Let’s face it, being a volunteer isn’t always seen as the most glamorous thing to do in your spare time – or, perhaps, during your gap year – but there are students out there making it an award-winning extra-curricular activity.
The Higher Education Volunteering Awards recognise some of the best student volunteers in the UK every year; Katie Whitehouse won one of the awards last year. “Winning the Exceptional Student volunteering award has definitely boosted my CV, but the skills I developed from the project are the most valuable thing.” she says. “I have been able to use my experience from event management to add different perspectives to problems, from business projects to personal obstacles.”
By volunteering your time to help out charities, local community groups or your student union, you can give yourself a serious boost in terms of developing your communication, problem-solving and management skills. There is a type of volunteering for everyone; the only thing holding you back is your imagination. “The best thing with volunteering is the networking skills you acquire,” says Whitehouse, “Networking is essential, and these highly transferable skills are extremely useful in university and when you start working, where contacts help you build your career.”
Whether you are moving away from home or making new friends in the same town, volunteering can help the adjustment. Becoming involved in clubs and societies is a major part of the social side of university life. “They are a great way to make new friends, get out and about and make a real difference to your local community,” proclaims the NUS website.
Rag (Raise and Give) Week is another excellent way to get involved in fundraising for charities; dressing up and generally going a bit nuts is what it’s all about! Will Richen, president of Newcastle University’s student union, echoes the benefits of getting involved. “Volunteering is invaluable to students. Volunteer work, in whatever form, will add to a student’s CV, and it also adds to the student experience as a whole, breeding socialisation and life skills,” he says.
All in all, volunteering is a great way to make friends, give your CV an interesting edge and provide you with a real feel-good factor, so get some ideas and friends together and get out there!
Student Volunteering England
Advice, information and guidance for students in England
Student Volunteering Scotland
Scotland’s association for help and advice on volunteering
Volunteering in Wales
National website for students in Wales, providing details of the opportunities available
Volunteer Development Agency
Promotes and develops volunteering in Northern Ireland