Income or Experience: What to Consider When Getting Involved

Monday, February 29, 2016

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  • Image courtesy of Student Volunteer Connections

    Image courtesy of Student Volunteer Connections

  • Image courtesy of U of G First Response Team

    Image courtesy of U of G First Response Team

Flashback to the Great Wikipedia Blackout in Jan. 2012, when we experienced a world without knowledge: The day where everyone had to ask for extensions on their assignments. Without the voluntary public contributions of time and information, we wouldn’t have our guardian angel, Wikipedia. According to the journal Nature, Wikipedia’s articles come very close in accuracy to those in the encyclopedia Britannica. Full disclosure: I found this out on a Wikipedia page, so I hope there’s no bias.

The reasons why we should volunteer in our communities - whether online or in person – are endless. Unfortunately, as a student, it is tempting to live a very self-involved life. To succeed, we sometimes have to sacrifice helping others to help ourselves. It is important to find a balance between the two options. Volunteering in the right environment can be incredibly rewarding.  


There are many things to consider when volunteering:

  1. Am I getting paid for this? If yes, then it’s not volunteering, and also call me because I need a job.
  2. What kind of place am I volunteering for? If it’s on campus, it’s probably a safe bet. Especially TESS (The English Student Society) – I hear that they’re pretty cool. If you’re considering a non-profit, research how they distribute their funding on their website. UNICEF’s CEO receives $1.2 million a year.
  3. Does this pertain to my career aspirations? Volunteering is a great way to test the waters if you aren’t sure what you want to do. If you want to be a doctor, Guelph General and St. Joseph’s Hospital are both great places to get involved. Keep in mind that it isn’t selfish to account for your interests when volunteering. In fact, selecting something that pertains to your life will augment your commitment and work ethic.
  4. What level of commitment will this require? It varies immensely. In my experience, longer and more infrequent shifts are easier to balance with school, especially if you take the bus. If you are interested, the First Response Team on campus is recruiting in September, and they only require three shifts a month. Be careful not to overcommit! As a chronic over-committer, I can say that it only leads to guilt and frustration.
  5. Is it in my comfort zone? This is probably one of the most challenging struggles with volunteering. Many of the jobs involve social interaction, which is terrifying for some. If that’s the case, then consider signing up for the Student Volunteer Connections’ weekly newsletter where they post several opportunities, one of which might be in your comfort zone. Don’t sign up to be a swimming instructor if you’re deathly afraid of water.
  6. Which causes mean the most to me? If you try and think of the most frustrating injustice in your life, that’s generally a good indication of where to start volunteering. If you wish there was a larger campus presence that represents your major, consider joining the club for that major (e.g. The previously mentioned TESS for English, CBSSC for BioSci, FAN for Fine Arts, etc.). If you’re concerned with the public perception of mental health, check out the Wellness education center or Homewood Health Centre. When you find an opportunity that addresses the problems that you wish you could fix, it can give you an immense sense of well-being.

Pro-tip: if you find yourself committed to multiple clubs/teams, write a small list that just names the clubs/teams that you’re involved with, and check it a few times daily. This prevents me from mentally blanking on the routine events.

Some unmentioned volunteer opportunities that I’ve had a positive experience with include:

-       One-to-One: Through the help of volunteers, this program gives its participants with disabilities the chance to play sports, learn to swim, meet friends, and many other things.

-       Link Program: This program connects new international students with Guelph students to reduce the culture shock of a new country.

Remember that volunteering is so much more than something to add to your resume. You can gain invaluable experience in your field of interest, while making your community a better place to live in. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, or reach out to the volunteer coordinators at the SVC (Student Volunteer Connections).


Good luck in all of your endeavors!

- Colin Faulkner

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  1. Posted by: kube on Apr 13, 2016 @ 1:57pm

    good article

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