Questions frequently asked by applicants

Below is the list of questions that we get asked most often about the International Community Experience (ICE).

What is involved?

Being part of a volunteering project means being part of a team for several months. There's a lot involved beforehand, in the trip itself and a little bit afterwards.

We reckon that you'll need to devote an average of four hours a week (although it won't be spread out evenly) from the time you're accepted to the time you depart. While you're away the days can be really long (but rewarding). If you can help us out when you come back, you'll make our day!

Mission Ukraine

  • October/November: complete the application form and submit it.
  • December: decisions communicated.
  • Early February: complete all paperwork, pay deposit and come to a compulsory volunteer briefing.
  • February-May: compulsory team meetings (roughly every month), fundraising, team socials and specific project preparation.
  • June: abroad with Mission Ukraine.
  • After the trip: help with evaluation, volunteer reunion and helping out at various volunteering events (eg stalls, talks to other potential volunteers, next year's team briefings).

Mission Botswana

  • October: complete the application form and submit it.
  • November: decisions communicated, and deposit paid.
  • Early February: complete all paper work, and come to a compulsory volunteer briefing.
    February-May: compulsory team meetings (roughly every month), fundraising, team socials and specific project preparation.
  • July: abroad with Mission Botswana, working really hard but having a great time!
  • After the trip: help with evaluation, volunteer reunion & helping out at various volunteering events (eg stalls, talks to other potential volunteers, next year's team briefings).

Sustainable Sainji

  • October/November: complete the application form and submit it.
  • December: decisions communicated, and deposit paid.
  • Early February: complete all paper work, and come to a compulsory volunteer briefing.
  • February-May: compulsory team meetings (roughly every month), fundraising, team socials and specific project preparation.
  • Aug/Sept: abroad with Sustainable Sainji, working really hard but having a great time!
  • After the trip: help with evaluation, volunteer reunion and helping out at various volunteering events (eg stalls, talks to other potential volunteers, next year's team briefings).

Who can apply?

Current ARU students* and staff can apply, as can alumni. We're sorry that we can't allow parents, children, spouses and partners.

*This includes students on undergraduate courses, postgraduates courses, HNDs etc. If you're unsure, please contact us.

What qualities are you looking for in volunteers?

The key quality has to be resilience, but see our What makes a good volunteer? section for more about the top ten qualities that make for an excellent volunteer and an excellent volunteering experience.

Can I apply for more than one project at a time?

Yes. You will be asked on your application form whether you are applying for any other projects. You will need to apply for each trip separately and complete the relevant form.

Please remember that different skills and experience are required for each volunteering opportunity, so it's helpful to tailor your application to the opportunity you are applying for.

There is no limit to how many projects you can apply for or take part in, but we may need to give priority to volunteers who have not been before.

How many trips can I go on?

In theory you can join several projects during your time at ARU but there are a few things to bear in mind. During the selection process priority may be given to first-time volunteers.

What if I can't decide which project to apply for?

If you can't decide which trip is best for you, talk to us as soon as possible!

It's a difficult situation because you are not guaranteed a place on the trip of your choice and the recruitment for each trip happens at a different time. The best thing is to come to a drop-in session so that you can discuss your options.

How do I apply?

We recruit for each project separately. When we're ready to recruit we'll put application forms and guidance notes for applying for you to download, and notify everyone on our mailing list. We'll also put adverts on the infoscreens and MyARU.

Once the deadline for application forms has passed, we'll make a shortlist of volunteers to go onto the next stage. We'll let volunteers know a few days later whether they have been successful or not.

What if my application is not successful?

If you submit an application form and are not shortlisted, we'll let you know by email. If you are turned down, we may want to keep you on a back-up list in case anyone drops out. In both cases we'll give you feedback, and you are also very welcome to apply for other projects.

What if I get accepted then change my mind?

Try and find out as much as you can before you apply so that you are certain you want to go at that stage. If you are successful in the interview we'll give you a short period of one or two weeks to get the paperwork back to us and to pay your deposit. If you change your mind during this time there shouldn't be a problem, although the sooner we know the better, so we can offer the place to someone else.

We will not book your ticket until we have your paperwork and your deposit. If you change you mind after this you will lose the money you have paid up until that point. It's always best to speak to us if you have any concerns at any point. This way, we can help you to make decisions before you lose any money.

How much does it cost and what's included?

The price for each project is different. Usually we add up the cost of flights, visa, transfers, accommodation, team t-shirts and sometimes food and local transport. This is why we can't give an exact price until nearer the time, although we do our best to give a good guesstimate.

The following things are definitely not included: spending money, cost of any vaccinations that may be required and the cost of any independent travel.

If you're thinking about ways to cover the cost, we can help you with ideas for fundraising. We just ask you to make it clear that you are fundraising for your costs rather than for the charity.

How do I pay?

The cost will be split into three or four payments: a non-refundable deposit and then two or three further payments. Details will differ slightly from project to project, but will be outlined in the project information.

Volunteers make their payments using the Anglia Ruskin online store.

Can I fundraise for my charity or to help cover costs?

Yes. If you're thinking about ways to cover the cost of a trip, we can help you with ideas for fundraising. We just ask you to make it clear that you are fundraising for your costs rather than for the charity.

You can also fundraise for the charity if it's applicable to the project you're going on. But it doesn't always work like that, so we'll let you know. Of course, fundraising is a requirement to being accepted on the project: you'll find details of the minimum fundraising target for each project on the project pages.

Fundraising is a great way to get to know your fellow volunteers and lots of our previous volunteers have had great success. Some have continued their fundraising after they return, having been inspired by the work of the organisation.

