How to Succeed as a Volunteer Abroad

June 29, 2016

Lives Abroad has teamed up with Thomson Flights on this post to tell you how working as an overseas volunteer is a rewarding, exciting experience, and can even be a life-changing one. Though there are no financial benefits, there are numerous other potential gains; from increasing personal confidence to enhancing your resume.
Spending some time in deciding in advance what you want to get from a volunteer placement will ensure that you make a real difference on the ground. These five tips to succeeding as a volunteer abroad will help you find, enjoy and excel in the opportunity that’s right for you.


Follow Your Passions

Many people choose to use volunteering abroad as a chance to give back to an organization or a cause they believe in. Whether you love animals, conservation, teaching or health care, focusing on an area that gets you fired-up will see you fully commit to and succeed in any position.


Keep an Open Mind

Many experienced overseas volunteers report that flexibility and adaptability are the two most important characteristics in a successful candidate. Indeed, having set ideas about where you want to volunteer abroad or how you might use your time once you get there may be restrictive, making it more difficult to find a truly challenging opportunity or achieve real person growth within a placement. Remember — a good volunteer does what they need to do, not what they prefer.

Be a Beginner

In your professional and personal life, you probably feel confident and in control most of the time. Volunteering overseas will push you out of that comfort zone as it requires you to learn brand new skills alongside new people in an alien environment. Be humble, accept that you’re at the beginning of a journey that will enrich your life in many ways and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Can You Commit?

Volunteering abroad comes with great responsibly. When you’re catching flights to Thailand and other developing countries to volunteer, you’re taking on a role that can make a huge difference to the lives of others, particularly in developing countries. If you can’t commit to a long-term project, you can combine your stay with some volunteering work while you’re out there. Could an exciting break in Phuket before dipping into a choice of short-term volunteering projects be more suitable for you right now?

Dream Big, Start Small

Most people volunteer abroad because they want to bring about positive change. Everyone can make a difference, but it’s important to be realistic to avoid feeling disappointed. Focus on the little things to remind yourself how valuable an individual contribution can be; teaching one child the alphabet or building one wall all contribute to the bigger picture, so be proud of each tiny part of your experience.


Many people consider a stint as an overseas volunteer, but in reality only a small minority take the leap. With so much to be gained, make this the year that you become part of an amazing community of truly adventurous travelers!

Images by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Gingko Telegraph and Children’s Organization of South East Asia, used under Creative Commons license

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