Have you tried volunteering overseas?

Lisa Martin 24 September 2015


Travelling overseas for three months and meeting some great people with interesting stories to tell reminded me of how lucky we are in Australia.

I was fortunate enough to be given leave without pay to do some travelling and combine this with a volunteering stint to teach conversational English to adults in Hungary.

I met a lot of people along the way who were surprised by all the Australians they’ve met travelling and the number of Australians travelling for months.

One big reason I think Aussies travel for such long periods is it takes at least 20 hours to get to anywhere in Europe, if not more, depending on your flight connections. You really want to make the most of it before attempting that long flight home.

Many people I met travelling on this trip, mostly Americans or Canadians, hadn’t heard of leave without pay and couldn’t fathom saving enough money to travel for more than a month.

Many of the people travelling long-term had to quit their jobs and take up volunteering opportunities ranging from teaching English to working on a farm.

In order to travel for three months, I also took up a volunteer opportunity. Prior to leaving on this trip, I did some research and discovered the HelpX website, which contains online listings of mostly accommodation and farming hosts that need volunteer helpers in exchange for food and accommodation.

This is where I found the Angloville program. Free accommodation and food in a countryside resort while teaching conversational English to Hungarian or Polish participants sounded almost too good to be true but I signed up hoping for an enriching cultural experience as well as the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers.

11260394_10153174621474143_2727326538019176957_nThe Hungarian and native English speakers at the Angloville program.

I did this program in Hungary, in a small town about an hour from Budapest. The program involved speaking to the 18 Hungarian participants one on one throughout the day as well as mentoring one of the participants to lead them to produce a presentation on their chosen topic at the conclusion of the program.

11728941_10153174622689143_5173585641402095991_oWith my mentee Peter at the Angloville program.

Travel isn’t all about seeing places, it’s about meeting people, both locals and other travellers, learning about other cultures, sampling local food, and taking the time to absorb these new experiences.

This experience I think will certainly help me in my work life in Canberra – I learnt from the business people I chatted with and was also inspired by the work they do. I learnt more about the business world from the participants – many who held high level positions in multi-national companies. In return, I told them about Australia, the work I did in Canberra, and helped them with their grammar.

Volunteering at Angloville provided an enriching experience. It was also useful for my study in training through my workplace. One thing this experience reinforced is that learning doesn’t just happen in traditional ways through work or study. If you want to learn more about the Angloville program, visit www.angloville.com

Out of interest, I had a look at the HelpX website to see the Australian opportunities available. Unfortunately, there are no listings for the ACT I guess due to its small size, but most of the listings in Australia are farm stays.

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