Psychology Student Placements Abroad: How to gain practical experience and make a difference

How would you respond to the dreaded interview question: “Tell us about your practical experience as a psychologist?”

These kind of open-ended behavioural interview questions can trip up even the most qualified of candidates. However, if you’ve got relevant work-based experience, this can be your time to shine! 

Especially if you spent your psychology placement working in a clinical psychology ward in Ghana or working with victims of child abuse in South Africa. Not only are you able to display your knowledge of the field but also show your character as someone who’s not afraid to step outside their comfort zone as a psychologist. 

Just hear from one of our recent volunteers: 

"This was probably one of the most amazing but also the hardest and most intense experiences of my life to date. I was involved in some major breakthroughs with some of the rehab, bipolar & anger management patients. This was all such an incredible experience and has really helped my professional and career development"
Jess Walch
Psychology Volunteer in Ghana, October 2023

Volunteering abroad is a great way to gain this kind of hands-on psychology experience and make a real difference in developing communities around the world. At Vocational Impact, we connect skilled volunteers to partner projects around the world to make sure their skills and knowledge can help people in need. The best part is, as a charity the fees directly support the projects giving them the financial stability they need to help as many people as possible.

Here are 4 ways you’ll have get experience as part of a psychology & mental health volunteer programme:

1. Gain new perspectives on psychology

Psychologists benefit from an awareness of cultural diversity and this isn’t something that can’t necessarily be taught in a book. People’s minds and their behaviour are influenced by social factors, including their country of origin, ethnicity, religion and so on. According to a study published by Stanford University, the past 50 years have seen a heavy focus on European and American cultures in psychological studies. While these studies have led to many important breakthroughs in the field of psychology, it means there’s lack of information about the cultural norms of non-Western societies. 

These cultural norms can motivate behaviours that psychologists see as abnormal but the client sees as normal or even expected. Having a culturally diverse perspective can help psychologists approach their work differently and be more effective with all clients.

2. Improve your people skills and cultural awareness

It goes without saying but as a psychologist, soft skills are essential. An international volunteer placement gives you the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture. This experience will help you hone your people skills as well as teach you how to adapt to a variety of situations. Whether it’s shadowing professionals or making the best of low-resource environments, these skills are vital to learn. 

This can be beneficial to future clients as you’re more aware of their cultural values, preferences, characteristics, and circumstances. This will help you as a psychologist working with clients with a variety of backgrounds. You’ll be fully supported on your volunteer placements but jumping in the deep end is an amazing way to quickly improve your confidence and ability to work outside your comfort zone.

3. Stand out in the job market

Hands-on experience in counselling and psychiatric services, like those offered in our psychology & mental health programmes, makes you stand out in the job market. It’s a competitive edge that 63% of HR professionals acknowledge, as volunteering abroad shows that you’re a well-rounded and experienced candidate. 

It will give you a wealth of examples and experiences that you can confidently share in an interview and show your commitment to the field. Additionally, you will be surrounded by other psychology students and professionals who you will be able to form relationships with that may later lead to professional opportunities. 

4. Grow as a person and broaden your horizons

It’s not all about work while on your volunteer adventure. There’s also plenty of opportunity to do some sightseeing and exploring. It could be day trips to the Taj Mahal or going on a safari the choice is yours. Our in-country volunteer coordinators will help you, and your fellow volunteers, find exciting opportunities for you to discover the country you’re staying in. 

As you live and work alongside local communities you’ll gain a far deeper understanding of the country than you ever would as a tourist. Many volunteers succeed in making a change in the communities they support but don’t expect the change they find in themselves.

Volunteer programmes tailored to psychology students

Planning your international volunteering placement can seem daunting but we’ll be with you every step of the way.

We’re a small charity that picks its partner projects carefully. This means we can tailor our programmes to fit your skills and goals.

The best way to get started is to fill out our enquiry form. We’ll send you all the information you need to plan your very own volunteer placement.

Start Your Volunteer Journey