High school students volunteering abroad on Projects Abroad’s programs for 15 year olds.

High school volunteer opportunities abroad: What’s the journey really like?

By Vicci Parry | 16th January, 2019

Are you ready to take a step out of your comfort zone, push your boundaries, and do something extraordinary over your summer break? Then our High School Specials are for you!


But what is a High School Special?


High School Specials are set volunteer trips abroad organized specifically for groups of 15-18 year olds. They fit into your school break, making it easy to volunteer or intern abroad while you’re still in school.


On these projects, you’ll get just the right amount of independence as you step out of your comfort zone, whilst still being under the guidance of our dedicated staff.


On a volunteering abroad project for 15, 16, 17, and 18 year olds, you’ll work closely with a group of volunteers your age. Together, you’ll set and achieve goals that support community development. In the process you’ll build lasting friendships with people from around the world.


But what’s it like to actually sign up for a High School Special? Where do you begin? In this blog post, we’ll take you by the hand and lead you through the journey of a High School Special volunteer. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect and can decide whether these are the projects for you.

Making the decision to volunteer abroad as a 15, 16, 17, or 18 year old

Making the decision to step out of your comfort zone and go on a summer volunteer program for high school students abroad can be scary. That’s why our staff provide unparalleled support throughout this extraordinary adventure.


When making a decision about whether to join a High School Special, ask yourself these questions:


  • Am I between 15 and 18 years old?
  • Do I want to work with a group of volunteers my age during school break?
  • Would I (or my parents) prefer if I had extra support and supervision during the project?
  • Is this my first time traveling abroad alone or am I feeling nervous about traveling alone?
  • Would I prefer a set schedule planned out for me so I don’t need to worry about arranging my own activities?


If you answered yes, High School Specials are perfect for you. But it’s a good idea to contact our Project Experts for extra guidance. As their name suggests, they are the experts in our different projects. So they’ll be able to help you with selecting the project that fits your needs and interests.


“I chose to join a High School Special program because it is a safe way to travel (which means my parents let me go). I also wanted to join a group so I could meet other teenagers from around the world with the same interests as me.” - Oda W, Childcare & Community Work in Ghana and Public Health in Cambodia
A high school student looking for opportunities for volunteering abroad for 16 year olds.

Preparing for departure for your volunteer opportunity abroad

Once you’ve made the courageous decision to go abroad and make a difference, your personal Volunteer Advisor will get in touch. Your Volunteer Advisor is your go-to for all your questions. They’ll fully prepare you for departure. They’ll walk you through everything you need to know: the country and culture, what the project is like, visa requirements, even down to the nitty gritty details like what shoes to pack.


“As the main point of contact the volunteer has prior to departing, I prepare them as best as I can by giving them all relevant information and going the extra mile for those who are quite nervous or anxious about their first big trip abroad.
It is great getting to meet all of our volunteers be it via the phone, emails, or skype. Being a part of their journey excites me as it means being part of a community that aims to make a difference." - Claudia Arendse, Volunteer Advisor for Belize, Nepal, Peru, and Thailand


Visa and travel team


Our in-house visa team has all the latest visa information. They can give you extra visa advice if you need it. And we even have a flights team, who can arrange convenient and affordable routes. All of this preparation takes the hassle out of traveling and helps ease the nerves of first-time travelers.

A Projects Abroad staff member helps with pre-departure preparation for volunteering abroad for 17 year olds.

Arriving in destination for your summer abroad

With bags stuffed full of bug spray, it’s time to head to the airport. You might even get to meet a fellow volunteer there. We try to make sure you fly with other volunteers, if possible. Navigating through security checks and finding gates is so much easier when you’ve got someone by your side figuring things out with you.


After your flight, our hassle-free approach means you’ll arrive without the stress of arranging transport for yourself or finding your way around. Who wants to land in a foreign country after a 12-hour flight and have to negotiate with taxi drivers on the best price? We’ve got your transport from the airport covered so you don’t have to.


Our staff will meet you at the airport and take you to your accommodation. They’ll help you settle in and give you a thorough introduction to your host family, hostel, or hotel, your team, and your project work.


Many of our High School Special volunteers are shy at first. It’s completely natural to be nervous! But you’ll quickly find your feet, with the help of our staff, your host family, and the group of students sharing this experience with you.


