5 things to anticipate before signing up for PULSE.

As in normal life there are problems or challenges that we face in our everywhere. So as you should expect challenges during your PULSE assignment. Volunteering abroad has many exciting opportunities but it comes with challenges as well. But believe me tackling with those is the actual learning during your assignment which you may not find in your routine jobs. Some problems can be prevented by being careful and prudent. While some can’t be avoided but we still have to deal with them either way.

Lack of Supervision

Sometimes NGO managers or program supervisor could not provide you a proper description of the job and may assign you too much work or less work that you feel under potential. Improperly trained supervisors give out too much responsibility they could give you short deadlines without providing enough information about the work to be done and confuse volunteers with the paid staff. Therefore, in all these situations the best advice is to be clear and share with your NGO manager about your profile and inform the supervisor of your interests and desires. Make it clear to your NGO manager to help him/her give you a job that is aligned with your expertise, interests and desires and surely with NGOs objectives so that you and NGO will find your skills could be better placed. With this you would surely enjoy your assignment and you could apply yourself more and be more effective in your volunteer work.

Communication Gap

Language is a main way of communication and sometimes you may feel like an alien despite of knowing the basic languages spoken all over the world. Common people in many countries are not well versed with English or any other widely spoken language sometimes. But there are languages those are international and spoken in many parts of the world. Like in Africa, the two most common languages are English and French. While in the America they speak English and Spanish. Although you could speak the language fluently but the locals might not understand you well because of your accent. The accents make it difficult for people from different places to understand each other. The solution lies in a pre-assignment learning to know few main phrases and by talking slowly and giving the other person time to speak. If the need arises you can use a written communication method to communicate what you are trying to say.

Professional Conflicts

When working in an organization there are times when we get into some conflicts with the fellow workmates. The paid staff could be giving you a hard time while you are working with them. In some instances the person offending you is doing it unconsciously and the problems are solved by politely informing the person. The person will listen to you and apologize. On the other hand, the problem is not easily solved, after talking to the person offending you he does not change. In such cases, go to your NGO supervisor or concerned coordinator to help solve the issue. The supervisor should be able to resolve the issue between the two of you. In the worst case you could be reassigned to another department.


Although you are on assignment but don’t be serious enough to work without having fun. Don’t forget that you are actually in a normal life outside your own environment with everybody around you is living normally so as you too have to. You are out of your comfort zone, friends and family circle and your professional network where you don’t need to introduce yourself every day. This may be your main discomfort in addition to others, during your assignment where you may feel frustrating that may lead to less productivity. Therefore you have to prior find your ways to make yourself maze in fun and the activities those can keep you motivated for tenure of PULSE. You can perform the things those you haven’t done before according to your location you are based at.

There may be lot more from I could share but there are few things you could expect as surprises and in this way they may provide you a better way of learning.

Mugging & Thugging

When you are in your PULSE assignment, you could be placed to work with people who are in direct needs and may be economically compromised. The people you might be assigned to help are normally desperate. As a foreigner, the local people assume you have money and might want to take advantage of you. For any small piece of advice the locals could charge you or try to extort you. When you try to buy something, the local sellers will try to take advantage of you by charging exorbitantly. For this, I don’t think there is a need to tell you to be vigilant as you are smart enough to try to get as much information before you buy something. Prefer to go accompanied with your local NGO colleagues or prefer places like malls and hyper markets.



  1. Very true! Wish I had had this perspective prior to my PULSE assignment! Would be helpful to add to on boarding documents for PULSE orientation.

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