My Brazilian friend Liliana Germanotta (Lili) learned Spanish in Cordoba, Argentina while she got free accommodation and food at a hostel through Workaway.
In this post, she explains everything we need to know if we want to volunteer anywhere in the world through the website Workaway.
We will know which are the main features of this work, such as eligibility and funding, which are the steps of the application process, and how was Lili’s experience, conclusions, and recommendations.
If you want to know more about Lili’s experiences around the world I recommend you to go to follow her on Instagram!
If you love to travel and do it with a purpose I recommend you check in the blog the following sections where you can find more experiences in which you can participate!
Also, you can find applications for scholarships, internships, job positions, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support, and virtual courses in the Scholarship Finder!
1. Workaway: characteristics
- Type of program: volunteer abroad
- Location: Cordoba, Argentina
- Website: https://www.workaway.info/
- Age: from 18 years old, there is no age limit, I have seen people with 30/35 years.
- Language: the main requirement in most cases is to speak the language of the country where the project will take place and sometimes also speak English, as communication is essential and you may have to communicate with people from different countries.
- Duration: my exchange lasted two months, but many hosts accept volunteers from 1 week or require a minimum 1 month stay (e.g. hostels). Everything depends on the type of work and the objectives of both parts (you can agree the duration of the project together).
- Application Fee: you must pay an annual fee of $32 USD to register on Workaway.info with an individual account or $42 USD for an account for two people (for example you can be traveling with your significant other). With this fee you can send messages to the hosts in the website for one year and if you want you can renew the next year.
- Finance: varies depending on where you are going to volunteer. You must pay for your airplane tickets (or any transport that you are going to use to get to the project location) and most of the time you will receive accommodation and food in exchange of 24/25 hours of work during the week. In my case I had accomodation and breakfast.
2. Application Process
Enter the website, look at the available projects and if you like some of them pay the application fee and register. You must create a profile with your personal information, such as age, the languages you speak, the list of countries you want to visit, your skills, etc.
Search for hosts
There are several options to filter the search by location and type of work. There are 170 countries in the world with hosts.
*Important: check the reviews of the host to confirm that is a safe place and that other volunteers had good experiences.
Contact the host
After selection the projects and locations you like, you should contact each host. You should send each host a message, introducing yourself, explaining what your intentions are and asking if there is availability for the dates you want to go.
Clarify all your doubts
It is also very important to clarify all the characteristics of the work that you’ll have to fulfill, in order to avoid surprises when you start working.
3. My experience
After taking the decision to study an undergraduate degree in Tourism I realized that I needed to learn another language (besides Portuguese) so I decided to travel to another country to study Spanish. I had never left home to live abroad but I was already 18 years old and I chose Argentina because it is located near Brazil.
Also, I chose to study Spanish, because it’s very similar to Portuguese. And I chose Córdoba, because it’s a city not as big as the capital.
I contacted Turning Point Hostel, and after I had the accommodation confirmed I searched for an Spanish course. I chose Ax Spanish, because it had the best prices and schedule flexibility (http://www.acxpanish.com/)
The project was in the city of Córdoba, Argentina, a city that I only knew from photos before deciding to volunteer.
The city was very beautiful, and I liked the ease of mobility to the center and to the main bus terminal (from there we were able to go to cities in the province, as Río Ceballos, La Cumbre, La Cumbrecita, and Alta gracia).
Another option is to visit Buenos Aires if your working hours are flexible. For example, I only worked three days a week, so I was able to travel to many places in my free time.
c. General Opinion
- The people I met and the friendships I made were definitely the best part about volunteering. I loved the opportunity to share special moments with special people from different countries and know that they were not friends only for the trip but for life.
- I liked the contact with different cultures and different languages. Every day I discovered something new as different food or one more word for my vocabulary.
- I improved my Spanish: today I can communicate completely in Spanish and I see the importance of knowing a third language.
- I really liked having my first volunteer work experience at the hostel reception, I had communication with native speakers every day, which helped me a lot to practice the language.
- The hostel had free pass for two clubs in Cordoba, which was very good, for when we wanted to enjoy the night and save money.
- Some characteristics of the work were not very well specified, that’s why it is very important to make clear which are the objectives of the host. I had many functions such as reception, food and drinks sale, common areas cleaning and taking out the garbage at the end of my shift, and the bad part is that I could not leave the reception for security reasons, but sometimes I needed to go to the bathroom or look for the laundry of the guests so I had to ask for the help of other volunteers.
- The place was not the cleanest, the common kitchen was not very clean, the utensils were old, and people usually never cleaned when they cooked.
- As everything was shared and there were people from different countries coming and going all the time, we had to be very careful with our belongings and food. I tried not to leave anything in common areas and put my name on all my food.
- Do a lot of research on the place where you are going, and look for all the possible information of that country: currency, transportation, food, cost of living and places you should visit, so when you arrive you already have a good idea of how it is and don’t have many surprises.
- Enjoy your free time visiting all the possible places, and opt for free admission or public places to save money. There are many options of museums, parks, nightclubs that offer free pass or even student discounts.
- Take your time to choose your project and make sure it is going to be something that will fulfill you. You can already have experience and specific skills that will help you excel on a project, and also have have fun while working.
- Check everything that the place offers: if you have free wifi, if the room will be shared, if it is a hostel or a hotel, check the ratings and comments on it on the Internet to see what people in general think.
- You can take advantage to study when you work, for example I did a Spanish course when I was there.
In the Volunteer Abroad section, you can find more experiences of volunteer projects abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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