Group in Guatemala
- How much? Participate on Medical Outreach in Peru - Lima for USD$220 for one week
- What’s included? In Lima for example, accommodation and meals are included in the Program Fee, as well as airport pick-up and 24/7 in-country support
- Must haves… You’ll need to be a pre-med, medical student, nursing student or qualified professional to participate on IVHQ’s Medical programs
Childcare volunteer programs for college students
Volunteers on Childcare projects provide assistance in a range of placements and environments, ranging from after-school programs, day care centers and community centers. As a university student, you have the opportunity to be involved with various duties to support the functioning of these centers, that will in turn assist in your personal and professional development.
Duties can include educational support, playing games, mentoring, providing attention, cooking, cleaning and assisting with general daily operations. Duties are dependent on the specific placement but the most important aspect is supplying the children with care, attention and love. So long as you come in with an open mind and heart, you will come out the other end with more than just experience for your resume.
I chose this particular project because the description mentioned something along the lines of how these kids/people really just need some love and attention. And for sure, that’s exactly what they needed. It was perfectly suited to what I was hoping to get out of it. It was genuinely worthwhile for the community. Because I personally care about those people now, I want them to have more volunteers spending time with them! Though it sounds cliche, I was inspired by the kids themselves. They’re so happy to see you and they genuinely appreciate you and your presence, even knowing you won’t stay. Volunteers just need to go in there and open themselves up; they won’t be disappointed. Laura Cook - Childcare in China
- How much? Get involved with Childcare in South Africa - Cape Town from just USD$250 for one week
- What’s included? In South Africa for example, accommodation and meals are included in the Program Fee, not to forget the airport pick up and 24/7 in-country support
- Must haves… A big heart, a brain full of songs to sing and kindness
Environment and Conservation volunteering for college students
IVHQ’s Environment and Conservation projects work with a range of different causes, ranging from Turtle Conservation in Bali to Marine Conservation in Madagascar. These projects will be right up your alley if you don’t mind mucking in, getting your hands dirty and being challenged. Duties and tasks vary majorly as it is dependent on seasons, the type of project you choose and the needs of the placement at the time.
For university students, this is ideal if you are studying toward a scientific or environmental-based degree. The hands-on experience is priceless and will look epic on your transcript! Available in destinations all over the world, you are seriously spoilt for choice.
I had the best six weeks of my life on this program. I made the most incredible friends from all over the world and had an amazing time. The program gave me more than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. I learned so much about wildlife, conservation and ecology. The work is very enjoyable…just get completely stuck in!!! Brendan Comerford - Wildlife Conservation in Victoria Falls
- How much? Get your hands dirty on Wildlife Conservation in Victoria Falls from USD$1020 for two weeks
- What’s included? In Victoria Falls for example, accommodation, meals, program orientation, airport pick-up and 24/7 support are all included in the Program Fee
- Must haves… Maybe some gardening gloves, keen attitude to hard work and a camera to capture the epic landscapes and ‘Big 5’ animals.
All in all, volunteering for college students is a win-win! You’ll give back to a community that values your support, become more worldly, learn from the world’s best and tick adventure off your bucket list.
Haven’t seen anything here that sparks your interest? Don’t worry, we have plenty more projects to choose from. Have a look at our full range of available volunteer abroad projects.