Societies Not Working Out? Volunteer!
Happy Student Volunteering Week!
Before coming to university and during the first few weeks, I was constantly advised that you should be a regular member of at least 2 societies. Fast forward to now and that hasn’t worked out very well for me. Much to most peoples’ surprise (often followed by a bit of a scolding) I’m not a part of any societies. After jumping around so many during first year and not being able to find my ground, I decided that it was time to try something else.
Having spoken to some other student about society commitments, there are generally 4 recurring points as to why societies may not be the best for everyone*:
· COST – At Warwick you have to pay a Societies/ Sports Federation Fee on top of individual society fees, and an on/off-campus payment to access tournaments and equipment for sports.
· Too COMPETITIVE – There are definitely categories of societies (possibly differing across unis) that are extremely competitive or appear to expect a high level of ability in their members to even get a chance of taking part.
· SOCIALS (I.e.: CLUBBING and CIRCLING) – Apparently ‘Circling’ is a Warwick thing and I’m not quite sure what it involves, but essentially drinking games (I believe?).
· TIME COMMITMENTS – Due to classes not finishing until 7pm, many take place late in the evening. For some students, it’s a concern having to walk/ travel back to their houses so late. Come can also be quite intensive in terms of hours per week.
For me, it was a mixture of all 4 points. If I was going to be paying so much, I would want to take it as an opportunity to relax and enjoy myself. We all know that no matter how much you love your degree, it is stressful! Unfortunately, all the activities I was interested in either involved auditions or the ability was set so hight that I couldn’t keep up, sometimes to the frustration of other members, so it was not a comfortable situation to be in. Additionally, almost all social activities within the societies seemed to involve drinking or clubbing, neither of which I am fond of at all because if you know me, me getting trampled on in very large crowds = p < .001 (i.e.: pretty much guaranteed).
*Of course, none of that is to put you off because many students LOVE being a part of societies and it works well for them and there are definitely numerous benefits!
With that being said, I think the right advice would be to make sure that you have a couple of regular activities that you can take part in that will enable you to interact with others. If societies haven’t worked out well for you to, that’s okay! I would recommend taking a look at volunteering activities.
There are many benefits of volunteering:
· The project search tool can direct to opportunities related to your interests whether that’s gardening, childcare, teaching, healthcare, baking, social justice, and so many more!
· You will new skills and gain practical experience to support common desirable skills. You may be able to apply the content you have learned on your course in a practical sense; helping you to understand the content better as a result.
· You can be flexible with the times. Some volunteering opportunities allow you to pick what date and time of the week you are free so it’s easily workable around your timetable. There are some you can jump in and out of so if you are only free every other week, you can do that to! Then there are the one-off activities that you can sign up for the weekly newsletter to get updates for.
· Except from your time, volunteering doesn’t cost anything. If you need one, your DBS check will be paid for and Warwick Volunteers will arrange taxis / reimburse your travel costs (if the project is run by them).
· Complete 15 hours of volunteering across the academic year with Warwick Volunteers and it will be acknowledged on your HEAR report.
Last year, I volunteered at a couple of Headway sessions where we taught elderly members, who had sustained brain injuries, how to perform basic functions on their iPads and phones. By basic this included how to google something or find a video on YouTube. Well, that’s what we were supposed to do! I was paired up with this lovely guy who instead just wanted a chat. He talked about his girlfriend, his trip to the Royal Albert, “back in the days” when he used to play the trombone in London theatres, and a bit about how much he used to like football. I remember it all so clearly, but the one thing that has stuck with me was when he thanked me for simply listening to him talk and how he appreciated someone treating him like a “normal person”.
I think that anyone who has volunteered before will tell you that it’s one of the most touching and heart-warming things that they have done. It benefits you and the individuals that you are supporting. Even if it’s just short-term, people do appreciate you being there.
Currently, I’m a volunteer on the Right to Read programme. Right to Read is focused on literacy development and helping pupils’ in primary and secondary schools to gain self-confidence in reading out loud and in comprehension. I chose to participate in this project as I love children and I’m really interested in language development. It also gives me the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned through the language-related sections of my course. It’s so interesting to see the kind of mistakes that children make, and the differences in the effectiveness of strategies used to deal with novel words and expanding comprehension for children at different ages.
With regular volunteering commitments like Right to Read, once you’re committed you have to do it, so it will force you to get out and do something other than study.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident in the area that want to volunteer in. Just as an example, I had no idea what was going on in a Year 3 English class for the first 10 minutes as the teacher explained to me how they were learning about “frontal adverbials” and other basic rules of syntax. She described her whole lesson plan using some fancy English Language jargon that I had never heard of before. To be honest, I think I got more out of the lesson than the pupils did. It’s fair to say that you will pick things up as you go along.
If you’re worried about the socialisation aspect, coming from someone who really isn’t a peoples-person when it comes to casual socialisation, it’s not as bad as your thoughts tell you. Conversations with other volunteers will be grounded and initiated through the familiar Welcome Week questions. I’m not going to be hypocritical and doubt that it’s not scary, but if you can answer questions about your year of study, course, and why you’re interested in the volunteering activity itself, and potential previous experience, you’ll be fine.
One thing to be mindful of is that some projects require you to attend training sessions in Term 1 and they don’t start until Term 2, so it’s worth considering which ones you may like to do during the Summer so that you don’t end up missing the training sessions. There will also be the annual volunteering fair that takes place during Fresher’s Week (or the first few weeks of Term 1). Alternatively, send an email to specific projects with any queries and they will happily help you out.
Have a explore and consider volunteering the next academic year or drop into some of the one-off / flexible commitment sessions now if you have time. It’s not too late!