4 ways to go international

Your ticket to global guiding activities, ideas and adventures

Helen, Girlguiding Digital team
8 Feb 2018

1. Bring the world to your unit

Giving your girls an international experience doesn't have to be complicated – in fact, it can be as simple as planning a unit meeting activity. You could begin by asking your girls what global issues interest them, or which cultures they'd like to learn more about, to help plan a girl-led programme.

World Thinking Day on 22 February is also a great way to incorporate international activities. It's when all Girl Guides and Girl Scouts think about their 'sisters' – and 'brothers' – around the world. The theme for 2018 is 'Impact': on yourself, on others and as a unit, from a local to a global level. Perhaps you've already got something planned, but, if not, we're creating a new pack to download with great ideas on exploring the theme for the day and throughout the year ahead. 

If your unit is keen to put global guiding into action on a more regular basis, try reaching out to fellow guiding members elsewhere in the world through the WAGGGS pen pal scheme. It's not only a fun and exciting way for girls to get to know another culture (who doesn't love getting post from a faraway friend?) but you could even end up 'twinning' with your pen pal unit.

We have pen pals in Australia who we write to. We celebrate Australia day in January with crafts and cooking, and we've also sent video messages to other units. To inspire my girls about all the opportunities available, I make sure to bring back badges and any items I've found on my own trips as a leader. - Lorraine Wing, Leader, 1st Bletchington Brownies and 2nd Woodstock Guides

2. Experience the world on your doorstep

If you don't feel that you're in a position to herd your unit onto a plane, boat or train – but you'd still like to run a trip that will give your girls an international experience – there's plenty on offer right here in the UK.

Many Girlguiding countries and regions organise international events and camps that welcome groups from across the world, often in partnership with their local Scouting counterparts. For example, summer 2017 saw Guides and Scouts gather in their thousands for International Jamborees, such as Poacher in Lincolnshire and Kernow in Cornwall.

Depending on the age and confidence level of your group, you could stick with them and make new friends together, or leave them to explore, knowing they'll be in a safe space and in the capable hands of trained activity instructors. You won't need a licence to attend, just the usual permission forms and risk assessment for your camping ground.

You can find out what's available in your area by visiting the website of your country or region, or looking up what the regions close to you have to offer.

We decided to go to Poacher as we wanted our girls to experience
a big camp without travelling too far [...] On the coach home, the girls kept asking "When is the next big camp?" and are so excited to go again. They gained a huge amount of independence, as they went off to their own activities, scheduled their own days and made their own unique friendships. Everyone was impressed with the number of different countries there (25!) and got a great sense of how Guiding and Scouting are truly global. It felt like we were part of a huge family. - Hazel Creaghan, Assistant Leader, 50th York Guides

3. Explore the possibilities for yourself

Like so much of what Girlguiding offers, international adventures aren't just for girls – there's lots for adult volunteers to benefit from too. 'Before you go on holiday, find out if you're going to be near a guiding HQ or see if you can link up a visit to a unit,' suggests Carol Pike, Leader, Wellfield Brownies. 'I've done this around the world, when not on a guiding trip, and it's been a great experience.'

If you're looking for a more formal role, you could also apply for an internship or to volunteer at one of the WAGGGS World Centres in India, Mexico, Switzerland or Africa. Or you could put your name down to be an International Service Team (IST) member at international events such as Roverway, Moot or Jamboree.

Another great way to represent Girlguiding on an international level is to sign up to our Global Opportunities Pool. This will give you access to the latest information about IST and other volunteering roles. You'll also find a range of WAGGGS opportunities for members aged 18 to 30 to represent guiding on an international level - from attending the Helen Storrow and Juliette Low seminars on developing leadership skills, to joining a delegation to the UN.

If you're a member of the Trefoil Guild you're also in luck. In 2016 the Trefoil Guild piloted TOPAZ – the Trefoil Overseas Partnership Adventure with Zest scheme. The first trip took place in 2016 when eight members went to Russia, and six more members made the trip in October 2017. See how you can get involved.

I thought volunteering as an IST member was a great chance to get involved in international guiding. Even though my team worked in shifts around the clock, we still got time each day to go and explore. I got to meet groups from Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Switzerland, Colombia and Argentina, as well as from across the UK. We also took part in activities and sampled food in cafés run by some of the international teams. - Nicola Wheeldon, Leader, 259th Glasgow Guides

4. Take your girls on a trip

International guiding trips can have loads of benefits not only for girls, but for leaders too. After all, tackling a new adventure is a sure way to build your confidence, whatever your age. And, because we're part of a huge global movement, Girlguiding offers unique opportunities for travel – an added bonus of our programme, which can encourage girls to stay in guiding for longer.

There are many different ways to head abroad with your unit, and it needn't be complicated. For example, by booking a trip to Disneyland Paris or an international activity centre, you can be sure that accommodation, catering and activities will already be organised for you.

Another way to head abroad could be on a trip organised by your country or region, such as Girlguiding Scotland's 'Catch us in Cologne' (where each group is given a pack with challenges to complete as they make their own way to the event's destination). This is a great way to get involved in organising parts of an international outing. And can help you work towards your International Going Away With licence, while having the support of experienced volunteers.

These kinds of journeys could also help you gain the skills you need to design your own international trip. Organising an entire overseas adventure might sound like a lot of work, but it can allow you more flexibility over what you do. And seeing your girls enjoying the activities that you've worked so hard to put together can be especially rewarding.

This trip had a massive impact on me. Before we went to Finland, I had only taken girls to sleepovers or weekend camps. I gained a lot of confidence and learnt that it's OK to be flexible and change your plans, as well as how to budget effectively and create an adventure that's excellent value for money. We also had the honour of helping 18 young people to grow, make friends and create fabulous memories that will stay with them forever. It's something we're really proud of. - Becky Patten, Guide leader from North West England