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No Borders: The Importance of International Youth Leadership [4 Reasons]

Posted on April 17, 2012 in Volunteerism

By Zach Buckley:

The realm of higher education places a great deal of importance on study abroad programs for college students, but gaining a firsthand understanding of different cultures of the world should truly begin a bit sooner than that. Teen volunteer abroad programs are an excellent way to add depth to a high school student’s understanding of what life is like in other regions of the world.

Programs like these not only expose students to new and exciting cultures, but also allow them to help gain a sense of community with the entire human race, instead of just fellow Americans. Although the benefits gained from this kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience are virtually endless, here are the top four greatest advantages of international volunteering for teens.

1. Well-Rounded Character

Nothing helps shape a teen’s character quite like volunteering abroad. On top of the values of selflessness that come with helping those less fortunate, students are able to communicate and identify with those in different parts of the world. This experience gives students a more intimate understanding of what life in other parts of the world is like, and that they are capable of making things better. Teens who have volunteered in other parts of the world tend to have a deeper sense of confidence in their abilities to make the world a better place, which is one of the greatest lessons a student can take with him or her as they move on to college and the professional world.

2. Stronger Ties Between the U.S. and Foreign Countries

First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke with young students at Howard University about the importance of studying and volunteering abroad to make America stronger. She elaborates on this concept by explaining,”Make no mistake about it, whether it’s climate change or terrorism, economic recovery or the spread of nuclear weapons, for the U.S. and China, the defining challenges of our time are shared challenges.” With all of the problems that America and other countries across the world are facing, our best bet for finding effective solutions is by working together.

3. Greater Understanding of the Value of Academic Subjects

For high school students who may not fully understand why they have to spend hours each week studying foreign languages, history, geography, global politics and other enriching academic subjects, volunteering abroad will offer the opportunity to apply these skills in a real-life setting. One of the biggest complaints students often have is that their studies aren’t applicable to the challenges they face in their everyday lives. By placing them in a setting where foreign language skills, understanding of geography and political climate make all the difference, students will gain a new understanding and appreciation of the valuable subjects they are taught in school.

4. Development of Selflessness

Traits like selflessness and compassion can’t simply be taught. Students must develop these traits on their own through exposure to different cultures and by developing personal relationships with people of all kinds. Becoming involved in cultures outside of their own allows teens to see past prejudices and stereotypes that can often divide people. Volunteering abroad allows students to gain an appreciation for differences and a fuller understanding of what other cultures are truly like beyond their assumptions.

The challenges that we face on a national level, as well as the world at large, are easier to approach with the support of multiple countries. Eliminating the dividing lines between nations and cultures through volunteer abroad programs is one of the best ways to accomplish this goal of greater unity across the globe. By starting with America’s youth, we can eliminate these stereotypes sooner to foster more well- roundedleadership for the future.

Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwestern United States.  Having graduated from high school in the year 2000, he belongs to the millennial generation.  Zach holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in communication.  He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food.