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 Europe or Asia or any other other ILP locations. Don’t worry, we are here to help.
While we really are here to help, 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 phone and their laptop for a couple of reasons; it can be really hard to book flights and plan a vacation or check the ballet schedule of a dozen 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.
ILP 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.”
Here’s what Madison R (an ILP 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 schedule to keep you organized), you’ll most likely want your laptop while traveling abroad.
It is something to worry about a bit when you are traveling on vacation days and weekends: past volunteers suggest just bringing their phones on vacation, and securely leaving their laptops at home while they are gone.
A Quick Heads Up For Tropical Locations
This is a good FYI if you're planning on taking your laptop on your semester abroad, which happens to be in a hot and humid location. You may want to look into some practices to protect your computer from the humidity and heat. We've had many (many!) volunteers bring their computers abroad to these tropical countries and have zero problems, but every once in a while, one or two volunteers mention that the heat and humidity was somewhat damaging to their device.
There are a few ways you can help protect your computer from the elements. We suggest doing your own research and discussing options with specialists for your specific type of computer, but some general suggestions include:
- Turning your laptop off when you're finished, instead of just shutting the lid (that way the fan can get a break, and doesn't need to be working while they computer isn't in use).
Using a laptop stand, a flat surface, or cooling mat to help protect your laptop from overheating.
Avoid using your laptop in direct sunlight (to help keep it from overheating).
What About A Tablet?
Lots of volunteers also opted to bring a tablet instead of a laptop — 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 a laptop which is nice to travel with. ILP Europe volunteer Annie J. says this: “I have my iPad here! 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?
Nope. 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 of course, you can skip out on bringing your laptop.
When it comes to planning vacations and lesson plans, you will probably just be more reliant on your phone to do that. Just know 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 the best online access to your country's Go-To-Guide or other ILP materials found online.
Here's what some volunteers have said:
“You do not have to have one (a laptop). 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” — both Caitlin R. and Sara T. got by just fine without laptops while volunteering and teaching English abroad.
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: