Creative Ways Students Can Apply Skills From Their University Major to Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
June 6, 2012
Volunteering with a non-profit organization abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime. In addition to helping these groups preserve natural habitats, streamline agricultural processes and develop educational initiatives in a different country, students can bring their own experiences to this volunteer work abroad.
Creative Approaches to Common Problems
Students may find themselves volunteering in a wide range of fields, from wildlife conservation to social work. These organizations often face numerous challenges and within these situations, students can often find an opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned in their academic majors to solve problems and contribute to an organization’s goals.
For example, one obstacle faced by many organizations is lacking the manpower to raise and manage funds. Some non-profit groups rely extensively on donations raised through charitable marketing initiatives. Business students may be able to offer non-profit managers some insight into how they can more effectively make use of the money flowing into the organization.
Likewise, management students may be able to shed some light on how organizations can make use of available manpower more efficiently. Although it is important for volunteers to respect the decisions of the managers who are supervising them, offering new approaches and ideas can sometimes lead to creative solutions.
Communication and journalism students can also be an asset to a team who is trying to get media and community attention for their organization and any events they hold.
With such a variety of skills, undergraduate and graduate students can take their academic training out of the classroom and into the field.
Students participating in volunteer projects should remember that they are guests at these organizations and there are many social and economical standards that they may not be aware of when they first arrive to their new town and country.
Solid communication skills are key to highlighting areas of an operation that could benefit from a new approach. Fortunately, communication is integrated into the classwork of many degree programs, so students should be able to apply and develop these skills to approach various situations.
Adopting a proactive attitude can go a long way toward making an idea or suggestion seem more favorable, and providing volunteer organizations’ leadership with examples of ideas that could have a tangible impact on operations is a better idea than merely pointing out flaws about how something could be done better.
Although students should show respect when suggesting improvements to the way things are done when volunteering, examining a problem with fresh eyes is an excellent way to develop more efficient processes and utilizing resources to their full potential. If student volunteers have a good idea, they should not hesitate to share it with the rest of the team. Everyone at the non-profit group is working toward a common goal, and anything that enables teams to make more of a difference is a positive contribution to a shared effort.