Reason #1: EXPERIENCE.
There are countless number of volunteer opportunities abroad, each one more diverse than the next. From teaching little kids to rehabilitating wildlife to helping emerging rural businesses become sustainable.
Many volunteers come in with a clear vision. They know exactly what and where they want to do, ready to pad their resumes with an international experience that they can show to their next potential employer.
Other student volunteers have little visions. They come in with no idea of what they are getting themselves into, and afterward emerge with more knowledge of who they are. Perhaps they learned after a stint teaching English to Ecuadorian children that they are ready to pursue a life of bringing education to the youth. Or perhaps they learn that life of teaching is unpredictable, at times heartbreaking, and more work than they could of imagined, and opt to travel into a different career path.
When I lived out my fantasy of volunteering with elephants, I learned I didn't mind getting my hands dirty with handling elephant poop. However, I also learned in my scouting days that there isn't a day (much less a week) where I would be a willing participant in volunteering at an organic farm. I love the concept, but lacking a green thumb I'd rather scrub out a pigsty than go weed for an hour. While others may relish in the fact that they grew their own food, I quietly curse under my breath.
We learn a lot about ourselves when we volunteer, essentially because we are working without receiving monetary compensation. People start to evaluate what their passions are, what they care about, and what they are willing to contribute. Many times these evaluations are ignored, pushed aside for a glamorous job on paper. But if we take the time to reflect on pros and cons of the experience, and to listen to those reflections, things about how you envision your future may just clear up a bit. Perhaps you learned that you love kids when you thought you'd hate them. Perhaps you learned that you thrive in emergencies or are a creature of routine.
Either way, you will walk away with a deeper understanding of who you are while helping out the world a bit. And whether you sit down for an interview for the un-paid internship or your dream job that pays up the wall, you can speak with confidence about your international experience and how it prepared you for the next step. In today's world where everything is so connected, isn't it better to come off a bit more global than your competition?