December 5th was International Volunteer Day, but that doesn’t mean your chance to lend a helping hand is over. It’s that time of year reminding everyone to do their part or give to others in need. With that cheerful spirit in mind, here we have a story from travel blogger, Mad Ideas of Mine, who used one volunteer opportunity to see more of Korea through the Jeonju International Film Festival. Read about her experience abroad and where you can find your own chance to volunteer abroad.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to travel
It cuts the costs significantly, adds tremendous bulk to your resumé or college application, and feels rewarding by giving something back to the community. Farraz Theda found this win-win scenario when she received the Global Korean Scholarship for an exchange student program at Chonbuk National University, located in Jeonju, Korea. Originally from Indonesia, Farraz spent nearly one year studying abroad, completely immersing herself in the Korean culture and language. Unlike in Seoul, it was not common to find English speakers in Jeonju, Korea.
During her exchange period, Farraz volunteered as an Assistant of Jury Coordinator at the Jeonju International Film Festival 2014. This annual festival is held by the Jeonju Government’s ministry of tourism where film-makers and movie-goers from across the nation join together.
How she got her volunteer opportunity
Out of curiosity, Farraz sent an email to the committee asking for any volunteer opportunities to join the festival and suddenly received a reply for an interview. After trying out for the interview, she was surprised to be one of the few selected.
Her job responsibilities as assistant jury coordinator consisted of arranging the schedule of each jury and making sure they attend every screening, as well as translating for and accompanying them around. As a volunteer, she didn’t get to see the films but she was able to attend the opening ceremony, walk the red carpet, and be fed delicious food. The most exciting part was being able to meet festival film-makers.
The biggest challenge to volunteering abroad
It was the committee’s first time picking foreigners to be volunteers for the festival, and Farraz was one of just two foreigners for the position. The committee assured them that the language barrier would be fine since their leader was half American. However, besides the three of them, there were no other English speakers and so all of the orientation and events were held solely in Korean. Farraz simply had to dive right into the language, which turned out to be a wonderful way to push her past her comfort zone. The best way to really get a feel for a new country is jumping in, head first. “I guess, the biggest obstacle during the volunteering program was my ability to speak Korean. I barely understood the orientation, and rarely interacted with those who didn’t speak English. But then, that made me eager to learn Korean harder, and practice my broken Korean every time I met the other volunteers.”
Diving into the language is the best way to learn
As our university Education Abroad Program advisor had recommended to Wetravel in our last article, it’s important to let go of the fears of your own limitations of the language. People abroad are often very happy to see you attempting to learn the language. Just as Farraz did, step a bit further out and meet the new people with your broken vocabulary and all. It will help you learn the language faster! “What I value the most from this volunteering project was the people I met. They always tried to communicate with us, foreigners. Even when we couldn’t speak Korean very well. But I treasure it so much, and we still kept in touch through social media up until now.”
Farraz’s tips for volunteering abroad:
“If you want to do a volunteer project while abroad, make sure that you search for the opportunity through the right channel. It will be great if you could ask for the information about the volunteering opportunity from the official committee. Following and subscribing to accounts of volunteering projects would also be helpful in accessing information.”
Mentally Prepare Yourself
“Doing a volunteering project abroad will always be challenging. Even when we have already prepared everything, we could face an unpredictable situation. But, those are the perks of being a volunteer, so you should brace for every moment and enjoy the process.”
How to find a volunteer abroad opportunity
If you were inspired by Farraz’s experience and would like to start your own adventure by volunteering, try reaching out to the resources at your own school or go to volunteeringsolutions.com. They have a variety of different places and programs you can join so you can volunteer or intern. Just pick whatever sparks your interest and they will break down the logistics like cost and accommodations for you.
To see more of Farraz’s stories while she travels around the globe, visit her blog or follow her on twitter. We’d like to thank her for sharing her story to inspire Wetravel on new ways to travel further and make a difference. If you have any inquiries about the blog and/or would like to share your own story, please reach the blog editor Christina Nguyen: firstname.lastname@example.org