Olena Nguyen originally came to Australia to study a Bachelor of Finance at Latrobe university. But, thanks to her active volunteering, she has found a new calling in life to help others, and feels passionately about the role that volunteering can play in both your personal and professional life.

Volunteering provides personal development opportunities

Being a social person, when Olena came to Australia she was keen to make friends and improve her English. She attended the Study Melbourne Live Volunteers information session on 29 November and saw that through volunteering in the community she could meet people and learn useful skills at the same time. Since then, volunteering has become a special part of Olena’s life.

“It makes me the best version of myself. I become more outgoing and more professional because volunteering in different organisations gives me a lot of opportunities to improve myself.”

Olena found that volunteering activities improved her social connections. In her home country, Vietnam, study was a key focus. As a newcomer to Melbourne, Olena enjoyed getting to know people from diverse backgrounds to share multicultural perspectives while doing good in the community.

Responsibility and leadership capability are sought-after skills in the workplace

Olena developed leadership skills in a number of her volunteering roles, which makes her a competitive candidate when applying for jobs.

“As well as improving myself it was also something to put on my resume to show I’m an active, dedicated and willing to learn person that an employer may be looking for.”

For example, In Leadership Victoria’s New and Emerging Communities Leadership program Olena provided support and mentoring to refugees. This in turn improved her own communication skills, teamwork and English language.

Olena has had a varied and active volunteer experience in Australia including the C2 Business Conference, Centre of Multicultural Youth and The Sustainable Living Festival. While these varied experiences may seem unconnected, they have all helped Olena to build her confidence.

“It absolutely built up my confidence in talking to people. English is not my first language so I just wanted to open myself up to talk to them. It was a good opportunity for me to improve my teamwork skills as well. I needed to work collaboratively with other team members so that we could make sure that things happened smoothly.”

Olena also contributed her new-found confidence and skills at the Information Hub at the recent Sustainable Living Festival. She helped show festival-goers how to get around the exhibitions and gave out general event information. Again, Olena gained several new friends.

Now Olena is taking her passion for volunteering one step further and has recently be elected to be one of 22 Study Melbourne Live ambassadors, out of a total of 150 applicants.

Volunteering can spark a change of heart

While there’s still a place for finance, maths and calculations in Olena’s world, she feels drawn to helping people in the community after her experience as a volunteer.

“I like the saying ‘Volunteers do not necessarily have time, they just have the heart’.

Throughout my life getting involved in volunteering, getting involved in the community, I found I have a heart for people. I just want to help others, because helping others means helping myself and social work is something related to the community that I can help others. It gives me more confidence so that’s why I changed from finance to social work”.

Olena’s wish for international students who are considering volunteering, is to be open to the chance of being a part of the community. The experience and practical skills will help you go further in your career path.

“Volunteering has made some of the most memorable moments in my life.”