Interested in upskilling or gaining more experience while you study? Do you want to help out fellow students and make a contribution to campus life? Volunteering with the uni could be the answer! The volunteering program is well established at the University and while it looks slightly different at the moment in our online environment, there are still loads of opportunities up for grabs. I was lucky to chat with Sara Kearney, Student Volunteering Officer, who gave us some more insight.

Sara first lets us know about the different opportunities available:

“In an ideal (non-covid) world these included on campus opportunities such as the free lunch BBQs, Student Parties, Theme weeks like stress less and green week, and then a variety of engagement activities across campus.”

There’s activities to suit everyone no matter what your interests, skill set or availability is, for example of one of those engagement activities that Sara mentioned is helping out fellow students in the UON Language Centre. I volunteer here regularly for the ‘Speed Conversation Series’ which helps international students with their conversational English language skills in an informal and fun environment. This has been a great experience and way to get involved in university life while making new friends!

However, volunteering isn’t limited to just the campus environment. The scope of community volunteering has recently been increased with opportunities available at Ronald McDonald House, Soul Café, Local Land Services, and the Hunter Wetlands. Sara explains,

“The long-term plan is to increase the community volunteering opportunities for the volunteers – and also be able to recognise the hours that volunteers are doing off campus with organisations we aren’t yet working with.”

Besides contributing to a better campus environment at UON and that fuzzy feeling you get from making someone’s day, how does volunteering contribute to your university experience? It’s a great way to become integrated in the University community and meet new people while building new skills and lending a helping hand. Personally, I met one of my best friends through volunteering who I wouldn’t have met otherwise! I can vouch for the fact that volunteering provides you with new connections and special friendships. Sara agrees:

“Volunteering with Uni Crew provides a great scope to connect with a variety of students you wouldn’t necessarily meet. Branching outside your cohort to meet and volunteer with students from a variety of degrees, and backgrounds gives students a huge opportunity to develop friendships and connections that may become lifelong!’

Volunteering is also well regarded as a way to improve your employability skills and assist you with a seamless entry into the workforce after you finish studying. Volunteering can build skills which employers are specifically looking for. Sara says that

“Team work, communication skills, organisation skills and emotional intelligence are all developed through volunteering activities and are consistently in the top ten most desirable skills named by graduate employers.”

Employers increasingly want to see that a graduate has more than just academic credentials. They want to see evidence of engagement with extra-curricular activities and a demonstration of the employability skills gained in addition to the knowledge and competencies of your degree.  Volunteering is a perfect way in which you can do this. It can even help you decide what you might want to do after graduation or make you aware of the sort of work environment which you most enjoy. As Sara explains,

“Volunteering helps you meet new people and gain new experiences which can help you gain a better understanding of what will motivate you in the world of work. This level of self-awareness can help you make great career choices that can lead to a fulfilling career.”

Feeling motivated yet to partake in some additional volunteering alongside your studies? Students can get involved in Uni Crew (that’s what the Student Volunteering program is affectionately known as) super easily, all you need to do is head to the Volunteering page on the University of Newcastle website, or email volunteers@newcastle.edu.au to find out more about the program.

No matter what stage of your degree or life you are at, it is never too late to get involved with volunteering. So jump online, join the community, and start making

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