FAQ: Why Pay to Volunteer Abroad?

I love my job.  Preparing great people to travel abroad and finding the perfect match for them with an international non-profit or school is uplifting.   However, as an international coordinator, the one thing that will get me down is when participants are frustrated that the service we provide is not free.  The most common question I am asked is, “so, why do I have to pay to volunteer?”  My best answer is you aren’t actually paying to volunteer, other than with your greatly appreciated time and effort.  But, your trip abroad is not free.  You are paying for our service in setting up the placement, housing, meals, airport transfers, international medical insurance, tours and support from our local coordinators for the entirety of your time abroad.  Since we are a non-religious, non government agency, we receive 100% of our funding from program fees.  Program fees are what enable us to remain in business and offering our services.

My great grandmother always used to tell me, “pack half the amount of luggage you think you need and double the amount of money.”  For better or for worse, she was right!  When I traveled to Australia on an exchange trip, I took a huge backpack filled with everything I thought I couldn’t live without for 6 months.  As it turned out, I could have left my sheets at home (they weren’t the right size), half my clothes (laundry was easy to do and I wanted to shop for cute clothes from local shops), scuba gear (a pain to carry around and it could be rented), tent and camping gear (hostels are cheap) and laptop (internet cafes were everywhere).   Mid-way through the adventure I was seriously considering swimming across the river to campus so I wouldn’t have to pay the ferry fees as I had blown through my savings by taking surf lessons, hiking in the Blue Mountains, visiting Uluru and scuba diving in the Whitsunday Islands.  But, I have no regrets and would go broke again to have my head spinning by the awe of learning and experiencing something so new and different.   This poem sums up how I aspire to live life:

Life should not be a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely
in an attractive and well preserved body
But rather to skid in sideways
chocolate in one hand
wine in the other
Lover right behind you
body thoroughly used up
totally worn out and screaming
Woo Hoo what a ride!

Travel is a big part of the ride, at least for me!  Costs you should save and prepare for in advance when planning an international trip not only include your program fee, but your visa fees, airfare and personal expenses like souvenirs and going out for a coffee or drink with friends.  Here are some great ways to financially prepare for your adventure:

1.  Work and save money in advance
2.  Choose a program where your dollar will go far (i.e. traveling to Latin America is cheaper than traveling to Europe due to the exchange rates and cost of airfare).  Here are links to our cheapest volunteer programs: Volunteer in Latin America and Volunteer in Southeast Asia
3.  Let your support network know what you are doing and ask for financial aid
4.  Choose a program where you can earn money (like teaching or working abroad).  Here are links to our paid programs: Summer Camp Counselor in ChinaWork in Australia or New ZealandTeach in GuatemalaTeach in Mexico and Teach in Thailand

5.  Apply for scholarships at your school or online


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Apr 29, 2021 @ 18:30
👋 Hi everyone! I'm Eryn Fleener a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, studying Early Childhood Education. I studied abroad with API Summer 2019 in Florence, Italy! I will be taking over API Instagram tomorrow, make sure you follow along!
🇮🇹 🍕

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Apr 29, 2021 @ 17:51
🗞️ 🌏 Breaking news! The world is opening back up and travel will return! Enjoy some good news before the weekend! #studyabroad #apiabroad #ispyapi #internationaltravel #Europe
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Apr 29, 2021 @ 10:57
A lovely day for a tour of Montparnasse au des années folles and some delicious glace 🍦avec API. There is always something new to discover in Paris! #apiabroad #paris
📷 by @api_paris https://t.co/FODTCGyJpf
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Apr 28, 2021 @ 18:40
The world is slowly opening back up! Vaccinated tourists will be allowed to visit Europe as early as this Summer! #ispyapi #studyabroad #summer2021
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