Volunteering opportunities at university

Before coming to university, I strongly associated the word ‘volunteering’ with helping out in charity shops. However, since being at UoR I have grown to recognise that volunteering can cover a broad spectrum of extra-curricular activities including helping out at local schools, working on a committee, or representing a group of people. Below I give an overview of the volunteering roles and schemes I have been involved in whilst at UoR, and how each has individually benefited me.

Course Rep

The first volunteering role which I occupied was First Year Undergraduate Course Rep for my course. I was selected for this role along with another of my course mates following a nomination process which required me to put together a small manifesto regarding what I would contribute as course rep and my ideas for improving the course.

As course rep I attended termly meetings with the other rep from my degree (2 from each year group), as well as the head of the department, library coordinator, and other staff members. The meetings were a chance for each course rep to contribute praise, as well as suggestions for improvements about various aspects of their year and course. In order to contribute this feedback we also had to collate comments from members of our course via short surveys (paper and online) and a Facebook group which acted as a comment forum.

This role was highly beneficial as it not only gave me an insight into the “behind the scenes” aspects of my degree, but helped me to get to know the other students on my course. Additionally, working alongside second and third year students gave me an insight into the content I could expect in the remaining parts of my degree and the challenges that I may encounter. The role also required very little hours of work, apart from attending meetings and composing feedback forms, so didn’t interfere with my studies.

Students in School

Another key volunteering opportunity which the UoR encourages students to get involved in is the Students in Schools programme.

Requiring just 10 visits to a local school for basic completion of the programme, it allows students to experience work in an educational environment.

When applying for the programme you specify the age group that you’d like to work with, any subject preferences, and whether you’d like to work with SEN students.

I spent my placement at a local Catholic primary school which I visited for two hours on a Wednesday afternoon for 9 weeks and supported the year three class with assisted reading activities.

I recommend the Students in Schools programme as it gives you a taste of the profession in a way which is rewarding to you; both in terms of work experience and watching the students benefit from your support.

The Students in Schools programme is also flexible in terms of which students you attend the school with (you can attend with friends also doing the scheme) and there is the option to continue helping at the school after completion of the minimum hours.

Red Award and Advanced Red Award

The Red Award is another great and easy way to get involved, and be awarded for, your extra-curricular involvement whilst at university.

The Award is made up of three parts: core activity, volunteering, and training; the timescales for which can be found on the website.

I highly recommend completing your RED Award whilst at UoR as it is very easily completed and something which, if in your second or third year, you may have completed without realising. The RED Award is a valuable method of recording your extra-curricular commitment and offers a sense of accomplishment on completion of the scheme. You can sign up on RISIS.

Additionally, if you get ahead of the game and complete your RED Award within your first or second year, there is also the option to do the Advanced RED Award which requires a more independent approach to improving a skill such as Commercial Awareness, Communication and Presentation; Digital and IT skills. To complete the award, you will need to create a personal development plan around your chosen skill and then log your progression in this skill and attend an employability event. You can also sign up for this on RISIS.

The Advanced Red Award was just as beneficial to me as it encouraged me to explore my chosen career in much more detail than I would have out of personal choice.

The Professional Track

The Professional Track is a programme unique to the School of Literature and Languages and upon completion, provides students with a valuable record of the activities they have been involved in whilst at university.

To complete the Professional Track you are required to complete three Professional Track courses, two placements (academic/ professional), one university activity, and a reflective report. These can be completed throughout the duration of your degree.

I really recommend doing the Professional Track as not only has it become a great asset of my CV, but it has helped me prepare for the workplace and crucial career decisions in more way than one.

The Spark Newspaper

Throughout my time at UoR I have also volunteered as a committee member of The Spark Newspaper. I have been a part of The Spark since my first week of university and have never once regretted my decision to join the society. Throughout my membership I have occupied the positions of writer, Print Entertainment Editor and Print Editor and have made many friends and memories that I will cherish as part of my student experience. Writing for The Spark not only opens up so many career opportunities to you, but it helps you to grow as a person in terms of organisation, attentiveness, and a commitment to empowering the voices of others. Highlights of my time in The Spark include reporting at Reading Festival 2019, attending a weekend conference and awards ball in Cardiff, and winning media stream of the year, two years in a row.

If you would like to apply for a position on next year’s committee you can do so at https://www.rusu.co.uk/surveys/207/.

Written by Taz Usher

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