Volunteering as an International Student

When people study abroad in America, they think of making friends, visiting new places, and learning the culture (and studying, of course!). The obvious answer is to gain those experiences through school and travel in the country you’re studying in. But have you ever thought of volunteering as an international student? Not only can you enjoy volunteer service, but it has many other benefits as well. As the article from International Student Blog says,

“the US also provides great volunteer opportunities that allow you to give back to the community. Volunteering as an international student will expand your horizons and introduce you to a new part of the US culture. Not only does volunteering help you meet new friends, but it shows potential employers or scholarship panels that you care about your community.”

Some of their volunteer suggestions include:

  • Working at a food pantry or soup kitchen
  • Tutoring students
  • Presenting about your country and culture at events or schools
  • Cleaning a beach or park
  • Walking or playing with dogs at a shelter

If none of those ideas interest you, then let’s start thinking about what other ideas would! The article offers 3 key points to help you find that interest (and do the research to find organizations or events you can participate in).

  1. Play to your strengths
  2. Gather information
  3. Figure out the “why?”

Continue reading here for the full explanation on the 3 points and more tips to volunteer as an international student in America.


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Postcards Going Digital

Students studying abroad are focused on the new culture and schoolwork, but it’s also important to keep in touch with family and friends. Sure, there’s the usual way of emails, phone calls, videos, and messaging. But there’s another interesting way that people might not think of first–postcards. Especially with all the easy digital ways of communication, postcards are often overlooked. However, they have a charm to them–they capture the spirit of travel, exploration, and new experiences. Now, there’s a way to send postcards easily and digitally with the app TouchNote. This is done in 3 simple steps:

  1. Choose a photo
  2. Add a message and address
  3. They print and mail it anywhere in the world

ACE - touchnote

Especially language learners, try sending a postcard in English. Share new things you learned. It’s a great way to combine English practice and fun!


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Culture Shock!

Many people will feel culture shock when they study abroad. Especially for language learners, it can be stressful to adapt to the culture and school work. However, culture shock is a well-studied topic and there are many coping tips. “How to Deal with Culture Shock while Studying Abroad” by Mandi Schmitt is great article that explains how to overcome culture shock. For example:

1. Learn as much about your host country as possible

Read through travel forums, guidebooks, news reports, or novels. Talk to people who have been there or — better yet — are from there.

Get to know as much as you can about what’s considered polite or rude (for example, did you know it’s rude to step over someone’s bag in Madagascar?) and prepare yourself for some of the differences before you go.

2. Ask study abroad coordinators for advice

Specifically, ask them what other students have had a hard time adapting to and what they’ve done to cope. Each country has it’s own nuances, so you’re going to face a different situation in France as you would in Thailand. Ask those who know best!

3. Set learning goals for your study abroad trip

This may be obvious, but make sure you have goals for your study abroad trip, and make sure they include learning about your host culture. Do you love food? Make it a goal to learn how to cook a local dish.

4. Write down what you love when you first arrive, and look back later

During the honeymoon phase, write down all the things you love about your new host country (maybe even in your new study abroad blog?). Later, when you’re feeling frustrated or irritated, use this list to remind yourself of all the good things about your host country, instead of the things that annoy you.

5. Find a healthy distraction

Especially in stage two, when you may have negative feelings towards your host culture, find a healthy distraction. Take some time to yourself, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, cook a meal from home, or have a solo dance party in your house.

Continue reading the full article here.


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