Travel Buddy of the Week: Abroad China

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Travel Buddy of the Week: Abroad China

Mon, 03/04/2013 – 15:11 |  Laila Rose

Congratulations to Abroad China, our Travel Buddy of the Week!

Abroad China offers many programs for those interested in pursuing an internship, a volunteer experience, or a study tour in China. The Giant Panda volunteer program allows individuals the rare opportunity to work with pandas at the China Conservation and Research Center, and the Clean The Great Wall Program involves preserving an ancient and beautiful monument. These two volunteer programs provide volunteers with philanthropic, cultural, and conservation experience.

The Giant Panda program ranges from 3-10 days, and the Great Wall project runs for five days. Abroad China’s volunteer programs are a great way to introduce yourself to a new culture and take part in meaningful work with others!

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Travel Buddy of the Week: Real Gap Experience

Mon, 02/25/2013 – 00:08 |  Laila Rose

Congratulations to Real Gap Experience, our Travel Buddy of the Week!

A specialist in gap year and student travel programs, Real Gap Experience provides an extensive selection of travel experiences in over 45 countries, ranging from two weeks to two years. Travel opportunities offered range from outdoor adventures and community building to teaching abroad and paid internships. The majority of programs cost upwards of $999, but it is all dependent on the project you choose. All you need is an open mind and positive attitude and apply to the project you fancy!

Learn more at www.realgap.com.

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From Piranha Soup to Curry Grasshoppers: A Short Guide to Unusual Foods Around The World

Mon, 02/18/2013 – 09:00 |  Elena Weaver

Now my purpose of this article is not to put you off going to any of these destinations. We all know that volunteering broadens your horizons. But how about broadening your tastes and tickling your taste buds with some unique and, dare I say it, “unusual” local dishes?

Here’s my appetising selection that might get your mouth watering or, at the very least, your mind boggling!

Head over to Belize for roasted mashed cockroaches. Wash down with a seaweed shake shaken up with a shot of rum to make those ‘roaches trickle down all the better!

It might smell just like a rotting corpse, but did you know that a durian fruit does you a lot of good? It contains many antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals and it has antibacterial properties. Keep it in mind for next Valentine’s Day too as the fruit has major aphrodisiac qualities. Although I am not so sure about the horrendous durian-breath that comes with it.You can find these in South-east Asia and even in my local Vancouver grocery store!

How would you fancy eating maggots in Italy? The pungent Sardinian speciality of casu marzu contains live larvae which are there to help break down the fat in the cheese but have been known to jump six inches when disturbed. Casu Marzu is derived from the famous Pecorino sheep milk cheese but with the added ingredients – maggots.

A little closer to home, for myself at least, is haggis. The national dish of bonnie Scotland is a delicious (trust me!) delicacy of minced sheep’s heart, liver and lung with onion and spices, boiled in a sheep’s stomach and served with ‘tatties’ (potato). Yum! (It tastes better than it looks.)

Would you like that fried, roasted or boiled, sir? Guinea pig continues to be a diet staple for many Peruvian and Bolivian people. Since the 1960s, guinea pig has become more socially acceptable to be eaten by everyone. Before then the rodents were kept for ceremonial meals carried out by the Andes’ indigenous people.

If you like fried potato snacks, rumour is mealworms, a staple of Asian and ethnic cuisine, taste pretty similar. If you’re feeling peckish, here is a link to a how-to for cooking up a batch: http://bit.ly/14TxdP3

As a youngster, I grew up fearing piranhas after listening to stories of their ferociousness during trips to the local aquarium. I still haven’t gained enough courage to watch the movie, Piranha 3-D. So it seems unlikely that I will be trying piranha soup anytime soon, popular in Brazil’s Pantanal region.

If you’re still feeling a little unsure, consider this: my then eight-year-old and usually exceptionally squeamish sister has happily tried mealworms, Thai green curry-flavoured grasshoppers and dried ants that tasted bacon-y.’ Although the ants turned out to be not so popular after she confessed later to stuffing some ants’ heads in to her father’s camera bag…

Try something new! What has been the most unusual food that you have ever tried?

Photo credits: Durian fruit-worradmu. Piranha-alextorrenegra.Cockroaches-avlxyz. Haggis-tessawatson. Grasshoppers-istolethetv. All via Flickr.

