Ten excellent summer student volunteer opportunities
If you just finished up a year at college but don’t have any plans for the summer yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late.
There are plenty of unforgettable volunteer opportunities for college students, particularly those interested in engaging with high-impact organizations working toward a cause they are passionate about.
Volunteering not only allows you to give back, it is an opportunity to learn from others. It is also an avenue through which you can try and understand the challenges faced by people, animals, and the environment, while learning new skills and tapping into networks that will help you professionally.
International student volunteer opportunities are a unique way to get out of your comfort zone and learn about development issues facing communities and environments around the world.
Be part of the solution to these challenges by volunteering your time with a high-impact organization that works together with a variety of partners, such as community-based, non-governmental and international organizations, and local governments.
Join an impactful initiative
While there are myriad international volunteer opportunities for college students, the best volunteer opportunities will align not only with your career plan, but with larger development initiatives, such as those tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
The UN SDGs present a universal call-to-action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people can enjoy lives of peace and prosperity.
The goals build on from the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – but also include a focus on both climate change and economic inequality.
Each of GVI’s projects promote one or more of the SDGs. This means that volunteers are guaranteed genuine and long-lasting impact.
For those interested in education and community development, there are opportunities for you to work alongside local nonprofits and assist their staff with the work they are already doing. This ranges from teaching English and facilitating workshops, to conducting community health assessments.
This is a great way to understand global issues related to education, women’s empowerment, and economic development, while also getting hands-on experience that will help you to stand out from the crowd once you enter into the job market.
For those interested in wildlife and marine conservation, or veterinary studies, there are opportunities to assist with critical field research, and to work alongside vets as they conduct surgeries. This is essential hands-on experience that can be difficult to obtain.
Below are ten summer volunteer opportunities for college students that will allow you to make your summer a high-impact one.
Volunteer with children in Ghana
Ghana is known for its natural beauty – with an unspoiled coastal landscape and tropical forests – as well as its rich culture and history.
Since gaining independence in 1957, the government has invested heavily in education. In 2017, GVI was approached by a primary school to set-up an educational project in Ghana. In the summer of 2018, volunteering opportunities for college students will launch.
As a volunteer, you will assist teachers with English, math, reading and IT lessons, where you’ll add capacity and provide additional support for learners.
Volunteers may also be asked to assist with public health projects, which could include engaging with students, teachers and parents about their healthcare needs, and creating workshops to cater to these.
Volunteer on women’s empowerment projects in Peru
Travel to Peru, home to Inca sites like Machu Picchu, vast biodiversity, and cities with rich archaeological and cultural histories.
Not only is Peru a must-see country, it is also home to one of GVI’s newest projects.
GVI has partnered with a local non-governmental organization to develop a program aimed at empowering women economically.
While most women in the region do the same type of agricultural work as the men, their work is often not valued equally, and their voices often go underrepresented.
The new project aims to provide women with the tools that they want and need to be successful, in whatever form they feel is best.
You’ll have the opportunity to really get to know the local area when assisting on these women’s empowerment projects. You’ll be trained to help facilitate workshops, activities or one-on-one sessions centered around women’s rights, healthcare, literacy, and professional development.
Volunteer with Buddhist monks in Cambodia
Buddhist monks are iconic throughout southeast Asia. But did you know that many monks become novices at a young age as a way to continue their schooling?
There are a variety of reasons why a child might become a novice, such as living far from formal education, lack of funds to further their education, or a general interest in learning more about Buddhism.
As a volunteer, you can assist in the monks’ education by working to enhance their literacy levels, in addition to their educational facilities.
This is perhaps one of the more unique volunteer opportunities for college students. The program gives you the chance to not only immerse yourself in Cambodia’s culture, but in Buddhism as practiced in the region.
You will also have the opportunity to learn more about the monks’ way of life in Kampong Cham – a city on the Mekong River known for its laid-back charm, and French colonial architecture.
Complete rainforest biodiversity research in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an incredibly popular ecotourism destination and is known for its biodiversity and rich rainforests.
Despite Costa Rica’s commitment to protecting its natural resources, it has been difficult to provide enough manpower to do so – especially in places like the Tortuguero National Park.
To provide this additional support for the government, GVI trains its staff up to local standards. This helps to increase capacity in the country’s most critical-need areas.
As a volunteer, you’ll live and work in Tortuguero National Park as you conduct scientific studies on the rainforest’s biodiversity – primarily jaguars, aquatic birds, and turtles.
