How to volunteer and intern your way through summer

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By Rachel Evans Travel Deputy Editor

Rachel Evans provides us with all the know-how on planning a summer holiday filled with adventure, rewarding work and out-of-England experiences.

I know it’s still cold, grey and miserable but summer is approaching scarily fast, and with it the promise of exciting opportunities abroad. No doubt some of your friends, and maybe even you, will have some cool things lined up for the summer. But if you’re feeling a bit scared that you’re going to be stuck at home, working to pay off your overdraft, whilst everyone is abroad having fun and adding impressive sounding internships to their CVs then here are my top tips for finding opportunities abroad.

Keep your eyes peeled
We get bombarded with so many emails that, more often than not, we just skim over them to check they’re not important before either deleting them or forgetting about them forever. One of the best things you can do is read over them and take in what they say. A lot of the time, lecturers and other people in your department are emailing you about things that are valuable or important. Many of the opportunities are academic based, but there are still so many exciting research opportunities at other universities abroad or internships that you wouldn’t want to miss out on because you trashed the email straight away. Another great place to look is the university’s MyCareer page, where jobs and internships are also posted. In the summer between my second and third year I managed to find my internship in China through MyCareer, so I know there are definitely things out there! If you want any advice on how to find internships or even want help with interview practise once you’ve found one then the careers service have some really great events for helping you with this. The Bristol University Go Abroad page also has many opportunities for the summer such as internships, international leadership programmes and summer schools.

Volunteering
When it comes to volunteering, you may also be able to find an opportunity through the university. The BVDA (Bristol Volunteers for Development Abroad) have many exciting opportunities on sustainable projects in developing countries (find their page on the SU or on Facebook). You could also check out the Bristol Students to Fiji page on Facebook to find information about their talks and opportunities. For many of these opportunities you will most likely find that you have to pay a fee for things like accommodation, food, and admin fees for the company. Be aware that some of the projects aren’t doing as much good as you think. Voluntourism has received some bad press for this. For instance, some orphanage projects have been found to have children that aren’t actually orphans at all but are instead sent there by their parents because they know they can get money from volunteers who will pay to come and do what they believe to be helping. Don’t let this put you off too much, but just bear in mind that it is worth checking the reviews and that not all of them are as they seem.

Some companies that my friends and I have used that have been very good are International Volunteer HQ and Plan My Gap Year (but there are many out there).

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Epigram / Rachel Evans

Working at camps
Lots of people choose to spend their summer working abroad on camps. This mainly started out in America at summer camps, however there are now opportunities in many countries such as Thailand and South Africa. For these you apply online and then are often invited to days in London where they asses your skills and see where you would be the best match. Most of the time you pay for flights then receive a wage once you’re there. You won’t get rich but it should be enough to break even, with maybe even a bit left over to travel round the country a bit at weekends or after the project.

Make sure you can commit the time
Quite often, these experiences will want you to be there for a minimum of two weeks. For my internship I was out in China for three months, but with many volunteering projects you can choose (price changes depending on the duration), with camps you are also expected to be there for the entirety of the time. It may sound great in theory to be able to escape to another country for three months but it is important to think practically about if you are ready to spend that much time away from family, partners and friends. As great as it is, you may still get FOMO seeing all your friends relaxing on a beach on a group holiday.

Remember that most of them still involve work
As fantastic as it seems to go abroad, you do have to remember that for the majority of these you do still have to work and it’s not just a holiday. Go into it with a good work ethic and remember you are there to contribute something, whether it’s to a big company or to a small local project. It’s very easy to go into it expecting it to be like a holiday then be a bit disappointed when you discover you still have to get up early, and can’t go out to bars every night.

Keep trying!
Like jobs, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get the first one you apply to. You may find that you have to apply to a number of different opportunities before you manage to get something. But with enough determination you will get something in the end!

Featured Image: Rachel Evans/ Epigram


Are you planning to volunteer this summer? Let us know!

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