International Volunteer Search

Volunteering is virtually a universal concept, and possibilities abound around the world to try out a field, experience a new culture and develop or enhance a skill within a flexible work schedule and structure. Even if the organization does not have a formal mentoring system, you can enhance your volunteering experience by setting and sharing goals with your supervisor, seeking out advice and guidance and showing initiative to deepen your exposure to your field.

Types of International Volunteer Opportunities

International volunteer experiences can vary widely in makeup, but these are some of the most popular types of opportunities:

  • Advertised volunteer positions
  • Self-initiated contact with an organization that is working in your area of interest
  • A component of a study abroad program
  • A component of a program organized by a company or organization

Key Considerations

Before you begin your international volunteer search, there are several important issues to consider.

Abundance of Choices

Volunteering can be more flexible than full-time work or interning. Countless organizations in the public and private sectors consider requests for volunteering. The key to a great experience is to research organizations where there is a good fit between their work and your goals. Developing a clear set of goals for what you would like to learn from your volunteer experience will be the foundation for choosing one organization from among many possibilities.


You may have to take on more responsibility for shaping your experience as a volunteer. For example, your organization may not have a formal mentoring program or you may be working in a number of locations under several supervisors. Prepare for independence by connecting with Hiatt counselors, faculty and fellow students who can share ideas and advice about how to develop learning goals for your time away and pursue them successfully on the job.

No Formal Oversight of Organizations

There is no body or institution that systematically rates, evaluates or manages volunteer organizations or opportunities. However, there are ways to gather specific information: research the company or organization on the Web or through your network and Brandeis experts; ask organization representatives direct questions about issues that may be important to you, such as housing, health, safety and emergency procedures, volunteer duties, supervision, finances, and transportation; and request from your potential volunteer organization the names of past volunteers you can contact to find out about their experiences. Learn more about health and safety.

Time and Timing

Volunteering can last anywhere from a few days to a year or more, depending on your goals, the host organization, the geographic location and the type of work. How much time can you devote to your volunteer experience and accomplish your top goals? Is the timing of your stay convenient for your host organization or will it be necessary to make some accommodations?

Visas and Legal Matters

Volunteering can be subject to specific visa requirements. Are you eligible to volunteer legally in your host country? What are the issues, time frames and procedures to gain proper authorization? International students at Brandeis who want to volunteer in the United States must seek expert advice at the ISSO.

Costs and Compensation

You cannot rely on getting a paid part-time job to cover your expenses while you volunteer, since paid work also has a specific set of visa requirements. Do you have a solid estimate of the total costs you will incur? Have you set a realistic budget for your time away? Are there scholarships or grants to help you fund your volunteer work? If you use a program to arrange your volunteer experience, it may charge a fee; is financial aid available from the provider? If an organization cannot provide a salary, inquire if they might consider assisting you with housing costs, commuting costs or meals, for example, during your stay.

Best Search Strategies

Some strategies and resources specific to the international volunteer search include:

  • Personal network:  Your network of friends, family, teachers, coworkers, Brandeis alumni, and former or current work supervisors is very important in locating and negotiating volunteer jobs abroad. Get in touch, share your goals and ideas and seek out advice and referrals. Learn more about networking.
  • Websites that advertise volunteer opportunities: Look at both individual organization websites and sites that serve as an umbrella for organizations working for the public good. Review the many international search resources.
  • Self-initiated contact and negotiation with an organization that is doing the kind of work you would like to explore: You may learn about an organization from your network or through your research and make contact to find out if there are volunteer opportunities.
  • Brandeis international centers and experts: Consult the many regional and international centers and experts at Brandeis to learn about opportunities, receive advice about the country you would like to visit and get connected with others who have volunteered in the past. Start at the Global Brandeis Portal.