Voluntourism, which was quite unheard of in the 90s, is now very popular among travellers wanting to get the most of their travels overseas. Before deciding to go for a program, it is important to know the differences with internship, apprenticeship, and volunteering:
Who it is for: GRADUATING STUDENTS
- A formal work experience arrangement geared towards gaining university credits
- Provides students with skills to help them transition from study to work
- A qualified mentor is assigned to the intern to provide guidance during the entire duration of the work placement
- The student’s university and the partner institution will be in contact prior to the commencement of the program
- The reality:
- Most volunteer work are masked off as internships because doing so makes the work sound more difficult, specialized, and career-oriented.
- These days, it’s getting rarer to find paid internships. The United Nations, the world’s first non-profit before the term was even invented, has also been leading the trend. Recently a Kiwi intern at the UN Headquarters in Geneva was forced to quit because of the high cost of living.
- If this is as bad as it already is, most people have to pay for their internship placements!
Who it is for: GRADUATES, WORKING AND WORK-IN-TRANSITION PERSONS
- A non-academic internship: geared towards people wanting to gain exposure and skill sets to improve on their careers, or en route to switching careers
- Although a qualified mentor is available to provide guidance, work is more flexible as apprentice is given more liberty in weaving through the whole experience (i.e. in practicing skill sets, trying other methodologies, blazing new trails, etc.)
- The reality:
- It’s getting rarer to find companies willing to give a comprehensive training of at least six months with everything from your living expenses, transportation, insurance and allowances paid for. With companies investing on their apprentices, they are ensured that they get the best talents from all over the world. Sadly, for cost-cutting purposes, training is shortened by a mile that lasts for a month if you’re lucky, you go straight to work on Day 1 with an orientation on the day itself, or you are instead given online tools to review as you weave through your job. The guiding principles of welcoming new employees are completely lost, and the once promising glory of apprenticeship now comes down to a thin layer of “getting the job.”
Who it is for: EVERYONE!
- Someone who works for the main purpose of giving one’s time and energy to help a cause
- No legal contract binds a volunteer to perform work or attend the workplace
- No pay is provided for the work performed
- The reality:
- While volunteer work is meant to be a genuine extension of one’s time and energy for a greater cause, sadly, most placements have upfront (and hidden) fees involved.
- Work expectation given is way more than what should be for a volunteer. It’s as if organizations take advantage of others’ enthusiasm and rip them off over hiring someone to do the job.
We should take a stand against organizations taking advantage of our idealism and passion for the things we believe in. Without supporters these organizations will fail to prosper. Internship, apprenticeship and volunteer programs definitely provide good training and inspiration that we would otherwise have in most formal work settings. But before going for any program, know your worth and only go with those whose mission you believe in!