Being a student or graduate is arguably tougher than it has ever been before. With a rising number of people opting to study for a degree after finishing college, more students and graduates are competing for entry level jobs. This, coupled with escalating university prices, means that both will certainly have it tough for the considerable future.
However, it is important not to despair; there are still plenty of things that students and recent graduates can do to strengthen their CV, and to broaden their horizons. Perhaps the most valuable is the undertaking of volunteering or intern work within the sector associated to the degree. Not only does this provide the practical, hands-on experience that future employers so desire, but it also offers the chance to make valuable connections within the sector. In an age where many jobs are filled through referrals, it is essential that students and graduates make themselves known by understanding the importance of networking.
For those looking for a role in the environmental sector, health/childcare sector or teaching sector, workplace experience is of particularly high value. Whilst a university degree is valued, it is only a tick in a box. It is the practical experience that offers prospective employers the indication of whether the applicant is suited for the job. So if you decide to join a TEFL Teaching programme, you don’t show them your list of qualifications - you just start teaching to demonstrate your ability.
We, at WorkingAbroad, feel that combining a gap year with supporting a local programme, learning a skill, and at the same time enhancing your own personal development and experience is the best outcome for all: the volunteer and the organisation in the field.
The small grassroots organisations we work with require student volunteer assistance to carry out their programmes and without the volunteer’s financial contribution there wouldn't be anyone patrolling the beaches, researching the coral reefs, teaching in schools or planting trees. Our partners in the field are not operating their programmes for profits: the money that is leftover goes back into the organisation to increase the numbers of protected sea turtles, build more trails and schools, and have more eyes and ears for cutting edge environmental research.
By volunteering abroad, students and graduates also open up a whole new world of opportunity within their sector that they may otherwise not have known to exist. Environmental conservation, for instance, is required in all countries across the globe, though the specifics vary between countries and continents. A conservation student studying in the UK, who chooses to volunteer with sea turtles for a month in Grenada, may end up opting to continue down that line of work - a line of work they may have never otherwise experienced.
The world of student volunteering abroad is therefore not only valuable for students looking to gain that all important work experience to strengthen their CV, but it also offers students and graduates the chance to experience a new side of the working environment related to their degree.
All of our partner organisations offer students the opportunity to volunteer with them, and the following projects are for students looking for specific experience. If you are interested in joining as a student group, then check out our Group Volunteering Abroad Page. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about volunteering abroad opportunities for students.
TEACHING & TEFL
BIOLOGY & ECOLOGY RESEARCH
ANIMAL/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION & RESEARCH
MARINE SCIENCE RESEARCH & CONSERVATION
PHOTOGRAPHY & MEDIA
Victoria Golding, a Marine Science student from the UK, wrote about her week at the Whale & Dolphin Research Project in July 2017.
Meeting the team was great, everyone was so welcoming and had a lively and pleasant attitude. The boat was a lot larger than I had imagined, with wooden décor and the glimmer of paintings of great big blue beasts on the walls. The harbour was large, with even larger boats and extravagant yachts neatly parked in their berths awaiting the next morning’s sunrise.
The rest of the week was spent with more trips out searching. On our last day, we came across another Fin Whale, a Sunfish, jellyfish and many experts in flying - seabirds. We also had other lectures during the week covering how to identify certain marine mammals, what their behaviours are like in social groups, the 25 years’ worth of research summary and the work that the project has achieved and where the research is heading to in the future.
This was an invaluable experience and I not only learned so much about cetaceans and the work that is carried out in order to help the preservation of the conservation of these animals, but I also learned a lot about myself and where I would like to expand my skills as a scientist. So much work and dedication has gone into this project by the head scientists and employers of the organisation who make it all happen and it was an honour to be a part of journey.
The project has done a fantastic job in protecting these cetaceans’ home, studies have shown increases in the whale and dolphin populations – it’s amazing. They have inspired me to help the oceans in my own way.
Amanda Nevin, an Ecology student at University of Cork in Ireland, describes her time as an intern at our Galena Creek Visitor Center Naturalist project in Nevada
I'm just writing to thank you for organising my internship in Reno this summer. I had the most amazing time I met some great kids and made friends for life. The work as a camp counselor/ environmental educator was very challenging at times but so rewarding. I gained so much experience from the programme and seen some amazing places at the weekends! Gwen and her team were so professional and accommodating. My summer in Reno is one I will never forget. Thanks again.
Hannah Jackson, a Biology student from the UK, spent 6 weeks at Kariega Game Reserve project in South Africa from July to September 2014
The six weeks I spent at Kariega was without a doubt, the best six weeks of my life. It is an incredible, life changing experience, one which I would repeat over and over again if I could. Each day, the programme brings new surprises, and each day is as unforgettable as the last.
Nothing will ever compare to sitting in the cruiser watching a beautiful South African sunset surrounded by friends, and nothing will ever compare to the elephants including us in their dust bath, or to turning a corner to see the entire pride of lions just watching us. At Kariega, you will work hard and play hard - the manual work is SO rewarding (I for one never thought I would be able to chop down a pine tree armed only with a machete), the sights you see are incredible, and the other volunteers (who will become some of the best friends you've ever had) make all of these experiences that much more exciting. You will share amazing moments and outstanding memories with these people, memories which will never leave you. You will spend each day smiling, laughing and forming many happy memories of Kariega and it's beautiful wildlife, and will return a different person... a better person.
It is an amazing experience, one which I would repeat over and over and over given the chance. Partaking in the volunteer programme is a once in a life time experience, and one not to be missed. If you have the opportunity to come and do something as incredible as this, do not let it pass you by, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. I can't recommend the programme highly enough, but experience it for yourselves and book now!! (before I decide I want to come back and take all of the places!!)