Spring breakers all around the country are gearing up for week-long vacations. Some head for the beach, others head home, and some of the more adventurous ones have decided to discover the world. But this isn’t your normal trip, it’s a trip where you are able to give back and help some people in desperate need of assistance. This type of spring break trip involves volunteering abroad.

Some college students have opted to study abroad while in college. Volunteering abroad takes that cultural experience to a completely different level. Opting to do it during spring break adds an even broader scope to the benefits: you utilize that week to enhance the lives of others. Volunteer, live with a host family, and sneak in the sights, all in a week. Instead of the typical spring break souvenirs, you will come home with unforgettable life-changing experiences and memories that last a lifetime.

Here are three of the offerings available for volunteer opportunities during spring breaks. Each offers their own unique experience and varying locations; but they all provide fabulous opportunities for college students to give back.

Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad has tailored their spring break trips toward college students and their spring break availability. You can attend alone or come with a group of students. Their week long projects for 2011 include: community building in Jamaica, care in Costa Rica, conservation in Mexico, and culture and community in Morocco. The programs are geared toward all types of majors allowing you to choose the one that fits your interests and would be suit your career goals as well. Availabilities vary throughout the normal spring break month of March.

United Planet

United Planet’s volunteer opportunities provide you with meaningful travel experiences and powerful insight into community development. Learn about global issues in context as you work hand-in-hand with local partners on a range of projects. A week in Guatemala affords you a chance to live with a local family and work in an orphanage, school or health clinic. If you chose to travel to Costa Rica, you’ll live in the village of San Jose and work with environmental conservationists. Both these trips also include cultural excursions and sight-seeing trips during your stay. All of this while building your language skills. They also offer many other trips in a variety of countries.

One student who spoke of her experience with United Planet said, “Everything about my Quest was amazing. The minute I arrived, I became immersed in everything… From the people who took me in as though I were family, to the overwhelming historical culture that was everywhere. Even though I was American, I became one of them and am eternally grateful to everyone who made my experience possible — especially United Planet.”

Experiential Learning Abroad Programs

ELAP is offering two amazing spring break opportunities this year: Gandora Beach, Costa Rica and Guanajuanto, Mexico. The program in Costa Rica is designed to have volunteers assist with the ongoing conservation initiative to protect sea turtle nests from human poachers and beach erosion. The program in Mexico gives volunteers the opportunity to mentor girls in the orphanage and assist with recreational activities and art projects. These trips also include trips to visit sites of cultural interest and some time to take in the local culture.

What else do I need to know about volunteering abroad?

Many colleges provide these alternative spring break trips through their study abroad programs. If they are sponsored by the colleges, scholarships are often available, along with group discounts. Choose a country and project that interests you, and fits within your budget. Read the fine print of each program and educate yourself regarding any additional expenses you might incur on your trip. Many programs offer fundraising guides which can be used individually or as a group to raise the necessary funds for the volunteer project you choose.

Volunteering abroad can certainly be a rewarding experience, both for you and for those you help. Consider this as an alternative to the usual spring break activities and invest the money you might have spent on entertainment in the lives of others. When you come back, you might echo what one volunteer said, “This is really an experience that has to be personally experienced and lived for one to truly understand the magnitude of realization, appreciation and gratitude that it instills in someone”

Have you had the wonderful experience of volunteering abroad? If so, please leave a comment and tell us about it.

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