Top 10 Soft & Hard Skills You Can Improve While Volunteering Abroad

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Many people hope to improve their skills when they volunteer abroad. The chance to boost your resume and abilities is a key reason why people volunteer overseas. After all, a survey of employers has shown that 75% say volunteering helps applicants stand out in the hiring process. 

So, not only is volunteering abroad a good thing to do, it can also benefit you personally and professionally. It can help you improve communication skills, appeal more to employers, expand your network, gain professional certification and more. 

Regardless of your primary motive for volunteering overseas, know that the experience will improve both soft and hard skills. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 soft skills and 5 hard skills while volunteering abroad. For each skill, we’ll mention a program that’s good for developing that skill. 

Top 5 Soft Skills You Can Learn When You Volunteer, Intern, Teach or Study Abroad

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Here’s a list of soft skills you can learn while volunteering abroad, as well as the best programs to work on each skill. 

1. Adaptability

As the Intern Group wrote in an article, going abroad improves your adaptability because you’re “taken out of your comfort zone” and have to adjust to a new culture and customs. Adaptability is vital in life because it gives you the capacity to not only handle change, but also thrive in times of change and uncertainty. 

Best volunteer abroad program to improve your adaptability

Volunteer with Indigenous Communities in Peru

Organization: Maximo Nivel, the most reviewed and best-rated volunteer organization in Latin America

Cost: $915 for 2 weeks; $1,295 for 4 weeks

During this program, you’ll journey to the Andes mountains and immerse yourself in an indigenous, Quechua-speaking community. Located about one hour outside Cusco, this volunteer program allows you to work alongside an Andean family, helping with farming, construction, education and more. It’s truly an eye-opening experience that requires an open mind and willingness to immerse yourself in the community. Needless to say, the program will improve your adaptability skills.

Interested? Click here to register!

2. Interpersonal Skills

As a popular travel blog notes, travel allows you to “meet new people on a daily basis.” Plus, since you’re often either communicating in your or the other person’s second language, you must communicate effectively. This helps you speak clearly and listen better.

Best volunteer abroad program to improve your interpersonal skills

Healthcare & Community Outreach in Zambia

Organization: GoEco, a top-rated volunteer overseas organization with 150+ programs across 40+ countries

Cost: $1490 for 2 weeks; $1,995 for 4 weeks

Head to Livingstone, Zambia, and make an impact on the lives of locals as you volunteer at a local health clinic, support adult literacy clubs, and work within the community. This program will enable you to integrate into a local community and positively enhance the lives of people living in poverty. The experience and volunteer work will test and improve your interpersonal skills each second of the day. 

Interested? Click here to register!

3. Cross-Cultural Competence

A Harvard Business Review article emphasizes that leaders and workers in today’s economy must be culturally competent. We must value diversity and understand others’ cultures. Not only will it help us connect with others, but it also enables us to function more effectively together. Traveling abroad to volunteer is one of the best ways to improve your cross-cultural competence, as it will show you how you can learn about others’ cultures, customs, identities and more. 

Best intern abroad program to improve your cross-cultural competence

Journalism Internship in Thailand

Organization: Volunteering Solutions, an organization known for their meaningful and affordable volunteer and intern abroad opportunities

Cost: $1400 for 4 weeks; $2300 for 8 weeks

Work alongside Thai staff in a publishing house. Daily communication with colleagues and interactions with locals while reporting stories will elevate your cross-cultural competency quickly. You’ll be assigned a role in editorial, multimedia design, print media or marketing. 

Interested? Click here to register.

4. Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important soft skills to develop, as it enables you to understand others on a deeper level. A thought-provoking article in the SAP blog states that “empathy is a skill, and volunteering can teach it.” Volunteering teaches this skill by “challenging the status quo of our own lives” and helping us expand horizons and see life from other perspectives. 

Best volunteer abroad program to improve your empathy

Sustainable Community Development in Cambodia

Organization: GoEco, a top-rated volunteer overseas organization with 150+ programs across 40+ countries

Cost: $930 for 2 weeks; $1490 for 4 weeks

Help improve the educational experience of underprivileged children in Samraong. As a community development volunteer, you’ll teach English to children, assist with construction projects, participate in environmental education activities, and help a community develop and grow. You’ll learn firsthand the difficulties facing this town, and get the chance to make an impact immediately. 

Interested? Click here to register.

5. Communication

Strong communication skills are essential to success in your personal and professional life. As Glassdoor points out, volunteering is a great way to boost communication skills as it provides social interaction while challenging you to understand others’ situations and work with a variety of people

Best teach abroad program to improve your communication

Teach English in Spain

Organization: International TEFL Academy (ITA), a world-renowned organization that’s trained more than 40,000 ESL teachers

Cost: TEFL courses are $1,399+

Salary: $1500 – $2000+ per month salary

Teachers have to communicate well. Otherwise, they won’t be effective. A great way to improve your communication skills is to teach English abroad. International TEFL Academy, the leading provider of TEFL certification courses, offers job placement assistance across the world to their students. After completing TEFL certification with ITA, they’ll help you find a paid teaching job in Madrid, Barcelona or another city in Spain. The ESL teaching experience will not only be fun, but it will also show you to communicate effectively. 

Interested? Click here to register

Click here to get TEFL certified.

