When it comes to service learning one has countless ways in which to engage in an experience. From duration, to type of experience, to where the course will take place, there are many decisions to be made. When it comes to location, students might choose to do a course in their own community, city, country, or in an international destination. All rich in their own rewards yet diverse in the ways that they will impact the individual.
While an international service learning course can be a bit of a bigger commitment it is also incredibly unique in the experiences that it offers, the skills that will be strengthened, and the educational gains that will be obtained. Below are just a few of the ways in which traveling internationally can enhance ones service learning course.
Gain cross cultural competency:
One clear skill that students who partake in an international service learning course will gain is a better understanding of cultures outside of their own. Why is cross cultural understanding so fundamentally important? It is the backbone of global communication, we cannot work collectively towards positive change if we do not first understand the context of our diverse perspectives.
On an international service learning program students will gain understanding through interactions and conversations that are not common place during traditional travel experiences. As community members and students engage in shared activities they will deepen their cultural understandings through individual interactions.
Improve communication skills:
Working cross culturally means that communication is of the upmost importance. Goals cannot be established and met unless everyone is on the same page. International engagement gives students the chance to work on many forms of communication and they will learn how to check that the true meaning of conversations is mutually understood. This means strengthening both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Further reading: The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace
Learn fresh perspectives:
Often time’s people within similar areas can come to similar conclusions and solutions based on their shared point of view. There is variance of course, huge variance, even within one community, but the gap typically widens the father one goes from home.
Problem solving is one area where being abroad for a service learning course is extremely rewarding. For example an American brainstorming ways to improve attendance at a school in Kerala might think that having fresh notebooks will make a huge difference, where as a local teacher might realize that transportation costs is inhibiting families from getting their children to school. The solution might then be one that requires seeing things from a new perspective and adapting adequately.
Further reading: How Service Learning Will Inspire Life Long Learning
Completely remove yourself from your reality:
Growth typically happens when one steps outside of their daily routine and looks at things from a macro instead of a micro perspective. By traveling internationally students often feel less inhibited, more aware of their surroundings, and naturally alert. This is wonderful because it creates space for reflection that is often forgotten about when one is in their own environment.
Further reading: How Service Learning Turned Me Into A Global Citizen
Think a service learning course might be a good fit for you? GVI is a multi-award winning international Service Learning organization. Find out more about our international programs and see how students from around the world are making a difference.