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Travel Buddy of the Week: Moroccan Children’s Trust

Mon, 02/18/2013 – 08:00 |  Laila Rose

Congratulations to the Moroccan Children’s Trust, our Travel Buddy of the Week!

Based in Taroudannt, Southern Morocco, the Moroccan Children’s Trust aims to create a sustainable community for its children. Volunteer programs include working with the Lalla Amina Orphanage, development research, and assisting in a pre-school, among others. Those who volunteer with the Moroccan Children’s Trust become members of the Taroudannt community from the moment they arrive. Through Arabic language classes and activity planning to excursions across Morocco and meeting local friends, volunteers gain an understanding of Moroccan culture and community building.

The minimum commitment is two months, and three and six month assignments are available. The program cost is £1172 and upwards depending on the desired length of stay. It is encouraged that those with French and/or Arabic language skills apply. Additionally, volunteers are provided full room and board, and have the opportunity to stay with a host family. If you are passionate about socio-economic development and cross-cultural understanding, the Moroccan Children’s Trust is looking for you!

Learn more at http://www.moroccanchildrenstrust.org.

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I’ve Got 99 Problems But My Child Volunteering Overseas Isn’t One

Wed, 02/13/2013 – 02:46 |  Elena Weaver

Dear Mum and Dad,

True fact: You spend your time wishing we were more independent, self-sufficient and a little bit more ‘grown up’, just so that you could experience what sanity is like once again! Yet when faced with the idea of us going overseas to a foreign country and culture alone, you may feel like grounding us for two months – just so that you can keep us for that little bit longer, safe and sound. Even if we are 22 years old or older!

Would you not be more worried if we stayed at home doing what we call that ‘nothing’ all day (ie. listening to music, Skyping friends, watching movies) and complaining about being bored?

What about being more worried if we were happy with a part-time, minimum wage job with no prospects beyond “Lead Produce Inspector” at the local grocery store? Perhaps, then, it would be better to question whether we are researching all the volunteering options available to us and whether we are getting all the health advice and inoculations needed before launching out..

It’s natural to fear the unknown, but the secret is to trust that whatever the outcome It will be a positive experience, whether immediately or through hindsight and the wisdom it imparts. You will no doubt be impressed with the difference between us the youth that leaves and the young adult who returns home. Apart from the immediate benefits of helping others and learning about an unfamiliar culture, we will come back more mature, more responsible, and more appreciative with stories to tell and experiences to share.

Share this experience with us. Help us learn words and phrases that will be useful, or important customs we may not be aware of; for example, clothing and greetings that are considered appropriate, and will help us to acclimate to our new surroundings.

Share with us your own life experiences, abroad or otherwise, and we will appreciate any advice (we promise!)

But please don’t do all the work for us. Some things we need to learn for ourselves first-hand. You will be far more impressed by all of the hard work we have put into planning our volunteer trip and, also, leave you feeling more secure about embarking on this ‘adventure’.

Of course we will keep in contact with you when we are overseas. You will be the first people we will call when we arrive to let you know that we are safe and how soon we will be able to contact you again. With cell phones and the internet keeping in touch is impossibly easier than it used to be. We may even begin a blog so you can keep up with all of our adventures this way! We will be eager to share our exciting news (…possibly leaving out the parts where we and our fellow volunteers try out each of the local beers on our night off).

Keep copies of our important documents. (This is just ‘in case’, but could be a real headache saver later on; I don’t ever lose anything ever, honest, mum).

Maybe help by showing us a few simple cooking skills and how easy it is to cook some basic meals if we might find ourselves in a situation where we could temporarily be fending for ourselves. It couldn’t hurt, right? Because I’m not sure if every country around the world stocks 25c Ramen noodles, even if we may be masters of the one admittedly impressive culinary triumph.

And last but not least, be patient with us. Adjusting to a new climate, culture, surroundings…and being parted from you, is not going to be easy or accomplished in just a few days. It will be an on-going process. And your support and encouragement could be exactly what we need to face these challenges that will ultimately make this trip an incredibly rewarding and memorable volunteering experience that we’ll always cherish.

So we’re ready to go – but there’s one remaining item on our potential wish list from our supportive family….a ride to the airport would be really, really nice. (But please try to keep tears to a minimum; chances are our parkas will be safely stashed away in a bag or suitcase.…)

Love you, and see you in a few months!

Photo credits: Pen-Flickr, Feverblue. Plane-Flickr, Araswami.

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