Vancouver, B.C. (PRWEB) April 30, 2013
International volunteer trips can be very enriching and rewarding by grooming participants into more tolerant and flexible individuals and developing skills like leadership, initiative, empathy and confidence. To make the most of any volunteer abroad or intern abroad experience, it is important to prepare oneself in advance with some important knowledge. The following tips have been proven to be very practical when traveling abroad:
The host community may be very different from the participant's normal way of life, so it is recommended that one does some background research before visiting. To avoid disappointment, it is important not to start a trip with unreasonable expectations. The living conditions abroad may be basic. Participants may experience power outages, bumpy dirt roads, different sanitation standards, and many other conditions not commonly found in developed nations. It is prudent to keep an open mind while traveling and develop adaptability skills to deal with these inevitable challenges.
It is worthwhile to stay positive and try to look on the bright side of the situation. If there is a power disruption for a few days, then think of it as a camping trip and enjoy the community feeling while chatting around the fire. It is not easy to go thousands of miles away from one’s comfort zone, but try to appreciate the differences and enjoy an escape from the ordinary.
International travelers should be able to adapt to foreign environments and new cultures. Good interpersonal skills are a must, as participants need to be able to work well with others, including people who are very different from them. Many host communities treat international volunteers like VIP guests, but it is important to treat them as equals and be respectful for their way of life. Culture is all relative, so it is important to keep in mind that their way of life is just as correct as ours. Participants who take this philosophy to heart are welcomed with open arms and often develop life-long friendships with their host communities.
In some developing nations, ethical standards may be lower due to extreme poverty or other socioeconomic reasons. Many locals struggle just to eat and therefore very desperate for money. As a result, scamming and other crimes of opportunity may be more commonplace. Travelers need to be wary of vendors and always be cautious with any money transactions while traveling.
Foreigners are often perceived as very wealthy by the local community, so there is an increased chance of being taken advantage of or having one's generosity taken for granted. Many travelers even get marriage proposals from random strangers. While making friends abroad, it is advisable to try to keep friendships pure and avoid any and all financial entanglements.
Deal with local small vendors with caution. Many businesses, such as tour operators or taxi drivers, may attempt to overcharge travelers and one usually needs to negotiate in order to get a fair deal. Make sure that all terms of any business transaction are specified before handing over any cash.
For those who work with local non-governmental organizations, there may be pressure for volunteers to make donations and like many charitable organizations, they don't like to take no for an answer. For those who are unwilling or unable to donate, it is important to be prepared with an answer that is not going to cause anyone embarrassment. For example, participants can say that there is no extra money at the moment but they may be able to fund-raise when they get back home. For those who do want to donate, be wary of corruption and try to donate actual things, such as food or used laptops, instead of cash whenever possible.
Travelers, especially those without much experience living abroad, may experience culture shock without even realizing it. For example, in many developing nations, corporal punishment, wife-beating, and drunk-driving may be common practices. While volunteers may feel compelled to judge these practices harshly, individuals need to respect the host country's development stage, which may be decades behind most common-wealth nations. Certain things are hard to change overnight. Try not to think of everything as right versus wrong. Try to be non-judgmental, cooperative, and respectful as much as possible.
Very few organizations offer international programs covering a wide variety of interests, budgets, and destinations. Explore the flexible options or plan a life-changing trip at http://www.CrossContinental.org.
About Cross-Continental Solutions:
Cross-Continental Solutions provides quality yet affordable volunteer abroad, intern abroad, cultural education, language immersion, and gap year programs. Many college students can take international internships for school credit. It is unique in that participants live and work side by side with the locals, thereby offering an exceptional cross-cultural experience for those who wish to make a difference. Programs are available at many locations around the world, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America.