by Marla Kaplan
Managing Editor, 2003 Series, Let's Go
People have always loved to travel. We certainly do here at Let's Go. But we also recognize that being a tourist isn't the only way to see the world. Studying, teaching, and volunteering abroad have become increasingly popular alternatives to traditional tourism, and it came to our attention last year that there are very few travel books that devote any attention to this subject. That's why we decided to branch out and look beyond the museums, clubs, and hostels of a particular place and find opportunities for our readers to really get to know the people, culture, and lifestyle of whatever country they want to visit.
Some of our listings are well-known international organizations that place volunteers, students, or teachers in positions abroad; others are hidden gems that our researchers dug up along the way. We hope that by including information on alternatives to tourism, we'll encourage more travelers to seize the opportunity to make a difference in other countries, make lifelong friends and have life-changing experiences.
Volunteering abroad can take many different forms. You can tutor children in rural Thai villages, do trail work in the Andes, work for a non-government organization (NGO), or participate in one of many other programs. All of them allow deep immersion in a place and culture and a chance to make a difference.
But here's a catch that budget-friendly editors like us like to point out: many organizations that specialize in placing volunteers charge hefty registration or placement fees that can run as much as several thousand dollars. Our advice? Do your own research and seek out local or religious organizations that don't charge a fee, make contacts directly in the country you want to volunteer in, or look at the individual (and often quirky) listings that Let's Go includes in our "Alternatives to Tourism" chapter. Also, when researching potential volunteer opportunities, be sure to ask if there are any hidden costs, if living expenses will be covered (you can often get room and board in exchange for work), and who will pay travel costs. Some of our favorite programs and jumping-off points for researching volunteer options are:
|Vacation Work's International Directory of Voluntary Work by Louise Whetter and Victoria Pybus|
|Voluntary Service Overseas www.vsocanada.org|
|Alternatives to the Peace Corps: A Directory of Third World and U.S. Volunteer Opportunities by Joan Powell|
|Global Volunteers www.globalvolunteers.org|
Studying is another great and extremely popular option for expanding one's cultural horizons. You can either go through an American program - often a for-profit agency or a college study abroad office - or a university or program in the country of your choice. While both options are popular and each has its benefits and drawbacks, the best choice is often made based on where you want to go, what you want to study, and what you expect to get out of the program. American-run programs are usually more expensive, but it's also much easier to get college credit from them than if you enroll directly in a foreign university or study through a foreign program. On the other hand, local programs are more likely to place you with a family or in classes with locals, rather than with other foreign students. Language schools are another alternative to consider—they're often the best option for either adults or younger students looking for a slightly less rigorous course load. We suggest the following resources:
|School for International Training www.sit.edu|
|The Insider's Guide to Study Abroad, by Ann M. Moore|
|Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) www.ciee.org|
Consult our 2003 books for additional resources for volunteering and studying abroad, and other non-traditional alternatives to tourism. Enjoy!
Tagalog On Site
Specifically designed for Filipino-American students. TOS participants spend the summer or fall semesters studying the language, history, and contemporary culture of the Philippines.
The University of the Philippines-Diliman
Offers courses and degree programs in Filipino language and Philippine studies.
Assisi Development Foundation
Volunteer on projects for evacuees and refugees from the war in Mindanao.
Coral Cay Conservation Ltd.
Volunteer with coral reef and rainforest conservation, and sustainable development projects in southern Negros or in Taytay Bay, Palawan.
Health Volunteers Overseas
Sends qualified health professionals overseas to train local healthcare providers. Many sites also offer volunteers food and accommodations.
International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
Help preserve the Philippines' biodiversity and create viable policies for sustainable development of aquatic resources.
World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Provides connections between volunteers and organic farms in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Augsburg College Center for Global Education
Arcadia University for Education Abroad
Association for International Practical Training (AIPT)
Central College Abroad
Internships and placements all over Mexico in the fields of education, public health, the environment, ESL, and social work.
Amigos de las Americas
Sends high school and college students in groups of 2-3 to work in rural Latin American communities for up to 8 weeks.
Archaeological Institute of America
The Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin, available on the organization's web site, lists field sites throughout Mexico.
Arranges 1- to 3-week programs in Mexico to promote conservation of natural resources.
Sends volunteers age 55 and over around the world to work in construction, research, teaching, and many other projects.
Service Civil International Voluntary Service (SCI-IVS)
Arranges placement in work camps in Mexico for those 18 years and older.
American Universities International Program (AUIP)
American Institute for Foreign Study
Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)
The "Lexia in Cape Town" program includes independent research, language training, and field research opportunities.
Arranges 1- to 3-week programs in Namibia and South Africa to promote conservation of natural resources and help scientists with fieldwork research.
Service Civil International (SCI-IVS)
Arranges placement in work camps in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa for those 21+.
Visions in Action
Volunteers spend 6-12 months in Johannesburg addressing social justice and democratization or 1 year in Zimbabwe working in development journalism.
International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA)
Provides opportunities to work with animals in South Africa. Some veterinary experience and skills required.