Once you're signed up for a trip, we'll help you with ideas for fundraising. Mostly we encourage volunteers to organise their own fundraising or to work with the rest of their team to fundraise but for some group activities we'll do the organising and you'll just need to turn up and help out. You can always ask us for help and ideas and we'll do our best to support.

Once accepted onto a project, we'll help with ideas for your fundraising. Mostly we encourage volunteers to organise their own fundraising or work with the rest of their team to fundraise. However, for some group activities we'll do the organising and you'll just need to turn up and help out. You can always ask us for help and ideas and we'll do our best to support.

Don't forget, volunteering and fundraising look wonderful on your CV!

How much free time will there be?

This depends on the nature of the volunteer work and where the project is based.

Volunteering can be really hard work so we try to allow some free time to unwind and relax. We also try to incorporate some sightseeing and other cultural activities into the programme.

It is important to point out that on some projects there may be limited things to do, and there may also be restrictions on where volunteers are allowed to go in their free time.

Will we get to do any sightseeing?

It depends. We usually try to incorporate some time for sightseeing and cultural activities into each trip but for some it may not be possible.

We're sometimes asked about the option of doing some independent travel after the project ends. This is unlikely owing to the way we manage airfares – we often have to pay a deposit on dates to get the cheapest fares. Changing flight arrangements will incur extra charges for us.

Do I need travel insurance?

The ARU travel insurance policy will cover the time you are volunteering and your journey. You just need to complete a form if you're accepted on to a project – we'll send you details.

Is it really hard work?

Yes, it can be.

Each trip is different. For some, the days are long and might be mentally tiring (like teaching large classes), for others the work is more physically demanding, sometimes the conditions (like the temperature) make it hard work.

Sleeping arrangements may well be not what you're used to. For example, you may end up sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a large room with the rest of the team.

For most of the trips there will be some degree of culture shock and in most cases volunteer work starts after a long journey. So yes, expect hard work – it certainly won't be a holiday and there is quite a lot to do in the months leading up to departure. But we're sure you'll rise to the challenge!

How much time do I need to commit before I go?

A lot!

Taking part in one of our volunteering projects is as much about the activities before you go as it is about the time you spend abroad. There will also be things to do when you return.

To give you an overview, you'll attend a series of compulsory meetings (between three to six, depending on the project) which may be in the evenings or on weekends. There may also be training or preparation activities to complete relating to your volunteer role. There will definitely be fundraising activities to join in, and probably a few socials too.

All of these extra activities are just as important as the trip itself, both in terms of preparing you for the experience and for your personal development generally. You should allow an average of at least four hours a week.

What support and training will I receive?

Training
There will be several compulsory meetings and a required team-building day (probably on a weekend) where you can get to know your team and team leader. The meetings include team briefings with information about your host organisation and practicalities, such as what to take.

For some projects there may be specific training provided such as language classes or how to teach English. You'll find more details on the downloadable documents for each project.

While you're on the trip
On most of the trips there will be at least a designated team leader from ARU. This person is also a volunteer but they have extra responsibilities. They help to plan the trip and will probably have been before. You'll have the chance to get to know them, as there will be plenty that you'll need to do together before you go. In addition, staff at the organisation you'll be volunteering at will be there to support you.

Sometimes, volunteers who have been before will take on a supervisory role too. We call them 'Vets' (veterans) and they'll be a good source of support if you need it.

Finally, at least one person from the team back in the office in Chelmsford will be on call 24/7 should you (or your next of kin) need to contact us in an emergency.

How will this project increase my employability?

It's all about employability. Well, not totally, but a lot of what's involved is good for your personal development and can seriously enhance your employability.

To give some examples: the application process, broadening your horizons, learning about communication with people from all walks of life, team work, resilience, learning specific new skills and practicing existing ones are all things that will add to your being more employable.

There'll be a workshop for all teams on this and how to recognise and draw on your experiences. What's more, past volunteers have found that as well as being an eye-opener in general, their voluntary work has given them new ideas about career direction.

Do I need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check?

For the trips involving work with children or vulnerable adults you will need a Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) check.

If you do have a criminal record, it won't necessarily prevent you from volunteering as it depends on the nature of the offence. You need to declare on your application form if you have any criminal convictions. This way we can discuss it with you (confidentially of course) and give you an idea of whether it will prevent you from volunteering. If in doubt, just ask the ICE team.

What are special volunteer roles?

The overall project coordination is carried out by the ICE project management team. In addition there are several special volunteer roles.

Team leader: this is a member of staff from Anglia Ruskin University who works with the project manager to organise the trip and help select the rest of the team. The team leader then plays a massive part in preparing the team for going away, fundraising and making sure things run smoothly during the trip.

Vet (veteran): this is usually someone who has been on the project before. They are there to support the team leader on projects where we feel it's necessary. This could be because the team is split into groups that aren't based near each other or perhaps because it's a very large group. Vets are usually recruited before the main team so that they can help with planning, selection and anything else they would like to.

Social coordinator: bonding with the rest of the team is crucial so this is an important role for a volunteer with good communication skills. Whether it's meeting for coffee or going to a big night out, we want the team to spend as much time getting to know each other as possible. The social coordinator will organise a variety of activities for the team.

Fundraising coordinator: this role is ideal for someone who is confident at organising group fundraising activities and can encourage the rest of the group to get involved by researching and sharing ideas. Again it needs to be someone with good communication skills who can keep us informed of the team's progress.

Pay it forward coordinator: sounds strange doesn't it? When volunteers come back they are full of enthusiasm, ideas and tips and we like to harness this to 'pay it forward' to future teams and prospective volunteers. Returning volunteers often help us by collecting photos, writing profiles, doing talks, coming to team briefings and generally being wonderful. The pay it forward coordinator helps us by encouraging the rest of the team to get involved in this way.