Ruchir is a 2018 Study Melbourne Ambassador. Study Melbourne has 22 international student and alumni ambassadors for 2018. During their time as ambassadors, they regularly share insights and experiences to help international students have a great experience while studying here in Victoria. 

My volunteer experience

By Ruchir Raman

I once believed volunteering was a waste of time. That it was unpaid, thankless and those who volunteered did so just because they had plenty of spare time. But I was wrong. I had no idea this activity would ultimately change my life!

My volunteer experience

Part 1: The beginning

After I finished high school in India, my family moved to Singapore. At university, I joined a club to learn more about my course, meet new people and network with the senior students and club leaders. The first event I was involved in was a visit to IMH (Singapore’s largest provider of mental healthcare) to organise fun activities for the patients. Although I was apprehensive at first, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take part.

The event was a lot of fun! Towards the end, one of the patients thanked us profusely for coming, even if it was just for the day. It was then I realised that our small event made a huge difference and meant so much to them. So, I decided to continue to volunteer. I attended the hospital’s monthly volunteer sessions and continued volunteering regularly for 2.5 years and enjoyed every minute.

Part 2: Volunteering in Melbourne

When I came to Melbourne to pursue my Masters, I faced the same struggles as every newcomer. However, this did not dampen my enthusiasm to search for voluntary work. I always wanted to work in childcare in Singapore but couldn’t do so as it required training. When I came to Melbourne, I obtained my Working with Children Check and began looking for opportunities with not-for-profit organisations. While browsing through my university’s careers website, I saw Ardoch Youth Foundation was looking for volunteers in schools across different areas. I researched the organisation and felt motivated to see that it offered a hands-on experience. I applied, went to the intensive training session and a few weeks later received my welcome pack and placement details.

Currently, I volunteer at a school with prep and grade one students in Melbourne’s west. I’ve had the most fun engaging with children and assisting teachers. In fact, volunteering made me grow as a person. It has made me more confident in my interpersonal abilities and has helped me to develop important workplace skills such as leadership, teamwork, working under pressure, decision-making and time management.

Volunteering has helped me to meet and connect with people from diverse cultures, age groups and walks of life. I have also received strong recommendations from my volunteer coordinators that has been helpful when job hunting. Volunteering has been extremely satisfying, rewarding and has completely changed my perception for the better. I don’t regret it one bit!

Tips and recommendations

As an international student, there are many volunteering opportunities available. They can cover a range of different areas from healthcare to environmental organisations, or sports to tourism. Here are some of my top tips:

Research volunteer opportunities

If you’re unsure on where to get started, there is plenty of information available online. Two websites that serve as excellent starting points are Volunteering Victoria and Study Melbourne. They both offer volunteering opportunities through their volunteer and experience programs. You can also check out your university’s careers website or websites such as SEEK.  Remember, volunteering is an activity that takes place in a not-for-profit organisation that benefits the community and addresses a human, environmental or social need.

Know your organisation

If you’re interested in a particular organisation, research them and check whether they align with your interests. Most volunteer organisations will detail their goals, expected volunteer code of conduct and the volunteering roles or programs on offer. If you’re still unsure, contact a current or former volunteer to discuss their volunteering experience with the organisation.

If you’re keen on volunteering with a particular organisation, contact them to arrange a meeting rather than waiting for an advertised position.

Apply for a volunteering position

Most recruitment processes involve an application form. The application may also ask for additional requirements such as a Working with Children Check or Police Check. It is important to fill in the form to the best of your abilities. This helps recruiters determine which role or program best fits your interests. Unlike job applications, volunteer applications don’t always ask for a resume. However, if a resume is required, tailor it to highlight any previous volunteering experience (or other experience) that is relevant.

When selected, attend the orientation sessions. This will help you to get the information and training you need to perform your role safely and professionally. It’s also a great way for you to meet other volunteers and ask any questions you may have.

Keep to a schedule

While volunteering can be a fun experience, it is important that other commitments like your studies are not neglected. Plan your time and stick with your plan as much as possible. Most volunteering roles are flexible and if you are having problems juggling your commitments, talk to the organisation contact for support.

Enjoy yourself

Volunteering is a great way to achieve personal and professional growth which could help you to advance your career. You also get to meet great people from different backgrounds, broaden your horizons, make lifelong connections and see the direct impact that you have made on the community. So, get out there, find something that you’re truly passionate about and have fun!

About the author

Ruchir has graduated with a Master of Biotechnology. He is excited about expanding his horizons and gaining invaluable experience in leadership and community engagement. Ruchir loves the diversity and rich culture Melbourne has to offer and enjoys organising events for other international students. Meet all the Study Melbourne Student Ambassadors.

Ruchir Raman