You’re almost all set to spend a semester volunteering, but have this one nagging question — is it a good idea to bring your laptop abroad?
You have probably already done tons of research about the country you’re just about to travel to, but one thing you can’t really Google is if it’s a good idea or not to bring your laptop with you while you’re off volunteering in Ukraine or living in China for a semester. Don’t worry, we are here to help.
Pst - We want to help your semester be awesome — that’s why we put together this post and wrote this free ebook about how ILP keeps an eye out for its volunteers.
We really are here to help but we can’t tell you exactly what to do … only you can do that! But it might be helpful to know what ILP volunteers have said about traveling with their laptop.
If You Use It At Home … You’ll Use It Abroad
Do you use your computer at home? Yep? Then you’ll probably want to use it abroad, too. Most volunteers bring their smartphone and their laptop for a couple of reasons; it can be really hard to book flights and plan a vacation in southern China or check the ballet schedule of a dozen Russian ballet theaters on your phone. Google docs are also helpful when it comes to collaborating vacations or planning lessons — It’s do-able on just your phone, but most volunteers who have both love having the ability to social media on their phone (and a quick Google search), and do bigger projects on a laptop.
We can also help you pick out which laptop might be best.
Here’s what Madison R (an ILP Russia volunteer) said: “I took mine because I was working on an internship and also blogging while there, and I was glad I did.” For any college-aged volunteers who are taking online classes (here’s how to create a rad schedule to keep you organized), you’ll most likely want your laptop while traveling abroad.
ILP China volunteer Taylor S. mentions this — “Last time I volunteered I didn't bring a laptop. I definitely regretted it. I had to always borrow somebody else's for lesson plans, preparing for my next semester at university, jobs, etc. And that was difficult because everybody else was using theirs for the same. I 10/10 recommend bringing one.” (Head’s up, China volunteers: You’ll want to get a VPN for both your phone and laptop — this VPN blog post can help you out).
It is something to worry about a bit when you are traveling; past volunteers suggest just bringing their phones on vacation, and finding a safe hiding spot for the laptops while they are gone.
What about a tablet?
Lots of volunteers also opt to bring a tablet instead — they usually have more storage than your phone (which is awesome for backing up your pictures while you’re abroad) and they are typically smaller than your bulky laptop. ILP Poland volunteer Annie J. says this: “I have my iPad here in Poland! It's been super nice! It's light and easy to carry everywhere and I downloaded Google Docs to plan my lessons.”
But do I have to?
Absolutely not. We also have lots of volunteers who get by using their phones and prefer planning lessons on pen and paper. They like feeling “off the grid” and don’t use their tablet or computer to waste time (sorry Netflix) and get out exploring their country instead.
It’s definitely not required, ILP has just had quite a few volunteers in the past mention that they like having it abroad but if that doesn’t fly with you, skip packing up your laptop.
When it comes to planning vacations and lesson plans, you will probably just be more reliant on your phone. Some sites are difficult to work with on mobile, so you can contribute other ways when it comes to group planning. You will probably want a notebook with a few pens since you will be planning lessons online, and will want to print out materials at home before leaving, since you might not have access to your country's Go-To-Guide or other ILP materials.
Here's what volunteers have said:
“You do not have to have one. I definitely liked having my phone though.” and “Not everyone in my group had a laptop. It was nice to have it, but not necessary” are comments you’ll also see frequently — both Caitlin R. and Sara T. got by just fine without laptops while volunteering and teaching English in China.
Still have a couple questions you need answered before you go abroad? Or want to figure out how you can start adventuring and volunteering with ILP (or International Language Programs, if you want to be fancy). Either way, one of our ILP representatives can help you out: