Are you thinking Voluntourism? Well that is a thing (a contentious one, I may add), but this post is NOT about that. I was sitting with some friends whose kids are off to university soon and we were talking about community, and what the best thing about going to university was.
There is ONE thing that made the whole difference in my university experience – volunteering. I come from a community that values giving time and knowledge wherever possible.
My first year was pretty shit, but once I found out I could volunteer, off I went! After a year at the Student’s Union, I found out about the International Student Centre. And that they were accepting volunteers to help welcome international students and plan fun events for them all year round! So that’s what I went and did – and made lots of Canadian friends and international friends through it.
A year later, I was hired as a ‘Program Assistant’ -to plan all social events and get paid well for a student! I made friends from literally EVERYWHERE, and many of them became really good friends – we would often take the same class, and bond over events – we also ended up throwing some pretty awesome international parties!
Fast forward over a decade later, we still keep in touch, because the bonds we made are real friendships. AND we now have income from actual jobs, so where possible, we visit each other. Many of my friends (New Zealand, UK, Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, Syria, Iran, Guyana and so many others) have visited me, and even showed up to my wedding!
So now that I can actually afford flights to places (and often just tag on some personal trips to the end of work trips) I often check in with friends, see who is there, and in most cases, stay with them! So far – Canada, USA, some places in Europe, South Africa -and so many others on my bucket list!
If I think about how much I have saved just doing this, I estimate easily about $500 minimum per trip – so its going into the THOUSANDS of dollars! And what better way to stay – with friends who are like family!
So, all to say, volunteering can open doors, and make travel so easy and cheap. So what are you waiting for? *Note to especially University students – go check your university International students centre. What are you waiting for?