getting ready to work overseas

When you are considering volunteering or working overseas, preparation is the key. Having the basics taken care of before leaving will provide for the best adventure. Here are five areas you should handle during preparations:

  • Practical Preparations
  • Having Enough Advance Time
  • Using Checklists
  • Raising The Money
  • Being Ready For The Culture

Practical Preparations

Working or volunteering overseas requires practical issues be addressed. Things that will fall into this category are:

  • Health validations
  • Work visas
  • Passports - both going and coming back
  • Immunizations
  • Customs requirements - both going and coming back
  • Medications - both directions as there are restrictions in some countries
  • Criminal and legal checks
  • Embassy information - the hours, who to see, what to do if you need to go there

The Timing

Preparations to volunteer or work overseas require time. The bureaucracy in some countries a problem. It is advisable to have time to adjust should problems occur. A general rule when it comes to time for preparations:

  • Any project over a year - start preparing at least a year in advance
  • Any project under a year - start preparing between 6-12 months ahead of your departure.

Using Checklists

One of the biggest aids you will have in preparations before volunteering or working overseas is the checklist. Making lists of what to do, and what needs to be addressed will ensure things get done. These lists may seem broad at first, as you go along they will become more specific. Here are a few items you might want on a list:

  • Updated passport - be sure that your passport has enough time on it
  • All permits and records in place - these may be hard to get in an emergency
  • Inoculations - having protection against certain diseases will save your life
  • Insurance matters - if going with an organization, they will handle this
  • Luggage - how many bags and how much can you take?
  • Finances - you will need money even if sponsored by an organization
  • Accommodations - know where you are living and how you will get around
  • Clothing - know what type of clothing you can, and should take
  • Diet - if you have special needs, these will need addressing before leaving
  • Transportation - how will you get from point to point?
  • Communications - do you have a way to stay in contact with family and friends?
  • Paperwork - who needs to know where you are and what to do if you can't do it?
  • Language - begin learning the native language as soon as possible

Raising the Money

Going overseas for volunteering or working can be expensive. While some organizations will provide for basic needs, others will ask for contributions with the cost. If you are going alone, you finance everything. Taking any family members will increase this cost dramatically. How will you raise the needed funds?

  • Friends or family members
  • Neighbors
  • Local churches
  • Local businesses
  • Local community service groups
  • Newspaper publicity
  • Sell an article to a magazine on spec about the experience

A general rule to consider is that whatever your finance target is, raise double that amount to be safe.

Be Culturally Ready

Research the culture you are going into. Working or volunteering overseas means you are the visitor in another country and are expected to abide by their rules. Two things which you should not do:

  • Make assumptions about anything
  • Challenge the cultural norms

While going into a new culture can provide a wealth of education and knowledge; going into it unknowing or unwilling to learn about the culture can prove disastrous.