What is the daily schedule like in projects?
Now that you have applied for your preferred project, are you wondering how volunteer abroad daily life is like? Unlike tours/travel programs where a small group is often led by a leader, volunteer abroad programs are very different. Volunteer abroad daily life is very flexible and it varies with the project, country, season and other local factors. Regardless of the country or program that you have chosen, you should expect to be working between 4-6 hours a day. In most places, you will start your volunteer work after breakfast anytime between 8 – 10 am. Volunteer abroad daily schedule often ends sometime between 2-3 PM. Volunteers often have the evening free to relax and explore the local area. A lot of volunteers use this free time to go to the internet café, coffee shop, travel, and rest.
Are you still wondering what daily life would look like in volunteer abroad? Here are some major volunteer abroad projects and a general glimpse into their daily schedule:
Teaching in Peru
7:00 am - breakfast
8:00 am - start of your volunteering day – you will assist local teachers or teach by yourself
1:00 pm- lunch with host family
2:00 pm- leave for Spanish class
2:30pm-4:30pm- Spanish class
7:30 pm - dinner with host family
Buddhist Monk Program in Nepal
5:30am–Begin your day Puja (prayers)
9:00am to 11.00am–Educational time and the first session of English classes
11.00 am to 11.30 am –Tea time
11.30 am to 12.00 pm - Tibetan Class continues
12.00 pm –Lunch time
2.00 pm to 4.00 pm –Educational Lessons
4.00 pm to 4.30 pm –Tea time
4.30 pm to 6.00 pm –Refreshments and evening puja
7.00 pm to 8.00 pm –Review the days lessons
9.00 pm –Retreat to bed
Orphanage in India
8:30 am–Volunteers assist in preparing breakfast, which can include cooking, serving food or cleaning up after the meal.
9:00 am–Children depart for school and volunteers can assist with cleaning, planning activities or lesson plans.
1:00 pm–Lunch Break
2:00 pm–Volunteers can visit the local market or utilize this time for internet access.
4:00 pm–Children return to the orphanage from their school day. Volunteers can teach the children English, Math, or any other subjects including conservation and personal hygiene, drawing, painting, rhymes and many other topics.
Will there be any orientation before the project starts?
Most volunteer organizations run orientation in the beginning of the volunteer program. Some organizations will just give basic information on safety, dos and do not’s, project life, and work responsibilities. Meanwhile, some volunteer organizations will plan 3-7 days of orientation covering many sessions, such as language and training programs for effective volunteering. You can request for more information on the orientation details from the organization prior to departure from home.
Can I change my project if I am dissatisfied?
This really depends on the organization that you have chosen to volunteer with. Most small and medium-sized volunteer companies are flexible about changing projects for you since they often do not cater for too many volunteers and need to make less logistical adjustments. However, keep in mind that big organizations are usually very rigid in their rules. The project availability also affects your chances of changing into another program. Projects are often crowded with volunteers over the summer, making it difficult to find a placement.
How many hours do I work?
What daily life would look like in volunteer abroad depends on the country, project, season, and nature of volunteer organization. Generally, volunteer abroad daily life is very flexible. The volunteer organizations usually do not set any defined hours. As a general rule, you will be working 4-6 hours a day, 5 (in some countries 6 days) a week. These work hours are often divided to 2-3 hours before lunch and 2-3 hours after lunch. You will have free time in the evening for yourself in most volunteer abroad opportunities.
Will I have free time? What can I do in the free time?
Volunteer abroad daily life mostly allows for some free time, mostly after working hours and on weekends. You can do a lot of fun things in your free time, depending on country, project, and location. Most volunteers often opt to go to the town for coffee, internet access, and shopping. You can also go explore local areas, learn the local language, relax, listen to music, and make new friends in the local community. You can find travel tips and guidance online or by talking to the program coordinator.
Can I work in more than one project?
Whether you can work in more than one project also depends on the type of project and the distance you are working. For example, if you work in orphanage, you can work there in morning and go to school in the day time to teach.
But if you work in medical, or wildlife project, it is hard to combine projects so please talk with your provider if you want to merge two projects before you go. Some organizations may even ask for an extra fee.
Who supervises me if there is any problem?
Most volunteer abroad organizations work according to two different models. In the first model, they will prepare accommodation and hire staff (coordinators, cook, drivers, and field staff etc). These staffs are either volunteer abroad in-country support or field staff members. In the second model, many international volunteer abroad organizations work through local volunteer organizations and merely serve as a middleman. In such cases, the head of these local organizations will be your volunteer abroad in-country coordinator.
As you get used to volunteer abroad daily life, you will realize that no one really supervises volunteers. During orientation, you will be given detailed explanation on your roles and responsibilities. From that point onwards, you will mostly be working independently. However, worry not! If you do not understand anything or need help, you will be supported by your coordinators or the local staff.
Will I be working with other volunteers?
This really depends on the size of the organization. In large volunteer organizations, you will be working with a lot of other volunteers. Meanwhile, in smaller organizations, you will mostly only work with a few other people. In summer, there are normally more volunteers in every project compared to other seasons.
What will the distance be between my project and accommodation?
The distance from your accommodation depends on the project, location of project, location of your accommodation, size of city, and level of traffic. It often ranges from a walking distance to a one-hour journey on bus. You should contact your program coordinator and find out more information on this prior to your starting date. This information is essential as daily transportation may mean extra miscellaneous cost for you.
How do I commute? Who arranges it?
Your mode of transportation to the project site depends on project, location of project, location of your accommodation, size of city, and the level of traffic. Most volunteers will be commuting by bus from their accommodation to the project site.
Can I extend the project if I like?
This depends on the size of the volunteer organization. It is possible to extend if you are volunteering with small or medium companies while big companies will not allow you to do so. The extension will also be subject to project availabilities.
Is there any dress code?
Volunteer abroad daily schedule usually does not involve any dress code. However, do keep in mind that you will be working in a non-western culture that may not be as open as that in your home country. They will have their own religion, faith, custom, and culture, which are mostly conservative. So, do dress modestly. As volunteers, you are also expected to be role models, especially if you are working with children. Hence, dressing moderately would be important. For cultural experience, you can even try wearing the local dresses!
Will someone there for me to help while I am on the project?
Please refer the above answer to who will supervise me.
What can I do on weekends?
Please refer to the section on what can be done in free time.
We hope that this section has explained volunteer abroad daily life clearly to you. Volunteering abroad is definitely a unique experience filled with exciting activities. What else are you waiting for? Give it a shot!