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Pairing academic credit with exceptional volunteering opportunities

Earning credit at UNH isn’t limited only to being on campus for lectures, exams and labs. Quite literally speaking, the world can be your classroom.
Last Tuesday, Sept. 27, individuals from the organization Reach Out Volunteers came to UNH to educate students about an international opportunity they provide. Bright orange hand-outs posted all over campus advertised the program as “an adventure packed volunteer program, a once in a lifetime experience.”
During Tuesday’s information sessions for the program, representatives from Reach Out Volunteers encouraged students to sign up for one of their programs in either Asia, Africa or South America. According to the volunteers, the program is both a life changing trip and an opportunity to earn credit outside the walls of a classroom.
“I was actually in your spot about two years ago, I came to an info session to learn all about these programs,” Reach Out Volunteer Justin Dorey said. “I did the six weeks in Cambodia, and I just returned from three months of team leading in Africa; honestly the best experiences of my life.
The Reach Out Volunteers programs offer applicants a range of different trips that are spread across the world in locations such as Cambodia, South Africa, Mozambique and Peru. Depending on the trip’s location, volunteers help with such projects as building houses and schools, as well as designing innovative ways to provide clean drinking water and greenhouses for local communities. Island programs offer scuba diving certification so volunteers can help build artificial coral reefs in over-fished waters. Some volunteers choose to work in animal sanctuaries, helping to rehabilitate rescued elephants and monkeys.
According to Dorey, academic credit can be earned through a lot of these programs. Units in international teaching, marine conservation, leadership, cultural minorities and scuba diving certification are offered. The coursework for each program differs, depending on the unit, but the basic requirements stated on the program’s website are: keeping a daily journal or involvement in regular data collection or attending training sessions, participating in all program activities, participation in feedback sessions, verbal presentation of material and submission of one or two written pieces. Dorey highlighted how this program allows for a lot of varying majors who may not have as many study abroad options to earn credit overseas.
“It’s like an adventure movie,” Dorey said about the experiences volunteers have. “You’re discovering everything for the very first time.”
Though Reach Out Volunteer programs are designed to help others, studying and spending time abroad is noted as being beneficial for students. According to Mindy McMahon, the assistant to the interim associate vice provost of international programs, college is the best time to study abroad. It provides students with a new perspective by showing how other people make decisions and view the world. McMahon also said that global experience is a highly viewed asset in the job market.
“Becoming a world citizen is one of the most valuable things you can do while you’re in college,” she said.
The experiences Dorey advocates for do not come at a low cost. Depending on the length of the trip, costs range from $1,199 to just over $4,000, which can definitely be a stretch when you’re on a college budget. Fundraising is highly encouraged and supported as a means to raise money for trip costs and transportation. Dorey said he paid for his entire trip by walking part of the way to Cambodia; for every mile he walked, friends, family and even strangers gave him a certain dollar amount.
“Volunteering your time gives you a better perspective on your life,” UNH senior Victoria Hennessy said after attending one of Tuesday’s information sessions. “Giving to people who have less than us is important.”

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