Is it for me?

The decision to volunteer overseas is a significant one. It means leaving the life that you know to go and work in a country that may be new and very unfamiliar to you — an experience that can be a bit frightening and exhilarating.

The following are some questions to consider to help you decide if overseas volunteering right for you.

Overseas Volunteers

While there is no typical overseas volunteer, there are some general attributes that are valuable for overseas work.


When you arrive in a new country you will be confronted by many things that are unfamiliar. The way you are used to working may be challenged. You will need to be flexible and open–minded. This will lead to a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

Willingness to listen and learn

Volunteering overseas is an opportunity to share. In addition to sharing new skills with your partners, you also have a great opportunity to learn if you are receptive and willing. If you are open to new perspectives and different ideas, you will have a rich learning experience, one that will benefit you long after you have finished your placement.


It is inevitable that the unexpected will happen. Solutions that are available to you in Canada will not always be available to you overseas. Approach problems with an open mind, solid analysis and input from your connections in the community and you’ll find creative solutions.

Patient and positive outlook

Again, the unexpected is to be expected. You will encounter unforeseen challenges. Patience really is a virtue. Listen well, keep an open mind. Working overseas is a wonderful opportunity to share and learn. Remember the big picture, instead of getting lost in small frustrations. Being open and constructive will yield better outcomes and stronger relationships than a harsh critique.

Tolerance and understanding

You will be working in a culture that may be new and unfamiliar to you. Customs and attitudes may be different from those you are used to in Canada. As a visitor and a guest of your host country and organization, you must be respectful and accepting of these differences. Remember to be humble in your dealings with others and open to unfamiliar ideas and approaches.

Self Assessment Quiz

Your placement may seem modest in the face of global challenges, but your work can and will make a valuable contribution. Taking time to get to know all the partners, understand the goals of the project, the objectives for your placement and the regional and international contexts will help you see how you can best make a difference. To help you determine if volunteering overseas is the right choice for you, here are a series of questions to consider:

Do you have a good understanding of current development issues, including women’s rights and poverty?

Do you want to contribute to a more just and equitable world?

Are you willing to learn?

Do you consider yourself adaptable?

Can you work well with some ambiguity?

Do you have the analytical skills to make good decisions?

Are you comfortable taking initiative?

Do you consider yourself proactive, a self-starter?

Do you have a positive outlook?

Are you prepared to be flexible, realizing that you may be placed in a situation where you potentially will have little job support, or where you will be working independently?

You may have the opposite experience where you will need to take direction and work as part of a team. Are you comfortable with these scenarios?

Are you prepared to fundraise up to $1000 as one of the requirements of your placement?

Have you considered what it will be like to leave your family and/or your career for several months to live in a culture that may be new and unfamiliar?


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: