Going on Erasmus will always be an amazing experience, with volunteering or not. But why not give it an extra boost? Volunteering makes this experience even more amazing because it “forces” you to understand the community that you’re in with the eyes of a local, not just with the eyes of a foreigner that is trying to be a local for a year. Whether you’re helping little kids or in a food bank, you are going to interact with people from all types of backgrounds. And trust me, you’re going to grow so fast with this type of experience.
Volunteering also gives you a brand new perspective on what is actually important. This might be one of the biggest cliches I’ve ever written, but it’s true. When you’re helping others, even if it’s just giving those little stickers to help raise money for breast cancer, you get a new perspective of life out of it. You find out that people are ruder than you think OR that people actually care about others.
Volunteering might sound hard, especially if you’re already out of your comfort zone. You don’t know where to start, if people will be willing to receive help from a foreigner. There are thousands of obstacles to volunteering, not only abroad. But it’s worth it in the end. Your language barrier, for example, is nothing compared to what people in need have. Those are the real barriers. Don’t be afraid to go and help others.
One of the easiest things you can do on Erasmus is donate blood. Every country needs blood donations, foreign blood or not. In most countries, blood banks see no gender, religion, nationality or sexuality. Maybe we should be a little bit more like blood banks! So, try to find your nearest blood donation spot and go ahead, don’t be afraid! Before you actually donate some blood, make sure you are able to do it. If you are more than 50 kgs, haven’t had any tattoos or major surgeries in the last 3-5 months and are generally healthy, you are good to go! So, if you are allowed to donate blood, make sure to do it - this is an easy way to do some volunteering during your Erasmus and help others.
Something else you can do and I really wanted to do when I was on Erasmus because I lived near a cancer research facility is donating hair. This might be easier for you than it was for me. You have to have long, virgin (never dyed) and healthy hair and have the courage to just chop it down to donate it so wigs can be made out of your hair. I’ve dyed my hair so many times and the research facility nearby my house didn’t accept my hair, but this is also a great way to volunteer. You wouldn't imagine how amazing it is to give back to others by just giving something that grows back every day!
If you’re not sure what to do or where to look, check out your local ESN section! They will for sure have an event where you can help someone in the community. There are sections that help you rebuild homes or forests. Just check your local ESN section or your closest ESN section and see what they have to offer! If they don’t have any events, ask them how you can help the community. They will be more than glad that you are offering some help.
During my Erasmus, my friends and I got the opportunity to donate and fix old toys for kids that couldn’t afford them. The experience was not only great for the kids, they got almost brand new toys, but it was incredible for us. It united us as humans and made our friendship even stronger, with something as simple as an annoying toy truck that had a song that got stuck in all of our heads.
Whatever you do, big or small, volunteering abroad is always going to be enriching, not only for you, but also for the community. You learn new skills, you teach new skills, you do something completely different! This might be the game changer for you! Visit a dog shelter with your local ESN section, go plant some trees, donate some clothes. Give others what you would like to receive in times of need, you never know when it’s going to be you, abroad or not.