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Thinking Of Volunteering Overseas? Here’s How Much You Can Expect To Spend

Beyond university exchanges or internships, you can also gain overseas exposure from volunteering abroad.

Travelling and living overseas for an extended period is on many tertiary students’ bucket list. Besides the fun of travelling with friends, going overseas help students better appreciate different cultural perspectives and provide valuable learning experiences.

Most students gain overseas exposure through university exchanges or internships. There is actually a third (often overlooked) way – volunteering abroad. We speak to two university students about their overseas volunteer projects, how much it cost them, and how they funded their trips.

Read Also: Here’s How Much 3 Singapore University Undergrads Spent On Their Overseas Exchange

Tai Wen, Year 2 Undergraduate

Tai Wen and her managers visiting the countryside.

DollarsAndSense (DNS): Tell us about the overseas volunteering programme you joined.

Tai Wen (TW): I chose to volunteer under AIESEC’s Global Volunteer programme. I went to Yilan county in Taiwan, at a small town called Su’Ao, which is famous for its cold springs. I was there for 6 weeks between May 2017 to July 2017.


DNS: Were there any conditions you needed to fulfil to join this programme?

TW: From what I recall, you need to be between 18-30 years old and prove you are financially secure to live 6 weeks overseas.

DNS: Who did you go with?

TW: I went there alone. Initially, I felt a little nervous and uncertain since it was something new, but after a while I realised that I could adapt to the environment surprisingly quickly. Now, I’ve become more independent to take care of my own needs.

DNS: What did you do there?

TW: I volunteered at a Taiwan Community Enterprise which operates as a tourism organisation. I helped with marketing, event planning and providing English translations for international tourists.

Tai Wen showing her wood carvings at the Wooden Clog Museum.

DNS: There must have been other things you could have done during the summer break, whether going for summer school or taking up an internship. Why did you decide to volunteer abroad instead?

TW: I wanted to seek an experience that provided immersion in a completely different culture and was also interested to see how overseas community enterprises were operated. Another thing that really appealed to me was the flexibility I had to choose the project I was most interested in. Given I could achieve multiple aims all at once, I decided to volunteer overseas.

Read Also: Internship Or Exchange: Here Are Some Questions To Ask Yourself Before Deciding

DNS: Why volunteer abroad when there are opportunities to do so locally?

TW: The nature of volunteering is very different in overseas projects compared to local ones. Volunteering overseas can inspire youths to take ownership to do good as world citizens, while local projects allow us to make a direct change in the community we are most familiar with. Together, these experiences complement one another to empower us to do good better.

Tai Wen with her manager’s mum at a trip to Taichung.

DNS: How much did you spend on this experience?

TW: I spent $600 on the AIESEC programme which included accommodation, $300 on my flight and about $500 on food. I paid for the trip out of my personal savings.

DNS: Do you have any advice to others planning for a similar volunteering trip?

TW: I think prospective volunteers need to understand that they are travelling to help with a cause, so maintaining professionalism is very important.

It is equally important to choose your project wisely, to be willing to learn and embrace the unknown. Things may be different from what you expect, but that’s the core of the learning experience of volunteering overseas.

Read Also: 6 Things That Are More Important Than Your University CAP

Crystal, Year 2 Undergraduate

Crystal and her ScrubUP 3.0 Team.

DollarsAndSense (DNS): Which overseas volunteering programme did you choose to go for?

Crystal (C): I volunteered on this Youth Expedition Project (YEP) called ScrubUP 3.0, which is a collaboration between the YMCA and National Youth Council. The project was in collaboration with Unaccompanied Association (UNACAS), a non-government organisation that cares for under-privileged children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

DNS: How long was your volunteering stint and what did you do there?

C: We were there for 15 days in December 2016. We assisted in building a house for a family of 6, taught the children at UNACAS some basic English, and organised a Christmas party too.

DNS: Were there any conditions you needed to fulfil to join this programme?

C: You must be able to commit for the whole duration of the YEP project. Our project comprised of both local activities before and after the overseas trip too, so it meant we had to set aside additional time to do lots of preparation work.

DNS: Who did you go with?

C: I went with my ScrubUP team members, which comprised of university students from different faculties.


ScrubUP Team teaching Cambodian children basic English.


DNS: How much did you spend on this experience?

C: The total cost came in at approximately $850, which included air tickets, accommodation, meals and transportation and other miscellaneous costs. Thankfully, our project qualified for the highest tier of subsidies under the YEP grant, which meant I only had to pay about $400+.

Read Also: 5 Common Money Mistakes Students Make Overseas (And How To Avoid Them)

DNS: How did you pay for this?

C: I paid for the trip out of my personal savings.

DNS: Do you have any advice to others planning for a similar volunteering trip?

C: I would advise them to think carefully about their commitments before signing up, because there is really a lot of work to do throughout the entire project! You must be really motivated and committed to see it through.

Feeling Inspired?

Regardless of which organisation or country you choose to volunteer in, you get to have fun travelling the world while doing good touching the lives of people around the world. You also get to break free of your social bubble and an opportunity to make many new friends.

While the experience is priceless, it remains a reality that you often must fork out money to do so. But with just a little detective work, there are ways to volunteer abroad without paying an arm and a leg by tapping on the wide range of subsidies and grants available.

For those wanting to self-fund their trip, there is similarly the option to take up all sorts of part-time jobs. Ultimately, for a programme that’s entirely voluntary, the onus is on you to see how much you’re willing to put in for the overseas volunteering trip of a lifetime.

There are also grants and subsidies offered by the individual tertiary institutions, including NUSNTU and SMU. Do check with your school for more details. Bon voyage!

Read Also: Never Too Young To Start:  3 Millennials Show Us How They Are Getting A Head Start In Their Careers While Studying

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