Here’s what you — er, I guess your parents and friends — need to know about sending a package to you while you’re living abroad.
Because ILP volunteers get to live abroad for a pretty significant period of time (about 3-4 months), the question often comes up "Can I send a package to my volunteer in ________?"
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It's so fun to send something nice to a family member or friend who's living abroad, and even more so for them when they receive it! A little taste of home can be so nice while you're living outside of your comfort zone. It's common to have experience a little culture shock, homesickness, and a roller coaster of emotions while you're on a semester abroad, especially if this is your first time away from home. Even if you're absolutely loving your adventures, some days are hard and it's nice to get something in the mail, like a handwritten letter from your loved ones.
You need to be cautious with what you mail though — in our experience things don't always go as planned. Here's our tips!
We Don't Recommend Sending Packages
The short answer is it's probably not a good idea.
Sometimes packages arrive just fine, but more often than not we've seen volunteers run into issues. Many times the package doesn't arrive at all (lost into the abyss and who knows where it ended up). And if it does arrive, there's often quite a bit of costs involved, not only for the sender having shipping fees but sometimes for the receiver too with import taxes and such. Oh, and it can take quite a bit of time — we're talking weeks to even months, and it's really hard to predict. We've actually even seen a package arrive for a volunteer after they had already returned home because it took so long.
But Sometimes You Might Want To Risk It
We have had volunteers from time to time who really needed something from home. If it's more of a need, and not necessarily just a want, talk to us at ILP. Each ILP volunteer has a Program Manager who is familiar with that part of the world and best practices for sending items over. Knowing your particular location, they can be helpful with ideas and also let you know the pros and cons, as well as the risks before you mail anything. They can also make sure you've got the best address for receiving the package.
Alternative Ideas + Tips
While mailing packages internationally might not be the best idea, there are other ways you can get a little creative!
Postcards The Letters
We love this option because it's not such a financial investment, nor such a loss if it doesn't arrive. But your volunteer still gets the rush of receiving something in the mail! You could even include a photo in the envelope that they'll be able to keep in their journal.
If you're looking for the right address, volunteers will be able to get that information from their Local Coordinator.
Send The Package In Their Suitcase
Another idea is to pack a small care package into their luggage when they're getting ready to leave with a note like "Open on Thanksgiving" or "Open when you need a treat". That way they can still open a care package from you sometime during their trip! You'll just want to consider the size — volunteers' suitcases are usually packed to the brim as is, but I'm sure they'd make room for a fun gift like that.
You might think about occasions that they'll be abroad for — their birthday, holidays, etc. Or even just having a package to look forward to when they've made it to a milestone like getting through their first week of classes, making it to the halfway point, or even just when they're having a hard day (which happens to us all).
Venmo A Treat
You might consider depositing some cash into their checking account or sending a Venmo over. Maybe they've been feeling homesick and a surprise like this with a note that says "Grab a friend and go get an ice cream on me" would be so fun! It's much cheaper than sending a package with treats and snacks in it, quicker, and guarantees they'll actually receive it.
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