Student Volunteering Week: volunteering provides some of the most valuable university experiences
Being a student presents many opportunities and challenges. University or college is an environment in which you can discover new things, learn skills, and broaden your horizons. There are many challenges that students face, such as finding a part-time job and deciding how to spend your free time, along with the bigger questions about being employable, or even knowing your future career plans.
Volunteering alone won’t solve these challenges. However, speaking from personal experience and as a campaigner working on Student Volunteering Week 2012, I believe volunteering provides some of the most valuable experiences you can have as a student.
The reason I believe this is because volunteering is both personally and socially transformative. As a student I volunteered on CATSS, a residential project for ‘at risk’ young children. The experience was incredibly varied and amongst other things involved managing bank accounts, supporting children to try new things, and dealing with unruly children at 2am! It has not just boosted my chances of finding a job, but also improved my confidence, social and leadership skills, and actually made a positive difference to children’s lives.
Volunteering involves a massive range of activities, from the things you might expect such as volunteering in a school, to the things you might not such as helping to lead a sports team, or becoming involved with the running of a society or students’ union. The most important thing is that volunteering meets your needs and interests. Finding a placement that fits is important because if it doesn’t you are unlikely to get the most out of it or even keep it up.
Speaking to your university volunteering service is one of the best ways to start volunteering. These are typically based in your students’ union or careers service and may offer placements with different organisations, run their own projects, and help with any queries.
Looking back to my own time as a student, volunteering was the environment in which I made a difference both to myself and to the world around, and I would encourage all students to try it out.