Jul 13, 2016
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So I've been doing some forum readings etc. and it seems as though doing anything abroad is discouraged. Is this what most adcoms thinks? What do they consider voluntourism? I have 3 work/volunteer overseas experience that I completed in the past year. I didn't do these for the purpose of app, I did them because it was something I wanted to experience and it wasn't until afterwards that I realize it would look great on my app..well until now atleast. So should I include them?

1. Spent 6 months in Thailand teaching students (ages13-18) health, research science, and english
- I don't really consider this volunteer though, since it was a job, i.e. I got paid. But I did go through an
agency.

2. Spent 1 month in India volunteering through IVHQ's health program. Volunteers ran the "slum" clinic, we
treated patients (supervised by MD), shadowed various specialties (witnessed 2 C-sections), and I helped
set up a health clinic at a disadvantaged school where I treated each student (including 2 cases of mumps)

3. Spent 2 weeks in Morocco (also through IVHQ). I taught beginner and intermediate English to (adult)
refugees. I did this because I wanted another teaching experience. Thailand was my first so I wanted
something to compare it too.

During my time abroad I traveled to a dozen countries, I mentioned this in passing in my PS, but I went into detail about my experience in Thailand. Was this a good idea? And if anyone is willing to read my PS that would be great! I haven't had any luck with the people on the readers list.
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
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Mar 7, 2005
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Six months in Thailand is not voluntourism of the kind we are talking about. What is criticized is going somewhere for a week or two to do things you really have no business doing.
 

AlteredScale

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May 10, 2013
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Six months in Thailand is not voluntourism of the kind we are talking about. What is criticized is going somewhere for a week or two to do things you really have no business doing.
When I first saw your opinion on this I honestly had a hard time believing it but now I understand. Currently know someone who partook in this "special snowflake" voluntourism for the SECOND time this summer for a 2 wk trip where they let me know how much they are learning and how the doctor is letting them do "doctor things" the whole time. They were already rejected/WL last application cycle, I had already let them know to not make these events the center of their application. Don't know if they are going to do the same thing again this cycle.
 

cke11

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Mar 24, 2015
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How do people finance their volunteering abroad trips? Is it through fundraising? University-supported?
The volunteering I do abroad is non-clinical based. I work with orphans by being a role model and someone good in their life because they've only known neglect. The president of the non-profit makes us fund our own trips either through your pocket, or by asking family/friends/churches etc.
 

Toutie

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Apr 12, 2015
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The volunorphanages do more harm than good.teering I do abroad is non-clinical based. I work with orphans by being a role model and someone good in their life because they've only known neglect. The president of the non-profit makes us fund our own trips either through your pocket, or by asking family/friends/churches etc.
Agree with @cj_cregg on this one. Not sure of the exact details of your specific trips...but...many trips to help at orphanages do more harm than good. So many volunteers come in and out of their lives every week or 2, when what they really need is stability in their lives. You think you're doing good by building up a relationship with a child only to abandon them (yet again) a week or 2 later. With this continuous cycle of abandonment the child will find it even more difficult to have faith and trust in people.
 
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cke11

2+ Year Member
Mar 24, 2015
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I apologize if I'm giving unnecessary advice here, but this can be potentially problematic as well. If you haven't already done so, I would encourage you to read up on this before writing essays or going on interviews - there are many ethical issues with volunteering abroad with children, especially orphan children. Not saying that your experience was necessarily unethical voluntourism, I obviously don't know exactly what you did and maybe you're already extremely knowledgeable about these issues. Regardless, applicants with these kinds of experiences should be aware of the more common criticisms of orphanage voluntourism and be able to answer how their group/organization avoids these problems if asked in an interview.
Agree with @cj_cregg on this one. Not sure of the exact details of your specific trips...but...many trips to help at orphanages do more harm than good. So many volunteers come in and out of their lives every week or 2, when what they really need is stability in their lives. You think you're doing good by building up a relationship with a child only to abandon them (yet again) a week or 2 later. With this continuous cycle of abandonment the child will find it even more difficult to have faith and trust in people.
Thank you both for looking out for me! I spent a month on my first trip abroad, and being specifically told that people come into these kids lives and never return made me realize a couple years ago that those people are doing WAYYY more harm than good. I vowed to never let that be the case with me. I've been back 7 times to the one and only location I've ever been and have very strong connections with all the children and plan to keep returning as long as I financially can. This is the only reason I am going to allow it to be a large part of my application and story when I apply.
 
Mar 21, 2016
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2. Spent 1 month in India volunteering through IVHQ's health program. Volunteers ran the "slum" clinic, we
treated patients (supervised by MD), shadowed various specialties (witnessed 2 C-sections), and I helped
set up a health clinic at a disadvantaged school where I treated each student (including 2 cases of mumps)

3. Spent 2 weeks in Morocco (also through IVHQ). I taught beginner and intermediate English to (adult)
refugees. I did this because I wanted another teaching experience. Thailand was my first so I wanted
something to compare it too.
You set up a health clinic. Did you partake in any training of native people so that the clinic would be sustainable after you and other volunteers left? Or was it set up, operated for a few weeks, and then left to fall apart?

Did you see meaningful and sustainable progress in the two weeks you spent in Morocco? How useful was the English you taught? Why was it necessary for an (presumably) American to come to Morocco to teach English when likely 1) locals could have done so and 2) French or Arabic would be 10x more useful than English? Do you have any teaching experiences in your home country to show that this is something you are passionate and interested in beyond a couple of stints abroad? I would just be wary of this coming across as some sort of savior complex because you can teach English/science/health in the US as well. But idk