International Volunteer Experience information sheet
International Volunteer Experiences for the GEC are approved by:
Paula Murphy, GEC Coordinator, Waterloo International, NH 1101, 519-888-4567 ext. 37301
University of Waterloo Police, 519-888-4911 or 519-888-4567 ext. 22222
Regardless of where you are volunteering, if you are a Canadian citizen you must register with the nearest Canadian government office abroad – this can be done before departure using the Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) website.
You must have authorization (or written proof of exemption) to volunteer in a country of which you are not a citizen – it is each students' responsibility to ensure that they have the proper documentation. Volunteering in a country may or may not require more than a standard visitor visa. It is your responsibility to inform yourself of the requirements and make arrangements to get the necessary documentation.
The application form must be completed and submitted to the GEC Coordinator at least 6 months prior to the start of the international volunteer experience.
You must have health insurance coverage for the entire duration of your volunteer position. The University of Waterloo Federation of Students (FEDS)/Graduate Student Association (GSA) Health & Dental Plan includes up to 150 consecutive days of out-of-Canada coverage beginning the first day of the month of the academic term in which the insurance was paid (this coverage is intended to cover one academic term at University of Waterloo and one work term). This plan is not necessarily valid in every country so you must check to ensure that it is valid in the country to which you are travelling. It is each student's responsibility to purchase sufficient health insurance coverage for his or her time outside of Canada. Students are free to choose which coverage suits their needs and which provider they chose to purchase from. Review the details of the plan as it relates to your specific situation at the FEDS/GSA Health & Dental Plan website.
If you will be away from Canada for more than 7 months, your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage will lapse. At that point you are no longer considered to be a resident of Ontario and neither the Provincial Health Plan nor the University of Waterloo FEDS/GSA Health & Dental Plan will cover you. – in order to have appropriate coverage, you must get your OHIP coverage extended for the entire time you will be away by submitting a request in writing to the nearest Ministry of Health office, prior to departure, explaining the purpose of your trip and the anticipated return date (an appropriate letter can be obtained from the Registrar's Office). If you are using the University of Waterloo FEDS/GSA Health & Dental Plan and will be away for more than 150 days, you must purchase an extension to that coverage from the Student Accounts Office prior to departure.
You must ensure that you complete an online risk management form prior to the start of your International Volunteer Experience.
Do you have certain financial responsibilities in Canada that will need to be handled while you are away? Consider giving someone in your family Power of Attorney over your affairs so that they can handle your finances in your absence.
Email will be the primary method of correspondence with students while they are on a international volunteer experience. It is your responsibility to maintain an up-to-date email address on WatIAM and inform the GEC Coordinator of the most appropriate email address to use to reach you at all times.
Upon arrival at your destination, you must contact the GEC Co-ordinato by email to confirm local contact information and you must report any emergency situation, change of volunteer status, change of location to the GEC Coordinator immediately. If reporting an emergency incident and you are unable to reach the GEC Coordinator immediately, please contact the University of Waterloo Police.
You must remain current on global current events in order to be informed of situations that might affect your safety and well-being. The best source of country-specific information is the Foreign Affairs Canada website and its country travel reports.
In case of emergencies while abroad, you are required to follow the directives of Foreign Affairs Canada and the University of Waterloo.
You are an ambassador for the University of Waterloo and Canada – your behaviour will influence the locals' impression of our school and our country. Please act accordingly at all times and make every attempt to leave a positive impression for your own sake, as well as the benefit of future University of Waterloo students and the prospects of future networking.
When packing, refer to resources available through various sources including the International Student Office, Cooperative Education & Career Services, travel websites, etc. and keep in mind that you should only be bringing enough for 2-3 weeks – not several months. You will be able to do laundry wherever you're going!
To ease your transition to a new area, make efforts to establish a routine similar to that which you follow while at University of Waterloo: get to know local people and avoid associating only with other University of Waterloo students and/or Canadians, get involved in local activities (sports, clubs, cultural groups), stay connected to home online by visiting University of Waterloo website and CBC website, and find a balance between working hard and enjoying the local sights.