How volunteering can enhance your University experience

We all know that this semester will fly by and soon summer will be just around the corner. For those of you planning to undertake a work experience placement or do some volunteering you might have started to think about applying for relevant schemes already. In that case I am preaching to the converted! However, for those who may be daunted by the idea of taking on extra commitments in the form of volunteering this post will aim to highlight the variety of benefits involved. So why volunteer?

Firstly, let me start by saying that volunteering work leads to some of the most fun and worthwhile learning experiences because:

  • It can help you get to know yourself better and discover your potential
  • Through volunteering you can develop key skills that will make you more employable
  • You get to work with a community of people who share the same goals as you: to improve society
  • With some of these people you may develop long-lasting friendships (and who knows, maybe marry one of them someday!)
  • Volunteering work makes you feel good! There is nothing more fulfilling then carrying out work which makes a positive impact on others

As you can see, there are so many benefits to volunteering – it can really enrich your life experience. But now let me share a bit of my own experience of volunteering. For me, volunteering is great way to push myself out of my comfort zone (and I really mean that). I come from a humanities background, but this didn’t stop me from signing myself up to learn some coding. In October 2015 I started work for the charity “Robogals” , which aims to encourage women to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by giving them a taste of how coding and robotics work.

What I learned there about coding was very basic, but because I was a very proactive volunteer I started to get noticed by other people and I was soon offered a position of responsibility within the organisation. This is where everything started for me – volunteering to take that first step had a knock on effect, giving me loads of opportunities to network with different stakeholders. At the Robogals conference, I was having a very interesting conversation about technology with a representative from Shell and the next day I got an email inviting me to a highly professional course about building websites from scratch. So, from my little anecdote you can see that taking small actions designed to build your skills in a certain area can have a snowball effect. It can kick off a whole chain of interactions and opportunities which will really help you when you are applying for graduate jobs, so don’t rule out volunteering whilst at University – you never know who you might meet or what you might end up doing as a result. Volunteering has also offered me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of different cultures, learn how to be professional at work, present with confidence, collaborate within different teams and manage projects effectively.

If you’re interested in making a difference for both your future self and the society at large, then apply for one of the many amazing volunteering opportunities which are available for all students at the University.  For example, Team Uganda is looking for 15 volunteers (one Assistant Project Leader and fourteen Team Members) to work with them this year. The Assistant Project Leader role is open to any student in any year (UG or PGT), UK or international – they’re looking for students with experience of leading peers, overseas experience, and volunteering.  The deadline for this role is Wednesday, the 8th of February. The Team Member roles are open to any UG students who are not in their final year, and who are Widening Participation students (i.e. in receipt of the Manchester Bursary or NHS funded students with a household income of less than £25k), and the Application deadline for this role is Monday, the 6th of March.

team-uganda-10

As part of both these roles you get to travel to another continent, meet people from different cultures, try new things and you can use this opportunity to further develop your skills. Sound tempting? Then give it a go. This life changing experience might be one of the most valuable things you do whilst at University. If you want more information about this project, please have a look at their social media pages which provide plenty of details about what this volunteering experience entails.

By Ioana from the Student Team

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