The research you will conduct is part of larger efforts put forth by the government, and will contribute to the sustainability of both the park and the region.
College student volunteering opportunities like this are especially relevant for those interested in pursuing scientific field research after graduation.
Coral reef research and coastal conservation in Thailand
More than three quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs have been damaged due to climate change and overcrowding.
Coastlines, which are critical habitats for nesting turtles, have been damaged as well. As a result, the Thai government has decided to close some of its beaches for part of the year. Beaches, like Maya Bay, will close for four months per year to allow them to regenerate.
As a volunteer, you will be trained to collect data on the coral reefs. You will also contribute to other conservation efforts, like working at a local turtle nursery to help care for young turtles, so that they have an increased chance of survival upon release.
The research is led by local science-based organizations, in partnership with volunteers and other conservation stakeholders.
Promote water security in Fiji
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Fiji are feeling the effects of climate change firsthand. Rising sea levels, scarcity of fresh water, and biodiversity loss are some of the issues they commonly face.
Water insecurity, including water shortages and the lack of freshwater, is a particularly pressing problem.
Volunteers will work alongside local partners to enhance water security and promote water and sanitation for health (WASH) practices.
Activities you might get involved in include conducting WASH workshops and installing rainwater harvesting systems.
Fiji is known for its incredibly warm hospitality, and as a volunteer you will get to experience it firsthand on the island of Viti Levu, in the Dawasamu district.
Anti-rhino poaching awareness in South Africa
Wildlife poaching is an international problem, and South Africa is not immune. The country is actively working to protect its now critically endangered population of black rhino, which has experienced a decline of more than a 90% since 1970.
Today, few rhinos survive outside of national parks, and even then, they are still at risk. In 2017, 1,028 rhinos were poached, compared to the 13 that were poached in 2007.
Volunteer opportunities for college students in Africa will always be unforgettable. But contributing to pressing and valuable anti-rhino poaching initiatives is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Volunteers will be trained in the conservation issues South Africa is dealing with and will learn how to increase awareness of these challenges.
Volunteers will also work alongside local partners to collect data on rhinos, and to other wildlife species, including leopards, lions, cheetahs, elephants, and buffalo.
Volunteer in Mexico on its veterinary program
Animal welfare organizations in Mexico need support, so that they can increase their capacity and by extension, their impact. These organizations work diligently to care for local dogs and cats, and to drive awareness campaigns in their local areas.
Volunteer opportunities for veterinary students present a chance for students to learn about animal welfare issues in other countries, in addition to the hands-on experience needed to jumpstart their career.
In Playa del Carmen, a coastal resort town along the Yucatan Peninsula – known for its coral reefs and beautiful beaches – volunteers assist local veterinarians in the care of cats and dogs.
Tasks may include assisting in surgeries at spay and neuter clinics, as well as raising awareness around pet care practices, or population control where access to care and education on these issues may be limited.
Marine conservation expedition in Seychelles
If you’re passionate about diving and marine conservation, the Seychelles is the perfect location for you to pursue both.
Seychelles is known for its blue waters, abundance of marine life, and beautiful coral reefs. However, its fragile marine ecosystem has felt the effects of rising water temperatures, resource exploitation, and invasive species.
In an effort to protect its environment, the government has agreed to do something unique: the first ‘debt-for-nature’ swap.
Seychelles has significant national debt, and in order to help decrease that burden, the government has decided to protect more than a third of its waters for conservation purposes.
The implications of this are substantial. The amount of water protected will rise from 1% to 30%, creating the second largest Marine Protected Area in the West Indian Ocean.
Your duties as a volunteer with differ depending on where you are located. Those more interested in marine conservation can assist, monitor and work on restoring coral reefs, conduct surveys on invertebrate and fish, and remove ocean bed plastic.
Those interested in coastal conservation, you can focus more on turtle conservation and research.
Volunteers might also participate in local educational and awareness programs. If you’re a diver looking to combine your love for diving and scientific research, you can also obtain your PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualifications.
Summer can be time off or time on. Why not make the most of your summer by volunteering abroad, and allowing yourself to grow, learn, discover, have fun, and give back all at once. Speak to a member of our team to learn more.
- Cape Town
- Chiang Mai
- Community Development
- Fiji Islands
- Gap Year
- GVI Live
- In The Field
- Luang Prabang
- Mahe and Curieuse
- Marine Conservation
- Personal Development
- Phang Nga
- Responsible Travel
- Service Learning
- Siem Reap
- Study Abroad
- Under 18
- Wildlife Conservation
- Women's Empowerment