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Volunteer Vs Internship Programs

To read out the summary of our volunteer and internship program. Click here

So, what are you?  Volunteer or Intern?

You have decided to work abroad.  You begin to search for opportunities and notice that the words ‘volunteer’ or ‘intern’ are often used.  One opportunity catches your eye and it’s a ‘volunteer placement’, another one that attracts your attention is an ‘internship’.  But other than the change in title, you really can’t tell the difference.

A good place to start is an adage found in many tourist areas of Asia; ‘same same, but different.’  While you could have exactly the same placement for either a volunteer or intern, under the surface there are some crucial differences.

Same Same? 

Both can work unpaid and both will yield benefits to the areas in which they work.  They can even work side by side on the same project.

But Different:

Who are they?  Broadly, the volunteer can be anyone over the age of 18, simply someone who has the desire to give up their time.  The intern is a more specific group.  The intern will be either a student looking to gain experience in or to explore a potential career path or a professional with a similar aim.

What do they do?  Well the volunteer can do just about anything; work with animals, children, other marginalized groups, it is really up to them where they want to spend their time.  However, for the intern there are restrictions defined by their intended career and academic institution.  Overall, what is important in an internship is that the placement is a practical learning experience on the path to their chosen profession.

Why do they do it?  The volunteer usually has the desire to give something back.  And while the intern will be giving something to the community or organization they work with, their principle motivation is their own career development.

When do they do it?  A person can volunteer at any point in their life and it will usually be at a time suitable for them, when they can take extended time from work, have holidays from university or even after retirement.  The intern is time bound; they may have to carry out an internship as part of their university program or they may need the experience before they are able to move to the next stage of their education or profession.

How do they do it?  Once trained and involved in a placement, the volunteer is likely to need a limited amount of support.  They will simply continue their work along agreed guidelines and for an agreed period of time.  The internship is more rigid and structured.  In many cases an intern will work under the supervision of a mentor knowledgeable in their chosen field.  This mentor and/or other members of an organisation will be responsible for the continued support and evaluation of the intern to evidence their work to either their university or a professional body.

And you won’t be surprised that the results for those involved are different too.  The volunteer has the satisfaction of knowing that they have given their time to help others and the enriching experience of becoming immersed in another culture.  And while the intern has the benefit of these things, they have a more tangible benefit; the knowledge, the time served, the evidence, the lines on their CV, all of which will help them develop into the professional that they set out to be.

At VIN, the majority of our programs can be run as either a volunteer placement or internship.  It really depends on your needs.  Have a look at our quick guide to help you make a decision and feel free to contact us to discuss the matter further.


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Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN)

Nayabazaar Khusibu, Kathmandu


Fax: 00977 1 4362560

Tel: 00977 (1) 4362560 / 4356679 (Office)