In her late twenties and newly married, Sherry spent some time at the University of Rhode Island with her husband, a faculty member at that time. In addition to finishing her dissertation and teaching a few courses, she also engaged in several international volunteer activities at the university. She served as the president of a volunteer organization that matched international students with American host families. She also coordinated orientation and cross-cultural training sessions for international students.
Directly after graduating from college, Mark moved to the city ofYanji, in the Jilin province of China, as a volunteer with the Salesian Lay Missioners. His primary duty for his year in Yanji was to act as a teacher of English conversation at a technical high school run by Catholic priests. He organized after-school activities for his students (such as “extra English” and guitar groups), chaperoned weekend field trips for students, and taught English in several additional venues across the city.
As we discussed in the introduction to the book, idealism is typically a driving force for those interested in a career in international education, exchange, or development. Coupled with this idealism is a desire to serve. Volunteer opportunities, such as our own mentioned above, give professionals the chance to feed this desire while simultaneously gaining international experience. Sherry did international volunteer work in the United States, while Mark did international volunteer work abroad. We both gained rich experience and new perspectives from these activities, all while meeting our desire to serve.
It is certainly true that not all people are in the position to take a year or two off from the real world in order to volunteer abroad for no pay. Certainly the decision to become an international volunteer requires much discernment on your part to determine whether or not the experience will be both beneficial to your career and feasible within the confines of your life situation (i.e., paying back student loans, taking care of