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What’s volunteering about anyway?

By Sara West

Tuesday 6 January 2015 Student journalists

Lots of people slam volunteering or don’t see the point - why do something that you won’t get paid for anyway? Others look at it purely as a route to employment, something to shine on their CV. But what about the personal development that comes as a result of volunteering? And what kinds of volunteering opportunities are out there?

The great thing about volunteering is that it allows you to grow as a person, make mistakes and learn from them without the pressure of knowing your being paid to do something, or required to meet targets. Yes, a volunteering role should be taken seriously, but it should also be about the fun.

Let’s face it, there aren’t many jobs where the amount of fun you have is more important than how much you’re getting paid to do it. Many volunteers that I’ve spoken to are amazed by how much their confidence has grown as a result of university volunteering, particularly when it comes to public speaking and making friends.

Volunteering for a cause is a great way to boost your confidence in this respect; if you’re passionate about something and enjoy it, then it’s much easier to communicate this to a stranger compared to, say, making small talk at a party. Small talk can leave you feeling out of place, but passing on a positive feeling about a cause you believe it is much easier.

These days volunteering isn’t just about working in a shop or handing out flyers – there are a range of different activities that you can get involved with and that will often enable you to work with teams of likeminded people.

It’s true that volunteering is great to put on your CV, and that there are plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a role that you may pursue for you future career, but the personal development that comes as a result of volunteering should not be underestimated. Check in with your local students’ union to see what’s available – and speak to your careers service to find out how to make the most of it on your CV.

My name is Sara West and I hail from the South-West: land of beaches and cider! I study English and American Literature and History at the University of Kent and spent a year studying in Finland as part of my degree. My interests lie with writing, playing my guitar and anything outdoors.

I wanted to write for the ‘student lifestyle’ section because I love being a student, I like to keep on top of current (and sometimes unusual) trends and I love trying new things! I’m keen to experience as much as I can and expand my horizons, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.

Writing for NUS is an excellent opportunity to get my voice heard and to learn from others. What could be better than being part of a national network of like-minded people? While the academic aspect of my degree is fantastic, my experience at university would not have been the same without the lifestyle that has come with it.