The USA provides plenty of adventure and has everything to offer the aspiring international volunteer. There is a project suitable for everyone and with a little forward planning, an opportunity in the USA can easily become one of the best experiences of your life.
With a vast and diverse landscape, exciting cities and all-American charm, the USA is a great place to take up voluntary work and to avail of a range of experiences while making wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
The volunteer experience
There are countless opportunities available for anyone willing to work hard, including working on ranches, fruit picking, forestry or community work, to mention but a few. Volunteering provides you with the unique chance to try something new, or something which would be impossible at home.
When undertaking volunteer work, participants learn a range of new skills and have plenty of time to perfect them, while also forming friendships with other volunteers and locals at the same time.
As many voluntary opportunities exist in outdoor settings like national parks or wildlife centres, it’s easy to live a wholesome lifestyle and take advantage of fresh air and exercise, while having fun along the way. Plenty of time is set aside for relaxation and many international volunteer workers include time to travel and explore, either before or after their voluntary placement.
How to get the best from voluntary work
The first thing to do is to determine where your individual interests lie and try to find a project which inspires and excites you. It’s even better if you can bring a level of related skill or expertise, although many projects will be suitable for absolute beginners who are willing to learn on the job.
Having decided what type of work you would like to be involved in, see if there is a company that can help arrange it. It is sometimes possible to arrange work experience on an individual basis or through contacts, but strict laws in the USA mean it will be easier if arranged through a recognised provider.
A professional and experienced organiser will help take care of all the finer details and offer a level of security and support. Many programmes will include flights, accommodation, meals and transfers. Some may also provide a token wage or a little pocket money as reward for a job well done.
When arranging voluntary work, think about the specific abilities you can bring, or likewise have an idea of what you hope to gain from the experience. An opportunity abroad may provide valuable work experience to help with future college applications or career options, so use the time wisely.
Also consider your own personality and the type of things you enjoy. It’s always good to keep an open mind and be ready for challenges, but don’t consider projects that make you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason.
You should also take into account cultural differences and variations in work ethics, which may fall below the standard expected at home. It helps to stay flexible and be open to hard work in order to get the most from the experience and find it fulfilling and rewarding.
Laura Bates writes regularly on the subject of volunteer work for a range of travel and adventure websites and blogs. Her knowledge of the gap year system makes her work an excellent reference point for those seeking guidance