Does volunteer work abroad help with a job search or graduate school admissions?
Yes. Volunteer work in a foreign country is very highly regarded in graduate school applicants and is very often favorable in the eyes of a prospective employer.
According to Lisa Jenkins, a freelance writer for JobMonkey, in her article, “Survival Tips for Working Overseas and Volunteering Abroad,” volunteering abroad will set you apart from the competition:
Having something to show for your time abroad is extremely helpful. It aids in the process of procuring a new job or when looking for an interview. Having more than just a gap between jobs shows potential employers that while you decided to end a previous profession you remained dedicated to something productive during your time off. This does several things for your resume besides building character in the eyes of your potential employer. It diversifies your work experience - an incredible advantage when looking for a new job. It naturally sets you apart from your peers who have been experiencing more traditional work and internships. If you lived in a non-English speaking country, and obtained bilingual skills this is an incredible asset for your resume and one that companies and employers are eager to employ. This excellent skill not only makes you a candidate for more jobs but it sets you even further apart from your peers. For companies who have branches abroad, your newly acquired bilingual skills may transfer into other travel and work opportunities.
It's easy then to turn your experience in a foreign country into one that works for you. Using it to enhance your resume and as a forum to build new skills for your return turns your decision to leave a good job at home into an opportunity to return to an even better one!
Choosing to volunteer overseas is a great choice for numerous reasons. Besides the obvious resume boost, it gives you the opportunity to complete something you might not otherwise have had the time for. For graduate school admissions, volunteer work is highly respected and your time spent doing so may turn into something incredibly valuable for your future. In non-English speaking countries, volunteering is a great way to learn the language without having to pay for classes. In many volunteering opportunities volunteers end up teaching English to young kids who live in at-risk environments while also speaking the local language.
Too many people look at an experience abroad as a departure from a work or educational path that will slow you down. And while the decision to leave a secure line of work for something unknown is often risky or scary, it rarely turns out to be a mistake. In fact, nearly every person returning from an experience abroad will tell you it was one of the best decisions of their life. With a little forethought and inventiveness, your life abroad can become one of the largest stepping-stones of your education or career.
According to Mike Selvon in his article, “Travel Abroad Volunteer Work Has Many Career Benefits,” volunteering abroad is not only the experience of a lifetime, giving participants a unique insight into the daily life of another culture, but an excellent resume- and graduate school application-booster:
Anyone who gives up their time and energy to offer their services and expertise to a voluntary charity organization will have a wonderful entry to include in their resume. At the same time, most administrators of charity work overseas programs are more than happy to write you a glowing letter of recommendation as a token of thanks for the services you rendered.
For those who are planning to go on to graduate school of some type after their overseas volunteer work, it can be noted that volunteer work is something that is well respected in school admissions offices. This one factor alone can be something on which your whole future hinges in the most positive of ways. There are many people who have returned from a break from schooling or a sabbatical from work where they took advantage of a volunteer work opportunity to find that their school or job prospects had improved greatly because of their desire to use their time serving other people.
Brook Schendneck decided to take the time to live and work in Japan before starting graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School:
When I arrived at Harvard Divinity School it was apparent that my travels had given me some credentials in the field of Japanese Buddhism. I was also able to give my class current information about the practice of Japanese Buddhism.
It was clear from talking to professors that those students who had not traveled would have to do so before they became serious about a scholarly career in the field. After all, how does a person know if he or she is interested in a field without living in the country where he or she will eventually have to spend so much time?
The first thing professors asked when I told them I was interested in a career in Japanese Buddhist studies was, "Have you been there?" They seemed pleased that I had—and that I had completed the Shikoku pilgrimage and visited Nara and Kyoto. Many professors told me this experience was an excellent foundation for future research.