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Student Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist: Patrycja

Posted on 4 Mar 2014

Patrycja was one of five students shortlisted for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award 2014. Here, she shares her perspective on volunteering…

Moving to a new country, blending into a different culture and commencing studies in a foreign language was an opportunity of a lifetime. Accepting such an opportunity and not making the most of it would not be the right move, I thought. In fact, just when I started to discover about the range of remarkable opportunities for students at the university, I understood that my experience was not going to end as a bare reflection of an academic and intellectual challenge. More than that, it turned out to be a great lesson in my life – a 3-year long path that allowed me to discover myself, my passions, my talents, my assets and faults.

Life at Royal Holloway

Alongside other extracurricular activities at Royal Holloway, my engagement in volunteering was one of the most enriching and rewarding ways of investing my free time. Yes, as a full-time student I could still talk of a ‘free time’. In fact, and contrary to what the majority of us think, an average undergraduate can perform very well intellectually, investing about 50% of their time to fulfil their academic commitments and leaving the other half to be spent on work, volunteering or socializing. This was exactly my calculation, and devoting an average of 4 hours a day to volunteering (be it in a form of organising projects, attending workshops, meeting with the volunteering team or promoting charity actions on campus) alongside other commitments, has also made me realise that the more responsibilities I put on my shoulders, the more productive I become – not only in my life but when it comes to my overall academic performance. Volunteering slowly became part of my university career and I couldn’t imagine a day without jumping into my navy V. t-shirt and rolling up my sleeves. It was a great stepping-stone to become creative in my own way and reach the sense of self-realisation.

I remember situations when, while promoting the volunteering at the annual university jobs fair, I was often asked questions like “great project but how much money will I earn doing this?.” Certainly a good question at a jobs fair, but this was a volunteering stand! “You are going to volunteer here and the reward is not in cash but in satisfaction, experience, fulfilment and a free pass to a personal discovery”, I used to reply.

Volunteering gives you a priceless reward and it’s hard to understand the value of it until you try it yourself.

Unlike any paid job, where people’s overall job performance tends to be guided by the salary, when it comes to volunteering, you are guided by your passion, interests and a certain cause. This essentially makes you not only a better person but also a much better candidate for your future job. “Do the things that you love and do them often” – I’m sure we’ve all heard that before, but has anyone ever considered volunteering as a free pass to start doing things that we love? No previous experience required, no need for a first-rate CV, nor sophisticated references – all you need is your will and dedication. Today you can volunteer in nearly every sector that fits your passion or interests and if you feel that something is missing – pick your own idea for a project or a campaign and make it happen.

International Kitchen Project

That’s what I did when I first came up with the idea of getting international students on the volunteering board. The concept of the International Kitchen Project was inspired by my own experience of living and working in a foreign country as well as my interest in cooking. The project turned out to be an excellent way for the international students to get involved in a community service through representing their culture, traditions and cooking habits. The local schools and youth centres, on the other hand, were given an opportunity to experience exciting and stimulating cooking and educational workshops, organised by students from all around the world.

Nevertheless, just like with everything in life, volunteering requires time for you to discover its value and real benefits. You need to master the ability of giving and expecting nothing in return, and only then all the beautiful things may happen.

I like taking less-travelled roads, dropping myself into the unknown situations. My decision to undertake volunteering at the university was based on exactly that – a desire to try something new, meet new people, engage in new things and contribute to the society.

I would never expect this to be anything more than that and I would have certainly never expected it to lead me to my first job as a student, 2 university awards and now the nomination for the SVYA 2014. All this came along as a bonus, attached to a pack of wonderful experience and an excellent self-development marathon. After 3 years of organising, planning and delivering various volunteering projects, working with local partner institutions, supporting youth engagement activities, initiating new ideas and being part of the volunteering team, I left the university with pockets full of beautiful memories, excellent experience and a number of valuable interpersonal skills. It has profoundly complemented my time at the academia and it has given me a real sense of fulfilment as a student. And it is exactly for this reason that I really enjoy speaking about the wide-ranging benefits one can gain out of volunteering today.

I will leave you with this: don’t be surprised when you hear that Churchill was right when he said that, “you make a living by what you get, but you make your life by what you give”, because this is exactly what volunteering is today.

So, go now and do more than belong – participate, do more than care – help. And you will certainly make a life worth living.

Patrycja Skurzak

Patrycja is a recent graduate of Royal Holloway University and one of the finalists for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award 2014.

Categories: Award