When starting something new and unfamiliar like university, it is important to feel like you belong. There are many different ways of achieving this, through clubs and societies, being on the class representative council, or volunteering.
My experience of volunteering with both Suas as a literacy mentor and with DCU Access have helped me adapt to university life and gain a lot of confidence. It helped me learn about having a leadership role and my own responsibility. It taught me valuable skills such as time management and organisational skills which I could transfer to my work ethic in college.
Becoming an active member by volunteering can help in more ways than one. A major factor, that you can’t deny is that looks great on a CV. When you graduate there will be thousands of people going for the same job as you, while having a great degree is important, it won’t make you stand out. Having a background in volunteering gives you something different to talk about in interviews which will help give you an edge over your competitors. It also helps to show you are a dedicated person who is willing to go that extra mile and that you are passionate about making a difference.
Being in first year can be daunting and the prospect of how to make new friends outside of your course can seem impossible. By engaging in volunteering, you make friends and even more importantly, contacts more easily. You are thrown into work situations with other people from all different walks of life and by working alongside them, you inevitably become friends. This can be a great asset in the future when trying to make connections with people for work.
One simple, but valid reason to help out is that it’s a lot of fun. Whether you are interested in working with animals, children, elderly people or practically any group you can think of, there’s an organisation that will suit you. While it is still work and can be tiring, it’s a really enjoyable and rewarding experience. Knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life leaves you feeling happier and as though you have done something worthwhile.
Some might think you wouldn’t have the time to volunteer, or that it would get too stressful coming up to exam season. That’s the great thing about volunteering, it’s completely up to you when and for how long you do it. If you can allocate ten hours a week, that’s great, if it’s only one, any organisation would be delighted with another pair of helping hands. It’s a really valuable experience for both you and the organisation you choose and I can’t urge people to try it out enough.
Image: The welfare working group in DCU credit: Deirdre O’Sullivan