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Ten excellent summer student volunteer opportunities

Article by GVI


Posted: July 6, 2022

If you’ve just finished up a year of college and are looking to do something fun and productive during your vacation, why not sign up for one of our summer student volunteer opportunities?

Having a fun summer break doesn’t mean you can’t keep adding to your professional and personal goals too. There are plenty of unforgettable volunteer opportunities for college students, particularly if you’re interested in making an impact with an organisation that works towards causes that you’re passionate about.

And, volunteering not only allows you to get involved in meaningful work, it’s also an opportunity to learn from others. It gives you the chance to broaden your understanding of the challenges faced by communities, animals, and natural environments abroad, while learning new skills and tapping into networks that will build on your future employability.

International student volunteer opportunities are a unique way to get out of your comfort zone and learn about development issues facing communities and environments around the world. 

Be part of our GVI team of global change-makers working towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) while also travelling abroad during your break. 

And by joining a GVI program, you’ll get to work with local community members, local and international sustainable development organisations, as well as local governments. This will give you valuable exposure for your CV.

Let’s start off by finding out what makes for the best summer volunteer programs abroad.


Community development


1) Volunteer in education in Ghana


Ghana is one our oldest bases and is home to a number of projects centred around educating girls and empowering women. 

Our program for women’s empowerment in Ghana is focused on combining social and educational support to girls in school. Join us and assist with specialised support in healthcare, education, and confidence-building for girls and young women. 

In your free time, take time to explore this beautiful country with like-minded volunteers from your group. Ghana is known for its tropical climate, sweeping coastal landscapes and swathes of tropical forests. You can also take part in GVI Experiences like learning how to make traditional Ghanaian dishes and participate in a cultural food exchange where you can teach your home country’s dishes in return.


2) Volunteer on women’s empowerment projects in Peru


Travel to Peru, home to Inca sites like Machu Picchu, areas of vast biodiversity, and cities bursting with archaeological and cultural history. Not only is Peru a must-see country, it’s also home to one of GVI’s women’s empowerment projects. 

GVI has partnered with a local non-governmental organisation to develop a program aimed at helping women empower themselves economically.

While most women in the region do the same type of agricultural work as men, their achievements and concerns are not always acknowledged equally.

Our volunteer project in Peru aims to provide women with the tools that they need to be successful, in whichever form they feel is best.

You’ll have the opportunity to really get to know the local area when assisting on these women’s empowerment projects. You’ll be trained to help facilitate workshops, activities or one-on-one sessions centred around women’s rights, preventative healthcare, English literacy, or professional development.


3) Volunteer with novice Buddhist monks in Cambodia



Did you know that many Buddhist monks become novices at a young age as a way to continue their schooling?

There are a variety of reasons why a child might become a novice Buddhist monk. Aside from having an interest in learning more about Buddhism or hoping to commit to monastic life, many children become novice Buddhist monks because they live far from formal education facilities, or have a lack of funds to further their education.

As a volunteer, you can assist in their education by contributing to their English literacy skills. The program gives you the chance to not only immerse yourself in Cambodia’s culture, but to learn more about Buddhism as practised in the region too.

You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about a novice Buddhist monk’s way of life in Kampong Cham – a city on the Mekong River known for its array of Buddhist temples and French colonial architecture.




4) Complete rainforest biodiversity research in Costa Rica



Costa Rica is a sought-after ecotourism destination known for its biodiversity and lush rainforests.

Despite the country’s commitment to safeguarding its natural resources, it has been difficult to provide enough manpower to do so – especially in expansive areas like the Tortuguero National Park. To provide additional support to the government, GVI trains its staff up to local standards. This helps to increase capacity in the country’s most critical-needs areas.

As a participant, you’ll live and work in Tortuguero National Park as you conduct scientific studies on the rainforest’s biodiversity – primarily focusing on jaguars, aquatic birds and turtles.

The research you’ll conduct is part of larger conservation efforts put forth by the government, and contributes to the sustainability of both the park and the region.


5) Contribute to Thai elephant conservation in Thailand



Thai elephants roam the mountain-top forests in the Chiang Mai province of Thailand. Because many of them have been raised in the tourism industry and can’t fend for themselves in the wild, they’re accompanied by mahouts – carers – who support them in their day-to-day activities. 

Mahouts and their families have a long history of working with elephants. They are responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of the animals. But many mahouts and elephant owners needed to turn to the elephant tourism industry to finance the care of these animals, and to provide an income for their families.   

Since then, many mahouts and elephant owners have entered into partnership with GVI. They are working to establish an alternative model of ethical elephant tourism, where elephants are reintegrated into their natural habitats, and elephant-keeping families can still earn an income. With their generations of insight into elephant behaviour, mahouts are now key players in the movement to reintegrate elephants back into their natural habitats and to monitor their progress as they adapt to life back in the forest. 

