Our Guiding Vibe blogger, Charlotte Mellor, shares her experience as a student volunteer in Girlguiding North West England.
I was a Guide leader before I went to university, and because I stayed local to study, I was fortunate enough to be able to continue with the same Guide group throughout my studies. However, even if I’d moved, I’d still have found a group to volunteer with. My university (and I’m sure others too) had a volunteering fair which I attended during my first year. It was a bit like a fresher’s fair, but instead of being crammed full of societies and businesses, it was full of organisations you could sign up to volunteer with. At that fair, I ended up having a lovely chat with the guiding stall. I explained I was already a Guide leader and we ended up having a great chat about the joys of guiding. If I’d moved away to uni, I like to think that there’d have been a similar stall at another fair, so I could have easily signed up to volunteer with a local unit.
One of the things I valued most about volunteering during my studies is that it forced me to take a break from my work. University is intense, and for someone who has a tendency to get lost in their work and who doesn’t find it easy to take a break, Guide meetings were a perfect remedy. Knowing that I had a specific time every week where I would be doing something completely unrelated to my studies ensured that I planned my time well. It also allowed me to switch off; instead of thinking about essays and revision, I could focus on cooking, games, crafts, or whatever else we had planned for the Guides that week. Furthermore, the additional time spent on planning meetings, trips out and nights away added to my enforced breaks from the stresses of exams, lectures and trying to understand something that I simply couldn’t wrap my head around. I often found that I returned to my university work refreshed and able to concentrate on it better, my brain recharged from the break that the Guide meeting had provided me with.
Arguably the main reason that you’re told it’s good to volunteer as a student is that it looks good on your CV. It is absolutely true that that’s the case. By volunteering, you get so many transferrable skills that your degree alone simply can’t provide you with. I’ve used examples from guiding during interviews and on application forms, and I like to think that they’ve helped me to secure positions. You might not even realise the skills you’re getting. Time management? Tick – you’re committing to something on a regular basis, and juggle it alongside other commitments. Organisation? Tick – you’re planning your programme weeks in advance. Team work? Tick – you’ve got to get along with your wider guiding team and to work together effectively. Adaptability? Tick – I don’t think I know a leader who hasn’t had to change plans at the last minute because of something unexpected cropping up. Leadership? Tick – you’re looking after and inspiring young people. And that’s just a few! There’s so much more that you get out of it too!
This Student Volunteering Week, if you’re thinking about signing up to volunteer with Girlguiding then I would encourage you to do it. I don’t regret being a Guide leader one bit, it’s truly one of the best things that I do.