February 24, 2012

Instead of sticking to the same, tired tourist traps and boring tours, many international travelers are grabbing paintbrushes and shovels instead. Cross cultural volunteering is giving people like you the ability to go to work in areas of the world where their help is desperately needed. What they find instead, is that these trips have a lot more impact in their lives than the impact they could ever have on the lives of the people they've come to help.

1. Opening Your Mind

Serving people of a different culture encourages acceptance of their values and beliefs, especially as you learn and understand more about them. Once you do, you suddenly start opening your mind to how important other cultures and ways of living are to your worldview. As you make decisions, you think not only of how they impact you and your community, but also the world as a whole.

2. Broadening Your Awareness

When you take a look at the world's newspapers today you see so many stories about wars and skirmishes all over the world, some even in cities in our own countries. Often these stem from one group stereotyping another. These stereotypes usually come from a misunderstanding of the culture of a group of people. After your culture exchange travel experience, you start breaking down those stereotypes in your own mind. The knowledge you gain in the field can then be used to educate others who are as ethnocentric as you once were.

3. Improving Your Character

One of the best ways to grow and stretch as an individual is to dive into a work project in a foreign country. This means you may have to face some fears, you'll have to deal with language gaps and learn how to think on your feet. When your travel experience is complete, you will find yourself more compassionate, courageous, and patient than you were before you left. After you return home you'll find that these character traits stay with you.

4. Increasing Job Opportunities

In addition to the way traveling abroad changes your attitude and focus, it also changes your job opportunities. In 2007, Global HR News conducted a study, and 80 percent of the executives surveyed pointed to foreign travel as a key factor for their choice in placements within their companies. These decision makers believed that applicants who traveled had a greater cultural awareness and international perspective, which is vital in today's international business market.

We live in a world where communication is virtually instantaneous anywhere and being able to cope with multiple cultures is essential in today's tough job market. Having culture exchange travel on your resume shows that you can think outside of the box and are willing to work with people who view the world differently than you do. These benefits of cross cultural volunteering do not disappear in the weeks or months after you return. They have the potential to change your life for the long term. After this experience, you will never view the world the same again.

Terry Galloway wanted to change her life so she researched Costa Rica volunteer programs to help those in need. You can travel with purpose this year with volunteer programs and Costa Rica community service from Global Works.
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