How volunteering abroad can get you your dream job

For competitive degrees such as Medicine, journalism, Law or Veterinary Medicince, having relevant experience can improve your chances of getting onto a course.

One way to gain this experience is by volunteering abroad. Read about the experiences of three students who did just that:

Francesca • SineadPatricia

Francesca – Veterinary Medicine in India

Francesca went to India to work with local vets to help with her application to study Veterinary Medicine at university. 

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“Being a student currently applying for Veterinary Medicine degree places, I am always ready to get more experience with a wide and diverse range of animals. So where could possibly be better to go than India?

My placement was based in the south of India. During the working day I shadowed an Indian vet, who was very famous in the twenty local villages.

Throughout my time with him I was able to observe him carrying out daily procedures, including the Indian techniques when carrying out castration on bulls and goats (which was somewhat interesting and different to home!) as well as practicing artificial insemination and giving vaccinations against prominent diseases such as Anthrax.

The members of staff I was working with treated me with respect, courtesy and care showing me their way of life, which made me realise how small England really is.

Overall if you’re debating which country to travel to for Veterinary Medicine I can definitely recommend India because the opportunities I got were certainly once in a life time, which I would never have got at home.”

Sinead – Law in China

Sinead undertook at legal internship in Shanghai, China after finishing her undergraduate and postgraduate Law degrees.

“My decision to start a legal internship in Shanghai was not random or impulsive. After completing my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Ireland and the UK respectively, I had become disheartened by the lack of quality job opportunities available for legal graduates in London which did not necessitate years of paralegal experience.

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The legal profession in the UK was in a period of flux and I decided it would not be a financially intelligent decision to invest thousands of pounds in completing my professional legal training in the UK if I was not guaranteed a training contract upon graduation. I felt the need to gain some work experience abroad to add to my credentials and give me the freedom to re-strategise my career path.

My placement was at a Chinese law firm specialising in maritime law. As Shanghai is one of the largest maritime ports in the world, I felt that I could gain a fantastic insight into the operation of international regulations and case law at this firm.

Throughout my internship, I was presented with a variety of tasks including writing claims submissions in English for hearing at a maritime tribunal and conducting legal research for upcoming cases. Most of my work was focused on cases where English law was applicable, such as in intercontinental disputes between cross border parties.

This was an extremely interesting aspect of the job for me and provided me with a very on hand perspective of maritime law in an international context. In addition, the people at my internship were so incredibly warm and helpful and even took myself and another intern on a trip to Qibao Old Town to try some famous local dumplings!

Towards the end of my internship, I had more clarity about the direction I wished to take with my career. I came across a six month contractual position in digital marketing and business strategy which had become available at the Shanghai office of a UK multinational company and, on a whim and with a reference from my placement, decided to apply. After two interviews, I was offered the position and took my second leap of faith and accepted almost instantly.

I absolutely adore what I’m doing now and have matured so much throughout this entire process of living in China. After living in Shanghai for six months, I have fallen in love with Chinese food, culture, language and history, and these are passions that I will take with me when I return home.

I would not trade my experience with for anything in the world; it has opened my mind to opportunities and experiences beyond my previously narrow perceptions. If it weren’t for my time spent in Shanghai, I wouldn’t be sitting in the 17th floor of a high rise office building on West Nanjing Road writing this article, full of confidence and optimism about my future career.”

Patricia – Journalism in Mongolia

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Patricia seized the opportunity to follow her dream of becoming a journalist when she embarked on a 3 month volunteer journalism placement in Mongolia.

Patricia has now fulfilled her dream. As a successful TV host and author of the bookLive from Mongolia, Patricia says that her time in Mongolia was life changing: “Without my experience in Mongolia with, I could not have done what I’m doing today.”

Patricia was placed at the Mongolian National Broadcaster. Some of her work included anchoring news broadcasts, reporting, proofing scripts and recording voiceovers.

As a volunteer, Patricia was given as much responsibility as the locals: “One afternoon, my boss told me to put a suit on. I asked her why, and she sort of laughed a little bit – ‘Because tonight you will anchor the Mongolian news,’ she said. I will never forget what it felt like to run home to my host family’s apartment, put my suit on, and race back to the station to report on air! That night, I watched the broadcast from the apartment, and I cried. Pursuing a dream, and then achieving it - it’s an extraordinary feeling.”

Aside from her work, Patricia enjoyed staying with a Mongolian host family and experiencing, first hand, life in a new country, a new language and new people half way across the world. “I learned a lot about Mongolia by living with my host family. My host mother was extremely kind to me, and was always eager to teach me new things. She took me and my roommate to a village where the family spent their summers. She patiently taught me about Mongolian culture.”

Now, Patricia is working as a professional journalist and her journey has taken her all over the world to cover stories of other people following their dreams from North Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, small American towns to New Zealand, Patricia says: “Every story I get a chance to tell is a story of someone’s dream being pursued and achieved. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to tell these stories; they’re inspiring for me. During my time in Mongolia I learnt about journalism, but I also learnt about friendship and loyalty. It was the biggest and best adventure of my life.”