Top 5 Hard Skills You Can Learn When You Volunteer, Intern, Teach or Study Abroad

Here’s a list of hard skills you can learn while volunteering abroad, as well as the best programs to work on each skill. 

1. Project Management

Project management is the application of processes, tools, skills, and knowledge to achieve project objectives within specific time and budget constraints. It’s a handy skill to have, as it shows you know how to delegate work, meet deadlines, manage expectations and more. Lots of volunteer abroad programs focus on completing a project, so it’s a good way to improve your skills in this area. 

Best volunteer abroad program to improve your project management skills

Construction & Renovation Volunteer Project in Fiji

Organization: International Volunteer HQ, a global volunteer organization that’s placed more than 120,000 people in projects across the world

Cost: $767 for 2 weeks; $1,306 for 4 weeks

Stay right by the beach in Sigatoka town, where you’ll help with a range of construction and renovation projects. Projects may include enhancing school infrastructure to make them safer, healthier, and better places to learn and grow. By helping your team complete a project or two during your stay, you’ll see the impact of your work firsthand, including the smiles on children’s faces!

Interested? Click here to register

2. Language Skills

Being bilingual or multilingual is a huge advantage, both personally and professionally. During the 2010s, employer demand for bilingual workers more than doubled. So, if you want to learn another language, know that immersing yourself in a foreign language is the best way to learn it. While watching movies and online tutors can help, the best way to learn another language is to go abroad to a place where that language is widely spoken. 

Best study abroad program to improve your language skills

Intensive Spanish Courses in Costa Rica

Organization: Maximo Nivel, a leading accredited study abroad organization in Latin America

Cost: From $770 – $845 for 4 weeks

With Maximo Nivel, you can add on Spanish immersion courses to any volunteer abroad program (or you can just study Spanish). Maximo Nivel offers two intensive Spanish language programs in Costa Rica, one in San Jose and the other in Manuel Antonio. These are small group classes and you’ll have the chance to practice your Spanish during free time, whether you’re shopping, dining or hiking. 

Interested? Click here to register

3. Public Speaking Skills

Studies have found that public speaking is more feared than death. Simply put, it’s not something most look forward to doing, but it’s something we all have to do at one time or another. Thankfully, we can train ourselves to become confident, effective public speakers. That begins with getting over any fear we may have of public speaking. Plenty of intern and teach abroad programs help you put your public speaking skills to the test. 

Best teach abroad program to improve your public speaking skills

Teach English in Japan

Organization: International TEFL Academy (ITA), a world-renowned organization that’s trained more than 40,000 ESL teachers

Cost: TEFL courses are $1,399+

Salary: $2000 – $3000+ per month salary

Teachers have to speak everyday in front of large groups of students. This undoubtedly forces you to get comfortable with public speaking. International TEFL Academy, the leading provider of TEFL certification courses, offers job placement assistance across the world to their students. After completing TEFL certification with ITA, they’ll help you find a paid teaching job in Tokyo, Kobe or another city in Japan. Teaching English in Japan will not only be a great experience, but it will also improve your ability to give presentations and speak in front of crowds. 

Interested? Click here to register

4. Design Skills

Design skills are something every organization needs, even banks and governmental organizations. As the Design Singapore Council attests, design skills not only help improve aesthetics, but also humanize technology, enhance user experiences, and ensure all voices are included. For those looking to improve design skills, know there are plenty of intern abroad opportunities available. 

Best intern abroad program to improve your design skills

Graphic Design Internship in New Zealand

Organization: Intern Abroad HQ, a global internship organization known for impactful, affordable intern abroad programs

Cost: $4,409 for 12 weeks

Hone your graphic design skills across a variety of roles, including web, product and graphic design, during this internship in Auckland. You’ll get to work on real-life design projects as you develop your portfolio. Plus, during free time, you can enjoy all that the amazing city of Auckland has to offer. 

Interested? Click here to register.

5. Construction Skills

You may have noticed that there are a lot of construction and renovation projects for volunteers going abroad. That’s because many communities are in need of infrastructure development, whether it be a school renovation or building of a healthcare clinic. Whether you want a career in construction, engineering, architecture or similar field, know that there are ample opportunities to learn tangible building skills while volunteering abroad. 

Best volunteer abroad program to improve your construction skills

Community Development in Ghana

Organization: Volunteering Solutions, an organization known for their meaningful and affordable volunteer and intern abroad opportunities

Cost: $490 for 2 weeks; $590 for 4 weeks

Make your way to Tamale, where you’ll work on school renovations, take part in health awareness programs, help build community centers and more. Not only will you make a noticeable impact, but you’ll also learn construction skills, such as drywalling and bricklaying.  During free time, you can explore some of Ghana’s most popular sites, such as Mole National Park. 

Interested? Click here to register.

Volunteer Abroad to Improve Your Hard & Soft Skills

The chance to help people in need is reason enough to volunteer abroad. Being able to enhance your own skills and resume is an added benefit to the experience. 

As you can see, you can improve a variety of hard and soft skills through volunteer, intern and teach abroad programs. Whether you want to learn a second language or perfect your design skills, there’s a program for you. 

Now, all that’s left for you to do is choose one of the programs above and apply. You’ll be off on the volunteer abroad adventure of a lifetime before you know it. 

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