Volunteering programme for spouses/international partners

Volunteering is a great way to meet people, become familiar with the community and develop skills to include on a resume. 

Volunteer opportunities offered to international partners help spouses connect and feel welcome as international students and scholars embark on a new life in another country. Such opportunities foster the level of satisfaction, social integration and wellbeing of international students and staff and their family members.



Support mental health and wellbeing Social integration

Basic information
Categories Family Matters Social Integration & Daily Life
Mobility stages During mobility phase
Delivery schedule Continuous
Importance Nice to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups Internationals spouses/family members
Types of contracts of researchers Full degree student Permanent employee Visiting scholar Employee in training (interns, research fellows, postdocs)
Career stages of researchers 6-12-months of experience 1-3-years of experience 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience More than 15 years of experience
Lengths of stays of researchers 3-6 months 6-12 months More than 12 months
Practice setup

Volunteering opportunities can be designed/offered in different ways.

On the one hand, universities can serve as a bridge and link international partners to (external) volunteering jobs in and around the city. They can help organise external volunteering opportunities for the benefit of a wider local community. The related task can be delegated to one of the existing units (e.g., the university parish) or to newly recruited staff responsible for compiling and updating a comprehensive list of local partners and for working out and negotiating collaboration modalities.

On the other hand, universities can provide international partners with opportunities to engage in various university activities on a volunteering basis as part of an internal volunteering programme

The design of an internal university volunteering programme for international partners, which involves them in the daily life of a university, has to consider the following aspects:

  • Staff responsible for the programme (e.g. welcome center, international relations office)

  • Timeframe and regularity of engagement (e.g. once or twice a year, once or twice a month, once a week)

  • Type of engagement (e.g. administrative or communication services, assistance with orientation of international students, foreign language tutoring programmes, organising festivals, fairs, or field trips)

  • Advertising of volunteering opportunities (emphasising the value of the experience for all parties: e.g. professional development and social engagement with international partners; exposure to a different culture for university staff and students, through a dedicated, regularly updated webpage listing internal volunteering jobs and activities) 

  • Application and selection process (e.g. expectations regarding prior experience, driving license, language skills)

  • Reward or recognition of volunteering activities (e.g. sending personalised thank you emails, creating a volunteer yearbook, offering discounts, organising a party or an awards banquet). 


Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • IRO/welcome centre
Partners involved in practice setup
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • Process organization developed

Higher education institutions can partner with other higher education institutions and local partners such as NGOs and the municipality.

@ Other HEIs

Local universities can open their internal volunteering programmes to international partners of staff members employed by other universities. This cooperative measure helps expand the pool of university related volunteering jobs. It requires a regular exchange of information between the responsible units of the participating institutions.  

@ EURAXESS centers

Universities can regularly check opportunities advertised within the EURAXESS network and cascade this information to volunteering partners. They can also advertise their own opportunities for engagement.

@ Local municipalities

Municipalities are best informed about the local community needs and can be valuable partners in re-directing international partners to different organisations in the need of help. The responsible units at universities are advised to establish communication channels with municipalities and exchange information about volunteering opportunities in the local area.



Practice delivery

Needs assessment

To better understand the needs of international volunteers, various university departments and local community, institutions are advised to collect evidence through a survey, focus group or interviews. The collected evidence will help design and deliver a mutually beneficial volunteering programme satisfying the interests of all parties. 

Information dissemination

Both internal and external volunteering opportunities need to be regularly advertised via dedicated communication channels (e.g. leaflets included in the welcome packages for international students and staff, webpages, social media groups). Institutions can also hold a spouse orientation during the larger international student/scholar orientation to disseminate information about available volunteering jobs.

Support and training

The responsible staff should provide any necessary guidance or training helping spouses/partners perform the task and collect regular feedback on the mutual benefit of volunteering opportunities. 


Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of researchers affected
  • Number of volunteers

Examples of practice

Spouse support and dual career programme

Erasmus University Rotterdam offers the Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assist spouses of international employees in their search for a job on the Dutch labour market. The programme is executed in close cooperation with nearby universities of Leiden and Delft. The ultimate goal is for both the international employee and his/her spouse to have an exciting and eventful time in Rotterdam. The University aims to achieve this goal together through the different services within the DCP.


Information about volunteer work

iCare KU Leuven links volunteers to volunteering jobs in and around Leuven. Knowledge of Dutch is not required.

The university provides the list of information sources about paid and non-paid jobs in the non-profit and social profit sector in Belgium. 


Get in Touch programme

A social introduction and support programme for spouses to discover people and places in Eindhoven and to build their own personal network in their new residence. In the past years, this programme has grown into a broad service for international TU/e spouses.