The title may seem exaggerated, but I really mean it. Recently, I finished reading a book full of interviews with a well-known Slovak psychologist Ivan Štúr. He mainly focused on upbringing, especially emphasizing how supporting the qualities of a child helps to form a personality. He advises that in a problematic situation, parents should begin with appreciating the way in which the child handled the situation well. The message persists until adulthood. Praising people for the smallest things has not an obvious, but significant impact. If one is constantly criticised, a negative attitude in conversation is automatically adopted.
The prerequisite to optimism or pessimism has always been a nature versus nurture debate. We now know that it is a combination of both. Of note, according to a professor of psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky, around 40 per cent of our happiness is a subject of manipulation. That is, we influence it by our actions and activities we fill our day-to-day life with. The hectic lifestyle often reduces leisure and thus one must choose wisely. I have witnessed myself and many of my friends striving to manage school-work-relationships balance while they found themselves constantly stressed.
Here comes my advice to contemplate your free time. To be honest, I consider myself highly active, but when overworked, I feel a need to savour everything I have in life. Rationalising my priorities always helps me. In a time when we hear about poverty, wars, ruined economy, or underdeveloped countries and businesses, I often feel a need to help. In this case, volunteering was the answer for me.
My Volunteering Experience
I gained my first experience with volunteering as a 16-year-old girl. A friend of mine told me about her work with an organisation that supports disabled people, and I became so curious that I wanted to experience voluntering for myself. The emotions were lively, I was a bit nervous, but the moments were remarkable. Having become immersed, it is now the fifth year volunteering, I help with organising summer camps and other activities. I got to know amazing people who radiate joy and hope. Words are certainly not enough here to describe how it influenced my attitude and humility.
Alongside my volunteering with organisations supporting people with disabilities, I have recently started volunteering in an orphanage. The kids are striving for attention and knowledge, and after the horrible childhood memories many of them had, this is the least I can give them.
I am aware that not everyone is in a position of being able to help, or feels capable of handling strong, often hard situations. It is important to realise that volunteering offers broad spectrum of opportunities. You may be surprised but if you know what areas are of your interest, there is always something out there. Voluntary activities may include community, administrative, digital, environmental, or manual work and so much more. The online world offers thousands of opportunities as well. If you are convinced to try it out, the only thing to do is to go out and ask. Ask if you could help, if so, how so, and offer your skills. Personally, I have experienced many denials, but also got to know some amazing people who influenced my life, and I will never regret contacting them.
Volunteering at UoA
Our university offers a great range of volunteering opportunities as well. From being a Student Content Creator (that is me speaking to you right now), a Students’ Mentor, helping with peer-to-peer learning, tutoring, to being a part of AUSA. There are endless possibilities how you can help. The university will recognise your active participation in your Enhanced Transcript, but more importantly, you will be at a core of the university spirit. On that note, make sure you check Careers and Employability Service if you are looking where to begin.
Boosting your CV is a secondary, but another great benefit of volunteering. Not only that, but also working for various organisations, with different people and environments may also help you to find the area you are passionate about. For example, I occasionally help as an intern at a hospital, in which I get the privilege of observing and talking with skilled psychologists and psychiatrists. I believe that this is a great way of discovering what you would like to do after your degree. Enjoyment and enthusiasm are some feelings that come naturally. If you feel them, you are on the right path. Also, I have noticed how much a genuine interest can be appreciated and employees are eager to share the knowledge. Conversely, you cannot expect that somebody would force you to become a volunteer. It is something you do from your belief. What I love about volunteering is the flexible schedule – working as much as I can and am willing to so I can manage my own time.
At the end of a day, it all feels very refreshing. Because there are no deadlines and tight working hours, it is up to you to decide what you would like to do and when. After a hectic day at university, work, or family life, volunteering is usually a relaxed time for which I always look for. It helps me to connect with myself and my interests better. Time spent with all those people and learning from them is precious, and extremely rewarding. I have never thought of it as a necessity or form of impressing someone, but rather a mean to move on and pursue to do what I love. After some though days in lockdown, I can finally help others again. And it has never felt so good.