Study abroad often means only meeting a very narrow category of people: students. Your fellow students are usually about the same age and often have the same, or similar, interests as you. This can mean university is a bit of a social bubble. You’ll learn with, live with and socialise with your fellow students. As a result, you miss out on integrating with the wider community around your institution. Volunteering is a great way to meet people outside of the student bubble. Working with charities, you can meet people of different ages, political inclinations, and social classes.
It’s also a great way to build up your CV. Volunteering shows that you’re conscientious and caring, as well as showing any future employers that you’re hard working and good at managing your time. You can also often tailor your volunteering to your future career.
Below are some examples of activities you can get involved with if you’re studying in the UK, but the same sort of opportunities are available in other countries too.
1.) There are a lot of charities working with older people in communities. Older people often struggle with loneliness. 200,000 older people in the UK say they haven’t had a conversation with friends or family for a month, and 3.9 million older people agree the television is their main form of company. AgeUk is the main charity working to combat this in the UK – you can check out how to get involved below.
2.) Most UK universities run schemes to help disadvantaged children in the local area. This could involve tutoring in schools, or just taking children on days out to help them build their confidence. For example, at the University of Oxford there is a scheme called Branch Up, which gives local children extra-curricular opportunities they might not otherwise have had. You can check out their work on the link below.
3.) If you want to work in the arts, most UK museums have a volunteering scheme you can join. Museums and galleries often depend on volunteers to keep their institutions going. This work often focuses on getting young children involved in the arts, although it could be as simple as working in the gift shop. It’s a great way to help out local kids, as well as getting valuable work experience for yourself. As an example, you can check out the opportunities offered at museums in Cambridge using the following link.
4.) If you’re a lawyer, a lot of universities run legal pro-bono courses. This is a great way to develop your practical legal skills and help the local community. Get in touch with your Student Union, or the head of the Law Society at your institution, to find out what opportunities there are in the local area.
Volunteering is the best way to fully immerse yourself in local culture and community when you study abroad. Hopefully this article has convinced you to go out and get involved!