Voluntary placements and field research options can actually aid your professional advancement. For example you could gain work experience in a busy city hospital or veterinary clinic in Ghana, or add a valuable line to your CV through a business placement in Mongolia. You usually have to pay for the privilege of volunteering but this also helps create local employment where it is most needed.
Volunteering - Beginners
Even if you have never traveled before, the planning and support you receive from organizations offering volunteer packages should be encouraging. These organizations often have full-time staff whose job is to ensure you are looked after. They usually avoid volatile locations and keep in touch with relative authorities to ensure your ongoing safety.
If you would rather not go alone it is possible to find placements for groups, music societies, performing arts groups, high school students or corporate businesses. And there are programs to suit whatever time frame you have.
If you wish to undertake study or research consider something in your field. For example conservation and environment projects are perfect for geography, zoology, biology or marine biology students looking for practical experience. Those doing English or media studies will enjoy journalism placements. Similarly there are placements for drama, language and sports science students and numerous medicine and healthcare placements.
In order to find a suitable placement you will need to do some homework. Research the existing volunteer programs and ask for alumni references.
Volunteering - Advanced
If you know your abilities and what kinds of placements you can handle, longer and harder projects might appeal to you. Often there are opportunities to extend the placement once the time frame is up.
Field research positions are available through travel agencies, non-profit organizations and universities. If you are studying, check to see if your institution will credit courses taken abroad or provide research grants, financial aid or scholarships. If they can’t they may at least put you in contact with the appropriate research groups. Alternatively do an online search for what is available or get hold of a sample grant proposal of a past volunteer who successfully raised funds to finance their trip.
If you intend to study abroad devise a learning contract to aid you in attaining your goals. You may be required to submit a final paper or journal, or your final report may take the form of an oral report.