How to Select a Program
It is helpful to ask yourself the following questions as you begin your search:
- What draws you to volunteer or community service work?
- What do you hope to gain from this experience?
- What do you hope to contribute to the community with whom you work?
- How do you see the experience fitting in with who you are and who you hope to become?
Factors to Consider:
Knowing what you are looking for in terms of the following program features can be a big help in narrowing your search down to a manageable number of programs. Consider the following factors:
- How much time are you able to commit?
- Would you prefer a program that is renewable after an initial commitment?
- Some programs charge fees; some meet basic needs and provide health insurance; some include benefits and a salary.
- What are your financial needs and expectations?
- Are you looking for a program with loan deferral?
Job / career interests
- What kind of work would you like to do?
- How might this work connect with future career goals?
Location/ housing situation
- In what types of environment (urban, rural, international, etc.) are you looking to gain experience?
- Would you prefer to live in a community of fellow volunteers, with a family, or on your own?
- In the challenging work you are likely to encounter, you may need both institutional and personal support. How does a given program provide support – both formally and informally?
Program stability and reputation
- How important is it to you that the organization sponsoring your program is large, well-established, and continuing indefinitely?
It is important for you to research and evaluate potential programs before you narrow down your selections and ultimately decide on a program.
- Research the organization online to learn more about the history of the program, program structure, sample projects, and reviews of past participants.
- Contact the organization and speak with someone who represents the program. Do they sound organized, professional, trustworthy, and interested in your interests? Does the program provide what you are looking for? What is the quality level of their correspondence with you?
- Interview a few of their current or former participants. Ask them about their work, their support network, compensation, difficulties and frustrations, and highlights of their experiences.
- Visit the program/community/sample work site if possible.
- Describe the type of person who flourishes in this program.
- What is a typical day like for you?
- What skills have you acquired from participating in this program?
- How is the program/volunteer position viewed among the population served?
- Describe your fellow volunteers’ background.
- What do volunteers typically do after completing the program?
- What kind of personal and institutional support does the program provide?
- What portion of the volunteers are single, married, etc?
- What are the program’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What is the compensation?
- What kind of health insurance or coverage, if any, is provided?
- What traits and experience make a strong applicant?
- What can I do to prepare beforehand?
General Online Resources/Directories:
This website provides a wide range of job and internship opportunities in nonprofit and community organizations, as well as a long list of one-year service opportunities in the United States. Idealist.org is a great place to begin your search.
- Opportunities may be posted under the Jobs, Internships or Volunteer Opportunities sections
- International Volunteerism Resource Guide
The largest work abroad program that helps you to find working adventure worldwide, for a fee.
CNVS is a national association of faith-based volunteer programs. The website provides extensive lists of programs, a search engine to access them, and general information about volunteering.
Information regarding work, intern and volunteering abroad along with Columbia specific resources.
Your one-stop-shop to gather an overview of the concept of taking time off.
A website that features resources to study, volunteer, or intern abroad. You can also find a listing of language schools as well as Eco/Adventure opportunities.
Everything you need to know for cross-border employment.
Connecting internationals by providing country and cultural information, links to info on living abroad and chat with people from around the world. It includes a wonderful feature that allows you to search for first jobs in Europe. Country and cultural information, links to info on living abroad and chat with people from around the world.
A non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness through a wide range of work and travel, language, volunteer, professional training, internship and au pair programs within the United States and around the world.
This site contains sixteen lists with a “smorgasbord of hundreds of opportunities, ranging from weekend work camps through year-long internships to two-year, Peace-Corps type programs, domestic and international, Quaker and non-Quaker.” Be sure to read the explanatory notes before visiting the lists.
For over 30 years, the comprehensive resource—now THE no-nonsense portal—for meaningful experiential Work Abroad, Study Abroad, Cultural Travel Overseas, and International Living.