If you need a quick pick-me-up, there’s an age-old trusty solution – volunteering. It’s an undisputed fact that helping out in your own community has all kinds of benefits, both for yourself and others. Perhaps you’ve thought about helping out at an animal shelter or in a neighborhood garden but you’re not entirely sure how to get started. Don’t worry, I’ll explain exactly how to volunteer during your time in the Netherlands.
If you’d like to get a taste of the volunteering life before committing to something, then your best bet is to check out one of the online platforms that post a variety of opportunities. Some examples are Volunteering, NL Cares, Stichting Present, VCA and Volunteering The Hague. Particularly the last one is great for internationals, as every listing is suited for non-Dutch speakers. Although, of course, it’s only relevant if you live or around The Hague.
For the most part, these websites upload short-term volunteering possibilities, sometimes for the specific days that help is needed on. That’s why they’re a great way to sign up for a couple of different things, if you’re unsure what kind of volunteering work you’d like to do. Who knows… maybe your hidden cooking talents will come to light by helping out at a community kitchen.
If you’re looking for something more long-term, then it’s a good idea to reach out to organizations directly. In my experience, if you send an email via the general email address, or even on social media, you’ll hear back quickly whether any help is needed. Ask yourself what it is you would like to do and google organizations in your Dutch city that specialize in this. Then, reach out to them to see if they need you.
This really depends on you. There are all kinds of volunteering opportunities out there. Most take place within the social realm – think: helping out kids, refugees, people with disabilities or the elderly. You may be able to give support for homework or go on a long walk through the forest followed by a nice cup of coffee. If you’re interested in social work, then you probably won’t have to look too long before an opportunity turns up. There’s always a need for volunteers in this field!
If you’re working on a certain skill – let’s say graphic design or video editing – you could also use volunteering as an opportunity to improve on this in a low-risk environment. This is especially great if you’re planning on using this in your career in the future. Just make sure that the work you’re being asked to do is reasonable, considering that you’re (in most cases), well, unpaid help.
Another popular option for students is helping out at festivals. Whether film, music or art, there’s always something planned in big Dutch cities, and these festivals really depend on volunteers to make the event happen. Otherwise, galleries, museums or cultural centers usually hire volunteers as well.
Universities often require volunteers too, for example for helping new students find their way through a "buddy system" or at university open houses. We’re also always looking for volunteers to help out at the Student Mobility stand on these days, so if you’re interested, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many other opportunities that I did not cover here. Reflect on what you’re good at, or what’s important to you, and figure out a way that you could make this a part of your volunteering journey.
This one goes without saying. It’s not always easy setting up a social network within the Netherlands as an international student. Having moved to another country, you will inevitably go through periods of loneliness. A great antidote to this? Volunteer during your time in the Netherlands!
When you work on a project with others, you’re going to fulfill a lot of your own social needs. After some time, you’ll start feeling like you belong to a community. This is especially important when your family lives in another country far away from the Netherlands. Through volunteering, and being a part of a project that is important to you, you can perhaps create a second family of sorts.
This goes hand in hand with what was already mentioned. If you’re building a skill, but don’t have any professional experience yet, volunteering is a great way to change this. For example, if you’d like to make a career out of videography, why not offer to be in charge of filming at a film festival? If you’ve never done this before, then volunteering is the best way to dip your toe into the field without suffering the consequences if something goes wrong.
You should also definitely put this volunteering experience on your CV. Future employers will appreciate seeing your efforts.
As an international student, it can, unfortunately, be way too easy to stay in your expat bubble. Not that there’s anything wrong with having only international friends, but it’s a shame if you spend your time abroad without interacting with the locals. Volunteering is a way to change that.
Also, if you’re in the process of learning Dutch, then working in an environment with native language speakers is one of the most beneficial things you can do. It will give you the opportunity to practice outside of the typical, stale grammar-focused classroom setting.
If you'd like to know more about how you can improve your Dutch language skills next to your studies, check out this blog post of ours.
Before I let you get started on researching, it’s important to note one more thing: If your volunteering opportunity pays – even just a little – it’s important to look into whether you need to get Dutch health insurance. In some cases, student insurance is not enough. And the last thing you’ll want to do is to pay a large fine, so don’t skip this step.
In case you’re not interested in volunteering, but rather a more typical part-time job, Student Mobility can help you with that. Just tell us a bit about yourself here, and we’ll connect you with a suitable employer. Getting a perfect student job has never been easier!
If you were wondering how to volunteer during your time in the Netherlands, then I hope this blog post has given you some ideas on how to get started. Happy volunteering!