Am I cut out for volunteering abroad?
January 26, 2013 6:38 AM Subscribe
I have a golden opportunity to volunteer in rural Nepal for 3 months with an established organisation. I was excited at first as I've never been to a developing country before, but now I'm terrified that I'll die in a bus accident/food poisoning/rabies/political uprising, or just not cope with lack of technology, contact with home, electricity etc. Are such fears normal, or are these signs that I probably wouldn't enjoy this and should consider not going?
posted by pikeandshield to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a good opportunity on paper - cost is minimal and all logistics are cared for; the charity has been running in Nepal for 20 years; we will be paired with a local (bilingual) volunteer and staying with a family so it'll be a fantastic cultural insight; the project content interests me (sexual health, which fits in with my long-term goals of working as a public health physician). But it's also very rural, there may not be any internet connection or mobile coverage, and most people probably won't speak English.
I'm very culturally curious and am definitely not afraid of new cultures, living alone abroad, homesickness etc (I've done months-long stints before, albeit in Europe, China etc). However, the country was allocated to me so Nepal had never been on my 'must-go' places before, and now that the opportunity is more real I feel more anxious than excited - I understand that it's unlikely that I'll be in a life-threatening situation, but I'm more worried that I'll just constantly be anxious and just not enjoy new experiences (e.g. flying in a tiny aeroplane -> worry it'll crash in the mountains; travelling on a bus -> worry I'll get horrifically travelsick; exotic food -> get an upset stomach that won't require hospitalisation but just make me miserable, etc).
In general I'm very open to new experiences, but the minute there is an inkling of risk I always start to overthink it. The point of going abroad was to try and change some of this mentality, but perhaps I'm just not cut out for this kind of thing? If you've gone abroad before and felt similar to me before going, how did you overcome it? Did anyone ever regret going? Are there any things about the programme I should check before I commit? If you also had any Nepal-specific advice that would be great. Thanks!
Possibly relevant info:
- I'm female, Oriental and early 20s with no obligations (am on a gap year with med school lined up, fairly financially secure etc).
- I'm not particularly physically strong, and tend to succumb to illnesses or things like altitude sickness more frequently than others. Probably won't be doing the Everest trek...!
- Regarding ethics of volunteering - I am under no illusion that I will be 'helping people' etc. It's primarily for my own benefit to expand my perspectives, and perhaps spur a motivation to work in development in the long-term future when I *will* be able to offer more professional help. Having said that, please do speak up if you think this would be a misdirected use of my time/money.