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Is volunteering useful to you?

Sophie May an ARU student writes about her experience in volunteering.

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Are you busy?

You’ve got your course, perhaps a part time job, maybe a family. Then you’ve got reading and assignments. And a social life. And Pointless isn’t going to watch itself.

But really, how busy are you? Do you have a few spare hours a week that you could put aside without impacting negatively on your life? For most of us, the answer is yes. We might have to sacrifice one lie-in a week or trim the Netflix binge but we can do it. And if you use that time for volunteering, the benefits will outweigh the sacrifices.

Since starting at Anglia Ruskin, I have been involved in a few different voluntary positions. I spent 18 months volunteering in the Oxfam shop on Mill Road (the 2012 award winner for most entrepreneurial Oxfam shop in the country), establishing and running a vintage clothes section. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had and I would recommend it to anyone. I also went with Oxfam to Leeds Festival in 2012 to help run the on-site shop. It ended up breaking every Oxfam festival record, raising over £66k and selling 2,500 pairs of wellies. I happened to be in the ‘welly corner’ when the first downpour of the weekend started and I spent six hours helping cold, wet, muddy festival goers into a nice new pair of boots. Every one of them was so grateful that I enjoyed every minute of it.

But did you know that being on a club or society committee or being a rep also counts as volunteering? I’m currently the President of the Vintage Society and Cambridge Communications Rep and can log the hours I spend working on these with the Volunteering Service. 

I hope that from this you can see how you can take a hobby or interest of yours (vintage fashion, for me) and turn it into a voluntary position which benefits you and your community.

In my experience, volunteering as a student is one of the best ways to improve your university experience. Let’s look at some of the benefits:

  • Learning new skills – Whether you are volunteering in the back room of a charity shop, coaching a sport club or befriending a local vulnerable young person, you will gain loads of new skills that are independent, but still complimentary, to your course. This will not only improve your CV but boost your confidence.
  • Meeting new people – If you have moved a long way to come to university, the chances are you won’t know many people when you first start. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and, chances are, you will meet people from all different backgrounds and with different points of view who you would never have met otherwise. New people and experiences will shape your view of the world and isn’t that part of what university is about?
  • Gaining experience – An often-repeated argument about university is whether a degree is worth more than three years’ experience of work. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to gain valuable experience that employers love. It’s also much more rewarding to gain your experience doing something you enjoy whilst providing help and support for those who need it than it would ever be from a weekend job you’re only doing for the money.

There are always loads of great volunteering opportunities listed on the Students’ Union Website. Register your details with the Volunteering Service, have a browse and hopefully you’ll discover you’re not too busy to take advantage of the incredibly beneficial opportunities available to you.

Written by Sophie May


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