During the Winter 2012 semester, Brittany Cass, an English Literature and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) student at UFV, studied abroad with a program called Diaspora. The program granted students $5,000 each to supplement their expenses, while they took courses relevant to Diaspora initiatives. An additional requirement of the program was for students to volunteer in the community during their stay.
Brittany chose to study at Northampton University located in central England and had to complete 50 hours of volunteer work within three months.
“The volunteering itself was extremely rewarding,” shares Brittany. “Even though searching for the volunteer opportunities was stressful, especially towards the end of the first month when I hadn’t secured a position.”
After consulting the Internet, emailing contacts, and visiting offices in person, Brittany was able to connect with three different organizations to help them with various projects in Northamptonshire. She supported environmental development by helping a labour crew of older English men with fence repair, and also by working at a honey farm. “Essentially, I was cleaning bee poop, which was extremely gross,” says Brittany.
Separately, Brittany volunteered with a “Speak Easy” program where she helped international students practice their English by meeting up to chat over tea, play games, eat food, share photos of home, and more. “Meeting new people with different beliefs and cultures is another way studying abroad helped me grow,” says Brittany.
The most exciting volunteer opportunity involved preparing for the annual Northampton Carnival project that celebrates multiculturalism. Brittany’s work involved sorting applications for sponsorship of the event, and arranging volunteers and anyone who wanted to create a float for the event. “The reason I loved Carnival ‒ or volunteering with the project ‒ is because my coordinator would go out of her way to make sure I was able to glimpse on all the various aspects of the project and the behind-the-scenes of it. She took me to the schools where she was a council member. Kids made projects that were eventually used in the parade. She even payed for and arranged my transportation to Luton to see the main headquarters of the projects and previous costumes ‒ it was amazing!”
Although it is not mandatory for other Study Abroad students to volunteer while abroad, it is definitely a hands-on way to learn about another culture and people in it. Working alongside others will help you advance personal growth and experience.
Exchange students who visit UFV can find volunteer opportunities through the Volunteer to Work program. Volunteer opportunities are posted on Facebook to notify students of volunteer positions that pop-up around the Fraser Valley community.