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The hows and whys of volunteering at university

This might just be the understatement of the century, but students are busy. We work on assignments, reading, exams, lectures, reading, seminars, societies and activities, paid work, and more reading. So, how – and why – bother with volunteering? 

Volunteering can be defined as engaging in an activity or activities for the benefit of people, the environment, or other cause, without being paid. Crucially, this is an informed choice made by you in advance and is different to an unpaid internship – which is more to do with working for an organisation for a limited time to gain experience in a specific sector.

How can I start volunteering at university?

White Sticky Note with Start Today Message And Red Push Pin On Yellow BackgroundThere is a strong volunteering presence here on campus. Firstly, many societies offer volunteering opportunities relating to their field. This is a great option for those who want to volunteer with their friends or develop specific skills. Chatting to fellow students is also a useful way of networking and discovering new opportunities.

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Secondly, the Warwick Volunteers department has a number of useful resources and opportunities available for you, including one-off volunteering, volunteer project search, and other resources. These are perfect for anyone looking for a range of opportunities and causes to support during term. Some will require little commitment, while others will have ongoing projects!

Thirdly, the Warwick SU website has a few additional resources available. Finally, you might also like to consider volunteering closer to home. This is the best option for those with many contact hours or heavy workloads, as you can volunteer during term holidays.

Give Back Motivational Words Quotes ConceptWhy volunteer?

  • According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (NCVO’s) Time Well Spent report, over 90% of volunteers enjoy volunteering, respond positively to their experiences, and feel like they are making a difference. Volunteering is an opportunity to make a positive impact in your community by supporting a cause that’s important to you.
  • Volunteering may just be the academic break you need. The same mundane library routine is not always healthy or productive. If you’re finding yourself on social media more than doing your actual work, perhaps this is your body’s way of telling you that you need a break. In my experience, volunteering is a good reason to step away from the demands of your course. Conservation work and gardening are certainly different from tapping away on a laptop!
  • Given the relationship between isolation and loneliness, it is unsurprising that volunteering helps to combat loneliness! Not only are volunteers encouraged to meet new people and work together, but service-users – a term I use to refer to those requiring support from a charity or voluntary organisation – benefit from human connections and positive interactions.
  • You can volunteer from your own home! For instance, I put my editing skills to good use by reviewing creative writing submissions to 100 Word Challenge. This site encourages children under the age of 16 to write short stories based on weekly prompts. Simple and sweet, this opportunity is very relaxed and allowed me to fit my volunteering around my studies. Alternatively, Do-it has an option for ‘Do-it from home’ volunteering in their search tool.
  • Volunteering is a useful and varied way of improving your CV and skills! Firstly, you can use this opportunity to develop and learn key skills in a low-pressure environment. These experiences will give you the ammunition you need during the dreaded “describe a time when” interview questions. Second, the range of these experiences and skills will support you in future ventures – including academic work. You will learn how adapt these to new situations and add value to any team you are in! Thirdly, your rich CV and flashy LinkedIn profile will capture attention, demonstrating that you have worked outside of your degree to the benefit of yourself and others. Finally, you can use volunteering roles to fill in any employment and education gaps, helping with applications and avoiding skill-loss. Most employers are looking for motivated individuals who show initiative!
  • Volunteering roles may give you a better idea of the kind of career, sector, or role is right for you. Try a range of activities in a low commitment setting if you’re unsure!
  • According to Volunteering England’s report, Volunteering and Health, volunteering has also been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, life satisfaction, and self-rated health of both volunteers and service-users. For those supported by volunteers, benefits also include improved self-esteem, disease-management, acceptance, and promotion of healthy behaviours. Knowing that you are making a difference is incredibly rewarding and it shows.

Last, but not least, volunteering is fun. So really, the question is: why not try volunteering? Find a cause that appeals to you and go from there!

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