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Balancing university and volunteering

Posted on 25 Feb 2016

We know that student volunteering isn't always accessible to everyone, but today we hear from Isla, a student at Edinburgh University, who balances her studies, her part-time job and volunteering, and has seen the benefits first hand!


I’m a typical student. I juggle uni work with a part-time job, as well as trying to find time to fit in a social life! But there is one thing I always find time for at university – and that’s volunteering at my local Brownie group.

I’ve been a Girlguiding member since I was five years old, and I’m now an Assistant Leader at a Brownie group which is for girls aged seven to ten. Working with the girls is loads of fun, and because I was a Brownie too, I know that the experiences I’m giving them now will have an impact on their future.

Having said that - you don’t have to have been a member all your life to take part – Girlguiding welcomes volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

How I started volunteering with Girlguiding

I started my studies in September 2014, studying Geography and Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University. Even before I arrived I knew I wanted to continue to be involved with Girlguiding. At that time I was a Senior Section member (for girls aged 14 to 25) and had just left my local group in Glasgow to start university.

Before I was a student, I’d had loads of opportunities with Girlguiding in the different groups I’d been part of – but I hadn’t tried volunteering and leading the groups myself! So it was all new to me when I was placed in a Brownie group in Edinburgh that was short of Leaders.

It was great – I didn’t have to do much at all! I turned up every Monday ran some games, helped to plan the meetings and occasionally thought of activities. It was pretty chilled out and relaxed.

Taking on a new leadership challenges

After my first year there, the Brownie Leader Elspeth left on maternity leave and I decided to become joint leader for the group working with other volunteers. Even though I was keen to take on the role, the thought of herding 24 hyperactive children was still a bit daunting – but I got loads of support from other Girlguiding volunteers in the area.

It was the collaboration with the other Leaders that made the whole experience so rewarding and enjoyable. We took it in turns to plan sessions and activities for girls and we also had a few new volunteers join us – which was great! Volunteering with Girlguiding is super flexible – I had to take some time off over Christmas for family reasons, but it wasn’t a problem arranging cover with my team.

I learned a lot

Volunteering as a student has been a great experience. Giving some time at a local Girlguiding group is a great way to really get to know the new community you live in – outside the student bubble! It’s also really helped me to prioritise and manage my time – great transferable life skills going forward.

Especially in this last year, it’s improved my leadership skills too. But ultimately the best thing is getting to provide opportunities to the girls - similar to the one’s I’ve had with guiding over the last 14 years. It is so rewarding and I’d recommend it to anyone – whether you’ve been involved in Girlguiding before or not!


Click here to find out more about volunteering with Girlguiding

Isla Whatley

Isla is a Geography and Social Anthropology student at Edinburgh University. She’s been involved with Girlguiding since she was five and also sat on their youth panel Advocate.

Categories: Charities, What volunteering means to me