Traveling the world is an ambition that many of us share, and one’s younger, more formative years are often thought of as the best time to do it. But backpacking across Europe, or going on museum tours only scratches the surface of the rich opportunities world travel can provide. Whether you’re a recent college graduate looking to build your resume, or just looking to have an amazing experience that will last you a lifetime, here are some ways you can travel the world and help make it a better place at the same time. These are experiences that not only help others, but can bring networking opportunities, new skills, and the knowledge that you helped make a difference.
Well Child International
A part of International Service Learning, Well Child International assembles women-only teams to bring health care and education to disadvantaged communities worldwide. Team members educate these communities on health issues like breast feeding, family planning, nutrition, and more.
Well Child International has teams in Belize, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and partners with the health ministries there to provide consistent, quality health care to these under-served communities. While Well Child International currently only accepts female applicants (due to sensitivity issues), no medical experience or certifications are needed to become part of a team, and team members will accompany established health care professionals. College graduates looking to practice medicine or charitable pursuits could create a memorable experience, build their resume, and help under-served communities at the same time, and Well Child International assignments are usually short – sometimes only a few weeks in length.
Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders is an international organization founded in the 1980s to help disadvantaged communities throughout the world through engineering. Their aims and activities are as diverse as the field of engineering itself, all dedicated to making the world a better place. Engineers Without Borders organizes a vast array of projects worldwide, from testing water quality in Honduras, to building and stocking libraries in Ghana, to building water wells and rainwater catchment systems in Kenya.
Becoming a part of Engineers Without Borders means a chance to travel the world, but may require some engineering and foreign-language experience. If you’re planning for a career in engineering, the experience provided by EWB could prove invaluable in making yourself noticed.
The Peace Corps
A classic choice for many high school or college graduates looking to forge new and unique experiences out in the world, the Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the U.S. Government, with the stated goal of facilitating a mutual understanding of culture between Americans and other countries. Most of the Peace Corps’ programs involve social or economic development, similar to the projects of Engineers Without Borders. Engagements with the Peace Corps tend to last for two years, with an intensive three-month training period up front. Volunteers will travel the world to pursue initiatives such as wiping out diseases in disadvantaged countries. When joining the Peace Corps, foreign language experience is frequently a must – taking an assignment to Jordan, for example, may involve working in youth education and would require a working knowledge of colloquial Arabic.
If you’re looking for a more short-term, high-intensity engagement, Under30Experiences might be more your speed. With the goal of helping young professionals “understand the world… while preserving culture and environmental sustainability,” Under30Experiences offers short retreats that bring people together to organize projects, network, and meet potential business partners in places like Costa Rica and Nicaragua. These retreats can be as short as a week, often with themes connected to the chosen venues.
Under30Experiences’ Costa Rican retreat, for example, will teach attendants about the biodiversity and sustainability of the region, and come away with a greater understanding of how to “live green” and pursue a healthy lifestyle. By contrast, the Iceland retreat teaches about the history of the region and its recovery from the global financial crisis, while visiting volcanoes and glaciers with bona fide Viking mountain guides. Under30Experiences believes that “life is all about experiences.”
Making the Experience Useful
Once you’ve had your amazing experience abroad, how do you turn it into an opportunity? Here are some quick tips on making that one-time adventure into an advantage that can make your career.
- Record your experiences. Blog about it, write emails to others (or even yourself), but make a record of everything that happens to you.
- View your experience through a lens of what you learned and what skills you developed.
- Stay in touch with the locals after you return from your trip. Your shared experience might yield something you can mention in an interview.
Leslie Collins is a long time writer for Pimsleur Approach. She enjoys traveling, coffee, discovering new cultures, and hikes with her golden retriever.