Volunteer work (Archive, Scroll Photography)

Save the World during your Semester Off

If you love traveling, you have probably been burdened by the decision to do a volunteer abroad program because of the complications that come with it.

It is hard to find time to go volunteer abroad when you are trying to graduate. Another difficulty is having the money to be able to participate in a volunteer program.

Here are some experiences BYU-Idaho students have had that will address your concerns, tell you how to get there, what it is like, and how the benefits can outweigh the costs.

“When I first heard about ILP, I knew I wanted to do it. It wasn’t a matter of if; it was a matter of when,” said Nikki Elliot, a sophomore studying communication. “School is also really important to me, so I wanted to go at a good time academically.”

Elliot said she has been volunteering through a program called the International Language Program in the Dominican Republic this semester. She said she loves to travel and feels that it can change who you are, for the better.

“I feel like this experience changed me as a person more than anything ever has,” Elliot said. “I guess I felt like I was just a better version of myself.”

Through these programs, you are able to explore the country you are volunteering in as well, according to ilp.org.

Emily Birkmeyer, a junior studying communication, returned from her volunteer trip with ILP in China almost one year ago. She was at a point in her college career when she was feeling lost and unsure of what to do.

“I was feeling like I really needed to go on an adventure and get out of the country for a little bit and do something just for me,” Birkmeyer said. “I also was struggling to figure out what major I wanted to pursue, so I thought it would be wise to take some time off of school.”

So if you are feeling burnt out from school, or need something different in your life right now, try a volunteer abroad program. It might be just what you’re looking for.

One of the problems, as said before, might be money. Programs like ILP and HELP International are focused on helping people to have this volunteer experience.

“At HELP International, we believe that funds shouldn’t be a reason to not have the experience of serving abroad,” said Lia Batchkoff, a country coordinator of HELP International.

Many of these programs are equipped with the knowledge on how to help raise money for the cost of volunteering abroad.

“I raised money to do it through fundraising,” Batchkoff said. “There are ways to raise funds such as sending campaign letters to family members, holding bake sales, events like soccer tournaments, etcetera. I’ve heard of people raising their entire program cost through fundraising.”

There are also concerns of selling housing contracts, taking time off from school, passport and visa issues, paperwork and many other concerns you might have that are not listed here, but the experiences and relationships made will be worth the effort.

“I feel like our purpose is to give the world what we’ve been given,” Batchkoff said. “So when the opportunity came, I didn’t see a reason to question it really. In my mind, if it’s good, you do it.”

If you are interested but afraid, check out ilp.org or help-international.org.

It is guaranteed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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