“Something that really stayed with me during my experiences with Projects Abroad has been how understanding the staff is. They all understand how scary it is to travel on your own, and they help to the best of their abilities to make each volunteer comfortable.” - Naomi R, Childcare & Spanish in Argentina and Childcare & Community Village in Fiji
Projects Abroad staff meet volunteers at the airport before their summer volunteer program for high school students abroad.

Working on a high school volunteer opportunity abroad

After a detailed orientation at your placement, you’ll be ready to begin your work. The kinds of work you’ll do will depend on the project you choose. For example:


  • Work with children at daycare centers and help with classroom renovations on a Childcare and Community Work Project
  • Shadow doctors, attend medical workshops, and help at healthcare outreaches in remote communities on a medical project
  • Conduct biodiversity studies and help with reforestation and clean-ups on a Conservation Project
  • Raise awareness of human rights issues and attend law workshops on a Human Rights Project


Throughout your work, you’ll always be accompanied by your supervisor, who will be there to support you 24/7.


“For me it was an amazing experience watching how the volunteers got from the point where they first met each other, learning things about the others and also about themselves, growing up to the point where they became an effective and good team.” - Andra Tanasescu, High School Special Supervisor in Romania


Community days


You’ll also have organized community days, usually once a month, where volunteers from all projects come together to achieve a single goal in one day. Armed with a paintbrush, you might add a fresh coat of bright paint to playground equipment. Or put your culinary skills to the test (don’t worry, chopping carrots still counts as cooking!) by making meals for homeless people. This is a great way to get to know the teens on other projects and chat about their experiences.


Social activities


On our High School Specials, you’ll have plenty of pre-arranged social activities. This gives you the chance to connect with your group in a more relaxing setting. Some examples are seeing historical sights, visiting museums, weekend trips to the beach, local cooking lessons, or quiz nights. You might even end up ticking some real must sees off your bucket list!

Students during an English lesson on one of our volunteer opportunities abroad for high school students.

Departure from your volunteer abroad program for high school students

Once the project work comes to an end and all the goals you’ve set out have been met, it’s time to say goodbye. Although this marks the end of the trip, this is really the beginning of a whole new way of looking at the world.


After a few weeks contributing to community development and conservation abroad, you’ll have a deepened understanding of different people and cultures. You’ll have made connections with people around the world and will feel yourself powerfully transformed by travel.


Connecting with people


For our volunteers, meeting new people is one of the most rewarding aspects of these projects. You’ll connect with our local staff, your host family, people in communities where you work, and of course, the other volunteers in your group. Bonding over a shared love of helping others, making a difference, and stepping out of your comfort zone means you’ll establish deep, lasting friendships.


“The memories and friends I made are ones that will last a lifetime. I think one of the best parts of the program that most volunteers would agree with is that the people you meet with and the Projects Abroad family truly feel like a family.” - Sarah P, Public Health in the Philippines


Learning about different cultures


Our High School Special Projects are also the perfect opportunity for cultural exchange. You’ll work closely with local people in developing countries, learning from them and discovering a different way of life. In the process, you’ll connect with a group of like-minded volunteers from countries spanning across the globe.


“The most significant effect of taking part in this program was that it opened my eyes to the world we live in. I felt like before the trip, I was in my little “bubble” in Canada and when I came home, I realized how different every country is. This affected me and I became much more considerate, generous, and appreciative.” - Jordan B, Medicine in Nepal


Personal growth


When volunteers leave their project, they often remark that they feel like a new person. You’ll find that you go home with a renewed sense of responsibility. You’ll grow in kindness and compassion, and will likely want to keep making a difference or traveling the world, even after you’ve arrived back home.

A group of 16 year olds at the airport preparing to head home after volunteering abroad.

Volunteering abroad as a high school student is only the beginning

Once you’re safely back home, scrolling through photos and daydreaming about the life-changing experience you had abroad, what’s next? Finishing this volunteer opportunity abroad for high school students definitely doesn’t have to mean the end of  your adventures.


We’re always ready to help you find your next adventure, tailor-made to every stage of life. We’ll continue to guide you through trips, as a high school student, a university student, a career breaker, and beyond.


So now that you know what it’s all about, why not start looking at the different options for your next trip with us? Take the leap, do something out of the ordinary, and discover what you’re truly capable of.

A group of 16 year olds at the airport preparing to head home after volunteering abroad.

Want to learn more about our High School Specials?

Get in touch with one of our Project Experts for more info:

(+1) 212 244 7234

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