In today’s modern, fast-paced world, there are many competing priorities for young peoples’ time and energy. It’s easy to get caught up in relationships, hobbies, online entertainment and schooling. Nevertheless, with the world currently contending with significant issues surrounding climate change, inequality and sustainability, young people are looking to find purpose, to put sustainable goals into action, and to think far outside the four walls of their classroom. Overseas service learning provides an opportunity for students to push themselves, be a part of the global community and reflect on their own lives and future. It is also a tangible way to deepen thinking and connect classroom learning to authentic situations.
Service learning is a type of transformative travel, which, as defined by the Transformative Travel Council, is “intentionally travelling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world”. It is travelling with real purpose.
There is nothing more humbling for the soul than travelling through developing countries. If the service project involves helping people less fortunate than themselves, students are likely to be confronted with sites and scenes quite different from home. This brings with it deep reflection that connects the service learning experience with broader social, developmental and global issues, such as poverty, social justice and gender equality, among a broad range of other issues. Students can come away with a far wider and more globally based understanding of international issues, and how we can work together – worldwide – to solve them.
Service learning often provides an entry into a community by living, working and learning alongside its members. It is important, in this case, to determine that the project is ongoing, non-disruptive and has the imprimatur of the community and a local NGO.
If this is the case, students will have the opportunity to make a difference in ways that significantly benefit that community. This type of service can encourage young people to contribute in positive and impactful ways in their own communities and help them understand why it is important to help others less fortunate than themselves.
Overseas service learning is a real-life experience that young people may find inspires them to explore a previously unknown career path. Through helping the environment, people or animals, students may develop a desire to pursue a career in a related field –for an NGO impacting communities all over the world, the WWF or perhaps the UN! It can also expose them to a range of new hands-on skills, that they may not have previously used.
Personal Attributes and Skills
Language skills and many essential 21st century skills, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, critical and creative thinking, will all be tested and developed while away on a service learning project. Personal attributes such as humility, gratitude, respect and compassion can equally be enhanced, depending on the student’s genuine involvement with the project.
Overseas service learning provides students with an appreciation for their own lifestyle and opportunities, and encourages purpose-driven thinkers, who can more easily connect their education to a meaningful goal. When considering a service learning trip, encourage students to think about the purpose of the trip, and to be intentional in setting transformative goals that they can evaluate on their return.
To find out more about our overseas service learning tours, please click here.