The Best Volunteer Abroad Organizations of 2019

There has never been a better time to volunteer abroad. If you love traveling (we are willing to bet you do) and have dreamed of being able to make a difference, traveling abroad to volunteer might be the best decision you’ve ever made. Whether you are interested in building wells and houses, teaching English, environment and wildlife conservation, or refugee support, there are countless programs, destinations, and projects to choose from that will help you make a difference in a place that really needs it! Here are a few organizations which are, in our opinion, the best volunteer abroad organizations going into the new year. Adventure awaits!

International Volunteer HQ

International Volunteer HQ has placed over 95,000 volunteers since their founding in 2007. IVHQ offers 200 trips a year to 45 destinations across Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, North America, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific. IVHQ has been featured by The New York Times and National Geographic and is praised for its affordability, safety, and ongoing support they offer volunteers once abroad.

Plan My Gap Year

Plan My Gap Year is an award-winning volunteer abroad organization which can send you abroad on trips as short as one week and as long as 36 weeks. PMGY works hard to stay affordable and is 100% transparent with its fees. With 17 countries to choose from and countless volunteers in the field ready to meet and work alongside you, there is no doubt you will have an unforgettable experience.

Love Volunteers

Love Volunteers specializes in community-based development programs that promote lasting change and quality of life improvement. LV has ongoing projects in 34 countries, with popular choices including Thailand, Ecuador, and Tanzania, and won the 2017 Volunteer Forever Volunteer Abroad Program of the Year award. In independant reviews, past volunteers have rated Love Volunteers with a staggering 96%. Wow!

Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad has 25 years of experience sending volunteers and interns abroad, and has placed over 100,000 volunteers to date. The organization has been featured on CNN and Time Magazine, features high safety ratings, resources and training, a second-to-none staff support network, and over 30 destinations around the globe. The programs at Projects Abroad run year-round, so you can choose your own dates.

Most prospective volunteers cite finances as their biggest barrier to volunteering abroad. Fortunately, there are many scholarships that you can apply for to help considerably offset the cost of your trip, if not cover it altogether. To start your search, here are a few scholarships that work great with the above programs:

How to Write a Killer Introduction

Writing 101

by Professor Heidi A.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t entirely clear on the purpose of an introduction. I knew I had to “hook” the audience with my first sentence and provide my thesis in the last sentence, but what goes in the middle?

Think of an introductory paragraph as your first conversation with a stranger. You’d like to be friends with this person, so you want them to find you entertaining, but also knowledgeable and trustworthy.

1. Don’t start out too strong

“The American Revolution was the greatest war that has ever or will ever be fought!” Sure, you’ve got my attention, but any sentence that follows this is sure to be a letdown. Instead of breaking down the front door, knock politely and wait to be let in. My favorite essays start with anecdotes, and you could turn almost anything into a narrative. For example, let’s say you’re writing a history paper about the American Revolution, specifically the causes that led up to it. You might consider starting with a story about the Boston Tea Party: “It was a dark winter night in 1773 when a group of men boarded British ships docked in Boston Harbor.” This way you’ve provided crucial information (when and where) in an interesting way.

2. Build a staircase

Once you’ve finished your anecdote, it’s time to get down to business. Your new friend is entertained, but probably curious about why you’re telling them this. However, it’s much too soon to drop your thesis on them. So, what do you do? Picture your hook and thesis as the first and second floors of a house. The middle of your intro should function as the staircase that connects them.

In this example, your thesis might be something like: “The American Revolution would not have occurred without a series of small insurrections that made the British feel really insecure.” Ask yourself, what does my audience need in order to fully understand this thesis?

You’ve already described one of these “insurrections,” now the audience needs to know how it fits into the bigger picture. For instance:

“(1) The Boston Tea Party was just one of many occurances in the 1770s that undermined British rule. [Give your anecdote a wider context].

(2) These relatively small actions may not have had a body count, but they were effective in another way. [Acknowledging a possible counter-argument, and building anticipation].

(3) Much like toddlers throwing their toys out of the crib, the actions of the revolutionaries meant that Britain had to constantly deal with minor annoyances. [This metaphor helps to explain why the topic is important].

(4) Like a long suffering parent, Britain was sure to explode eventually, but when they did, they’d already be too tired to be effective. [This teases the key ideas in the thesis, but doesn’t make an argument yet].”

3. Wow them with your thesis

By the time your reach the end of your intro, your audience should be primed to be impressed by your thesis. You’ve introduced all these interesting ideas, and now, like some crazy magician, you’ve brought them all together into one beautiful claim.

Happy Writing!

5 Things Incoming College Students Should Know About Writing

Writing 101

by Professor Heidi A.

As a college English instructor, I work with a large number of students who come from disparate high school backgrounds. Despite these differences, there are still some common mistakes or misunderstandings that can trip students up in their first term. Below, I’ve condensed these trends into five useful tips for the aspiring college writer.


Most first-year students write essays as if they are going to be read by a scholarly robot. They pack in every “academic” sounding word they know, and even some they don’t. Their subordinate clauses have subordinate clauses. As a human being, I do not enjoy reading essays that have been written this way. Always keep in mind that writing is a form of communication, and, by definition, communication has failed if your audience can’t understand what you’ve said.

  • Always keep your audience in mind when writing.


I cannot tell you how many times I got into a stand-off with a student about their thesis statement. It usually went something like this:

Me: “So, what’s your thesis for this paper?”

Student: “I’m not sure, [gestures vaguely at introduction] what do you think it is?”

Me: “Which sentence expresses your primary argument?”

Student: “I don’t know, which one looks best to you?”

And then we just stare blankly at each other as we consider the gaping chasm between our expectations and reality.

Seriously though, two things you should always keep in mind for college writing: 1) have a thesis and 2) know what it is.

  • As a college student, you are in charge of your work. Own it.


In addition to the standards of MLA, APA or Chicago style, each professor has their own preferences for how they want written work to appear. In my classes, I required that students include their last name and course number in the file name of their Word document. Seems obvious right? Nah. The majority of my students never did this. Points were lost. Even if you don’t care about the points, it leaves a bad impression if the teacher has to make a note of little things like font or headings on EVERY single paper.

  • Beyond your grade in a specific course, learning how to follow detailed instructions is going to benefit you throughout your working life.


In the first weeks of school, my students are always surprised when I ask them to work in groups to either produce or dissect a piece of writing. Because good writing is easy to recognize, but difficult to reproduce, many people get nervous about exposing themselves as “frauds.” Newsflash: everyone is a fraud. Writing with others is a great way to realize this. Also, remember point #1 about audience? Writing in groups is an immediate source of audience feedback--letting you know if your ideas are coming across clearly.

  • Banish the idea that your peers don’t have anything to teach you when it comes to writing.


If you want to learn to speak a new language, you wouldn’t just memorize grammar rules and vocab. You’d pay close attention to native speakers in order to understand slang, double entendres, tonal shifts, and other ways of creating meaning. The same is true of writing. Many first-year students are over-reliant on formulas they learned in middle and high school, and don’t understand why their writing isn’t improving. Many first-year students also don’t do the assigned reading for their courses, especially if they aren’t being tested on it. 100 points if you can spot the connection! Yes, in order to take those training wheels off and cruise down the street like a big kid, you’re gonna have to ditch the formulas and write like a native. Let those reading assignments be the wind beneath your wings.

  • The best advice I can give is to read and study the types of writing you’d like to produce.