The Unique Benefits of Volunteering Abroad

Lately there have been countless discussions about the benefits of volunteering and about the benefits of traveling. But what happens when you put the two of them together? What happens when you don’t only travel but you dive into a new culture? When you have to work with volunteers from 10 or 20 different countries?

Well, this kind of experience doesn’t offer you just a random range of benefits but it changes you fundamentally. It challenges you and it makes you strive to be at your best.

So what exactly makes these volunteering abroad experiences so unique?

While volunteering, you will face events that will challenge your mindset

An internship abroad will give you the chance to travel to new places, make new friends, make new memories and learn new skills. But it also challenges you; it teaches you first hand what intercultural communication really is; it will challenge your mindset and it will help you become more open minded and more culturally aware.

“I’ve worked on the project with people from Ukraine, Russia, Bahrain, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Argentina, Germany and USA. I now feel that student exchange programs are crucial in getting to know so many different nationalities at once. It’s never too late to learn new things. The awesome experience has just taught me that life is not all about yourself, it’s about you in a society and how you adapt to it.”  – Jaya, on her internship in Ukraine

Volunteering abroad changes you because it gives you the chance to change others

The volunteering internships that AIESEC is providing are focused on solving particular issues in society, such as: cultural education, environment, cultural understanding or career development. This means that in most cases interns work with children or with students, and they have a chance to impact their life either directly in the short-term, or long-term, providing them with the skills and knowledge to be more successful.

Raluca was a volunteer in Poland. She says that: “this experience is about stepping out your comfort zone; about being crazy and letting go of what others think about you; about leaving a mark on some people’s lives. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do this. To be that person that changes lives. But one day, during the last moments we had in one of the schools, the teachers came to us and told us: “You don’t know what an impact you had on these kids. You changed their lives.”

But we must admit there is one downside of volunteering abroad: it’s addictive.

Mihaela, who volunteered this autumn in Ghana, says that “now I’m even hungrier for adrenaline and adventure so I can’t wait to see what the future will bring regarding any new internship.”


AIESEC provides over 26,000 young people with the chance to go abroad each year. If you are looking to go on an internship or volunteer experience abroad, please go to and check out all our available opportunities. 

Going Global to Kenya

“As part of my internship, I visited schools in and around Kibera to talk to the adolescents about the problems they face, made proposals to fundraise for the sanitary napkins project and marketing for the Women Empowerment project.The schools we visited were mainly in the slums so the children from the schools got an opportunity to interact with us and discuss the problems they face in schools.

I also got to experience so much of the Kenyan culture, their food, their night life and how they generally live through the AIESECers from Nairobi who were again an amazing bunch of people. I travelled and saw almost all of Kenya and each place was better than the next. I had no idea that the country was that beautiful.

My internship experience helped me grow so much as a person. It led me to introspect and my future plans have taken a whole new turn. I also met some AMAZING people who really inspire me and changed the way I used to think. I can say that my time in Kenya was a mind blowing experience.  I had so many misconceptions and I realized how wrong I was about the country. I lived with 10 different nationalities in an intern house and the amount I’ve learnt from all of them is just incredible. All the interns worked for different NGO’s and through them I met more amazing people who redefined how I think.”

– As said by Lomarshini Anand – a student of Manipal University, an exchange participant who went global via an AIESEC internship to Kenya.

Read about Lomarshini’s internship experience via her impact report here.

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Going Global to South Africa

Hear Satwik Rajani’s global experience to South Africa.

“I went to South Africa for an AIESEC internship.

I worked for a project called S.M.I.L.E run by a South African not for profit organization that focuses on the empowerment of youth, education, illiteracy training and career guidance. I was teaching students Maths, English and Physics and was also the head of the photography workshop in the summer school.

This internship has been a definite eye opener more than anything. It challenged the way I perceive the world and opened my eyes to various things around us that I take for granted. I interacted with young ambitious people from over 15 countries. It really gave me a sense of being part of something bigger and made me realize the power I have to change the world.

Leaving in a different country, speaking a different language and living a different lifestyle never sounded simple till I experienced it which got me thinking of the various other things in life that I thought would have been impossible but might have just been in my reach.

I would definitely recommend this experience over any vacation or summer school, simply because of the depth of human interaction and the self learning. I would like to thank AIESEC for exposing me to a different meaning of life.”

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Being Global

As technology connects and businesses expand, the world shrinks further. It unites in both its opportunities and problems. Our challenges are global, might they be poverty, climate change or gender inequality. Our businesses too, are global. Yet unfortunately, our leaders are not.

global_leadership_crop275x275_01Both growing multinational companies and national governments are currently all facing a common problem, that of a Global Leadership Deficit. That is to say, they have failed to develop leaders who are capable of managing global enterprises (social or profit-based) and take advantage of strategic international opportunities. According to a survey of senior corporate executives in the US, 76% believe that their organizations need to develop global-leadership capabilities, but only 7% think they are currently doing so effectively. Of the US companies surveyed, 30% admitted that they could not sufficiently exploit their international business opportunities simply because they had a paucity of personnel with adequate international competence. The recent London Business School Global Leadership Summit discussed the lack of leaders with Global mindset in the public sector and policy making arena.

But what makes a global leader? Ángel Cabrera, commented on this in the Harvard Business Review, “The old mantra ‘think global, act local’ is woefully inadequate to describe the complex realities global leaders face. They don’t just think and act global, they are global.” Hence it is not simply about being aware of international trends or being sensitive towards various cultures – it is about living global experiences and understanding the routes of these business trends, political issues and cultures. She further elucidates that there are “three critical skill sets that are essential for effective global leadership: global mindset, global entrepreneurship, and global citizenship. The global mindset allows leaders to connect with individuals and organizations across boundaries. Their entrepreneurial spirit equips them to create value through those connections. And their citizenship drives them to make a positive contribution to the communities they engage with.” Global leaders thus “nurture relationships with associates and friends around the world and have a unique ability to transcend cultural barriers and cultivate trust”

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Some companies are gradually understanding the importance of “being global” and are reaping rich rewards. Moving among multifarious multi-year overseas assignments is “very much a part of Shell culture,” says Mathilde de Boer, a consultant on leadership development for the organization Shell Learning, a part of the Royal Dutch Shell. Benefits of a global experience are visible when executives get together for more formal training activities, says de Boer. “You can see it in the way they learn. Because they have experienced so many different situations, they can quickly grasp new ways of doing things. They have had a mirror held up to their leadership styles.”

People who have been on AIESEC internships also echo the same learning. “My internship in Egypt was a life changing experience because got to develop a global perspective about life, living and working with people from all over the globe made me realize my leadership potential to a great extent!”, says Ahsaas Chawla, a 2nd year student of Delhi Technical University who went for a social sector internship through AIESEC.

It’s clearly time to “Go Global”. What are you waiting for?

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