As a volunteer working with Thai elephants, you’ll observe and record these animals’ behaviours and daily activities in the forest. You’ll also interact with mahouts and conservation experts in the field and see first-hand how the challenges facing Thai elephants are being addressed in an effective way. 


6) Coral reef research and coastal conservation in Thailand



More than three-quarters of Thailand’s coral reefs have been negatively affected by climate change and the overdevelopment of seaside environments.

With Thailand’s coastline acting as a critical habitat for nesting turtles, this has had a major impact on the well-being of sea turtles and other Thai animals. 

As a result, the Thai government decided to close some of its beaches for parts of the year to give these areas time to recuperate from high levels of tourist traffic. Beaches like the well-known Maya Bay, close for four months per year to allow them to regenerate.

As a volunteer, you’ll be trained to collect data on the coral reefs in this area. You’ll also contribute to other conservation efforts, like working at a local turtle nursery to help care for young turtles so that they have an increased chance of survival once they’re released back into the ocean.

Research here is led by local science-based organisations, in partnership with volunteers and other conservation stakeholders.

7) Promote water security in Fiji



Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Fiji are feeling the effects of climate change in a bigger way than many mainland destinations. Rising sea levels, scarcity of freshwater and biodiversity loss are some of the issues they commonly face. Water insecurity, including water shortages and the lack of freshwater, is a particularly pressing problem.

Participants in this location work alongside local partners to enhance water security and promote water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices that aim to add to the health and well-being of the community.

Activities you might get involved in include conducting WASH workshops and installing rainwater harvesting systems.

While participating as a volunteer, you’ll also get to learn more about the culture and get to know the local people on the island of Viti Levu, in the Dawasamu district.


8) Anti-rhino poaching awareness in South Africa



Wildlife poaching is an international challenge, and South Africa is not immune to it. The country is actively working to protect its now critically endangered population of black rhinos, which has experienced a decline of more than 90% since 1970.

All volunteer opportunities for college students in Africa offer excitement, adventure and the chance to make an impact. And, contributing to pressing anti-rhino poaching initiatives offers all of this plus the chance to see a critically endangered species in the wild.

As a participant on this program,  you’ll learn about the conservation issues South Africa is dealing with and learn how to build on the awareness that other people have about these challenges. You’ll also work alongside local partners to collect data on rhinos and other wildlife species, including leopards, lions, cheetahs, elephants and buffalos.


9) Marine conservation expedition in Seychelles



If you’re passionate about diving and marine conservation, Seychelles is the perfect location for you to pursue both.

This archipelago of more than 100 islands is known for its blue waters, abundance of marine life and vivid stretches of coral reefs. But, its marine ecosystem has felt the effects of rising water temperatures, overfishing and invasive species over the last few decades.

In an effort to safeguard its environment, the country’s government was the first in history to take on a debt-for-nature swap. What does this mean?

Well, Seychelles has significant national debt, and in order to help decrease that burden, the government decided to invest in safeguarding more than one-third of its marine waters for conservation purposes.

The implications of this were substantial. The amount of water protected rose from 1% to 30%, creating the second-largest marine protected area (MPA) in the West Indian Ocean. And these environmental improvements can go a long way in adding to the country’s economic well-being. 

What you do as a volunteer in Seychelles will differ depending on what you’re interested in. Those who are more interested in marine conservation can assist, monitor and work on restoring coral reefs, conducting surveys on invertebrates and fish species, and removing oceanbed plastic.

Those wanting to focus on coastal conservation can get involved in turtle conservation and research. You might also participate in local educational and awareness programs. 

And, if you’re a diver looking to combine your love for diving and scientific research, you can also add to your diving qualifications. You can get your Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Advanced Open Water Diver and PADI Coral Reef Research Speciality Diver certifications while volunteering in Seychelles .


10) Sea turtles conservation in Greece



Based in the beautiful Bay of Kyparissia in the western Peloponnese, you’ll be involved with conserving and protecting one of the most important loggerhead turtle nesting areas in Greece. What you do as a volunteer on this program will depend on when you visit.

In June and July, you’ll be involved in tasks like surveying of nesting female turtle activity. This will happen on morning patrols, in order to protect any nests that were laid overnight. Once a nest has been found, you’ll protect them by using a metal grid as a barrier against predation. 

During August  and September, you’ll have the task of recording the nest hatching events where you’ll monitor the tiny turtles as they make their way to the ocean. After hatching has occurred you’ll dig to excavate the nest to gather data on the hatching success. During these activities, volunteers will be able to share their passion for conservation with international visitors and the local community members.

During your free time or after the program is over, why not go on an island hopping adventure with some of your new found friends from base?

Take a look at GVI’s award-winning summer student volunteer opportunities and upgrade your time off to time on. Speak to a member of our team to learn more.

Disclaimer: The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

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