Looking for an alternative to the traditional summer vacation or internship, students are increasingly exploring volunteering abroad as an opportunity to aid and understand a new culture.

One way in which many University students do this is volunteering overseas with the Peace Corps. The University produces the second-largest number of alum volunteers in the country, according to Peace Corps statistics.

Volunteering abroad appeals to students for many reasons, said University Peace Corps representative Lisa Bobrowski.

“They want to gain cultural experience outside the U.S.,” she said. “We also see a number of applicants wanting international experience to prepare for his or her career.”

A 20 percent increase of volunteers came about just shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bobrowski said.

“Many people were feeling like Americans are misunderstood,” she said.

Students looking for a shorter volunteering experience than the ones offered by the Peace Corps, which take years of a volunteer’s time, can also take advantage of a variety of shorter programs.

I-to-I International Projects, a new company in the United States, offers programs that last from two weeks to six months.

I-to-I seeks to provide its volunteers – 75 percent of whom are college students – with a real experience of a different culture, not just a vacation, company Director Kevin O’Niell said.

“These are programs where you are thrust into the middle of things,” he said. “We’re more into helping those (in) extreme need as opposed to sending people on a tour.”

Recently, many students have been volunteering for conservation projects, O’Niell said.

“Our most popular project is environmental work in Central America,” he said.

There are many different volunteering programs available to students, making it easy to find a program that fits their interest, said LSA sophomore Elizabeth Horevitz, who volunteered recently in rural Bolivia.

Volunteering abroad helps you understand people on a global scale, she said.

“You’re not just stepping outside your normal boundaries, you’re getting a broader perspective on how the world works.”

A panel presentation for students interested in volunteering abroad will be held tomorrow from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Maize and Blue Room in the Student Activities Building.

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